All fathers have a vision of what potential is wrapped up in their young lives. And it is our job to cast a vision to their children about what they can become.
However, we must be careful because if we aren’t intentionally positive in the way we influence our children’s future, then we become overbearing and communicate disappointment in what they are or what they are becoming. And being negative or disappointed in your daughter’s present and future can be devastating.
So, what does a negative vision look like?
A negative vision can be downright demanding and demeaning. Negative vision sounds like:
“No kid of mine is going to come home with a report card with C-s on it. What’s wrong with you?”
“Why did you let that girl beat you at the last second?”
Negative vision can also be condemning:
“I know you were talking to that boyfriend on the phone. Why don’t you just tell me the truth? You’re turning into a liar!”
Or, it can be pessimistic and fatalistic:
“Don’t worry about doing well in math; boys are usually better at these subjects.”
So, what does a positive vision look like?
Casting a positive vision is actually pretty easy when you truly believe your child is doing something positive. For instance, positive vision sounds like this:
“Wow! You really made that free throw under a lot of pressure.”
“You got mostly A-s and only one B. You must have studied really hard. I am so proud of you!”
But those are easy and rather cut and dried. For a moment imagine that your daughter is crying about something trivial. (By the way, it is usually only trivial by your adult male standards) She isn’t really doing anything disobedient. You just feel that she’s being overly sensitive. And maybe she is. Nevertheless, your job is to be a positive influence and shine light on her dark day.
This isn’t easy. But there are many factors in her world that may be impacting her emotions at this particular moment. My guess is that she doesn’t feel the least bit sad when your favorite basketball team lost in double overtime. But, how did you respond? Did you overreact just a tad?
Here is the point that I am trying to make today. In many little ways, our daughters are asking us;
“What am I good at, Dad? What do you see in me?”
As fathers and as forces for good in our daughter’s life, we need to be ready with words of encouragement, hope and promise.
When we encourage our daughters to think big and attempt great things we’re giving them a safe and secure foundation from which to launch into a world that doesn’t care for them the way that you do as her father. And you give her a measure of self-confidence for the future and a jump-start for her journey toward her true potential.
Nowhere is this more true and important that when it helps to prepare your daughter for her future romantic relationships. As much as we would like to choose whom our daughters will date and eventually marry, we are not the ones making these decisions. (That is why they should not date until they are 35 years old! – Sorry, that slipped out.) So, from a young age, it is our job to help them make decisions that will lead them to the path of joy that a strong and love-filled marriage provides.
So, how do we do that?
First, “date your daughter” from a young age. That is not as weird as it sounds. “Dating your daughter” means finding one-on-one time with her in a social setting that is meant to imitate a dating setting. Come to the door and pick her up. Come inside and sit on the couch and talk with her mother about the plans and expectations for the evening. Where are you going? What time will you be home? This shows her at a very young age what to expect when a young boy her age really does come to the front door to pick her up. She won’t be shocked when you invite him in and ask him about his plans for the evening. And she will not be shocked when you ask about what time he will bring your daughter home.
Second, teach your children about becoming the right person a lot more than attracting or finding the right person. Your daughter doesn’t need to be out looking for Mr. Right all day long. He is not some movie image of a sensitive, sweater wearing, puppy holding artist that she sees at the movies. Instead, help her to stay focused on becoming a young woman of character. Don’t fall into the “Timetable Trap” that says that she must be in love by her junior year at college and engaged her senior year so that she can get married in June following graduation. That may not be the best scenario for her.
But, when that young man does show up one day, your daughter will be ready and able to spot those qualities that would make him a good partner. And he will spot her as the woman of character that he is looking for as well.
The final way that you can prepare your daughter with both vision and reasonable expectation is through your example of how you relate to your wife.
You are the main man when it comes to setting her expectations for how other young men treat her. When she begins dating (at age 35 – – – Ooops, I did it again) and she starts thinking about what she wants in a husband, do you want her to settle for a relationship that is merely okay?
Heaven forbid! You want her to marry someone who treats her like the princess she still is in your eyes! You want her to spend her lifetime with someone who works to have healthy communication, someone who really listens, someone who speaks words of gentleness, someone totally committed to spending every moment with her and someone who considers every moment with her to be precious.
That is a pretty tall order if you don’t love your wife like that. If that’s what you want her to expect—and not settle for less—then that’s exactly what you have to model for her every day. And if divorce has ripped your family apart and you are not married to your daughter’s mother, you must still treat your ex-wife with respect.
So what can I do about casting a positive vision and demonstrating reasonable expectations this week?
- Talk to your daughter about her future from a vocational and educational perspective. Help her discover and develop her gifts and talents, and talk about some occupations or life pursuits that those might lead her toward someday. CEO and School Teacher have equal value in your eyes. And then, of course, there is being a Mom. Help her understand the incredible value of pursuing that as well. Ask her about her dreams for the future. Then listen attentively and encourage her.
- Each and every day, make a point to sit with her in her room (yeah, I know it is messy) and give her the chance to talk for at least five or ten minutes. Don’t interrupt her and make comments about every detail. Just listen.
- You are the standard that she will use when it comes to choosing a husband. And, fathers, if that doesn’t make you shake in your shoes, then you just don’t get it! So take an honest look at your own marriage. How do you communicate with your wife? Do you do it with gentleness? Or do you communicate with outbursts? Does your daughter see you being affectionate with your wife? Does she see it all the time? Or does she see it just when you are trying to make a point. Does she see you as an active member of the household? Or does she see you as the blob that never leaves the easy chair during the entire NFL season? Deep down inside, do you want her to marry someone like you?
- Finally, convey unconditional love for her. Make sure she knows she doesn’t have to achieve or earn your love. You love her no matter what. Period. Full stop.
These are tough and challenging words on this Fatherhood Friday. What are your thoughts? What words would you have for the rest of us? Leave us a comment and let us know what you are thinking about this series.