A Note to Dads: Six Strategies for Entering Her World
Entering the world of a 12-year-old girl can be tricky. She still wants to spend time with her father, but she’s also setting up boundaries and trying to figure out how to make her own decisions. That’s part of becoming a young woman. Dads need a reason to interrupt her privacy without seeming like an interruption. So…
Give yourself a mutual mission. Asking a young person’s opinion is surprising and empowering. “For Christmas, should I get mom the amethyst or opal earrings?” “We need some new patio chairs. What are your thoughts?”
Treat her as an authority. Suddenly, she’s the teacher and you’re the student. “Hey, Sara, can I send a photo on my iPhone that’s 1.8 megabytes?” “I’m designing a flyer for the block party, can you take a look at this font?” “Bill from work wants to recommend some summer reading for his daughter who’s eight. Any ideas?”
Volunteer at an event. Initially, she may not be happy you signed up for that chaperone assignment, but if you don’t embarrass her and stay in your assigned zone, she’ll be glad you’re there. Also, give her plenty of notice. “The Zimmerman’s asked us to serve punch at the Christmas dance.” “Just letting you know, I’m driving one of the vans for the weekend retreat. And I’m staying in the boy’s cabin.”
Get her attention. Figure out what middle school girls like and give it to her. “Let’s get a puppy.” “Don’t know what got into me, but I bought a Groupon for horseback riding.” “When that movie comes out from that book you read, let’s take some of your friends to the midnight show.” “Pizza’s here!”
Tell her you miss her. If you haven’t had a good conversation in a couple weeks, you’re both feeling the same way. “Hey kiddo. We have both been so busy, let’s do something this weekend. Maybe brunch after church. Or maybe the flea market. What’s your schedule?” “You know, I just read a blog that said I’m supposed to ask you out on a date. So pick a night. Any night!”
For a few years, expect your daughter to retreat a little from the family. Don’t assume it’s permanent. Don’t assume you’ve done something wrong. My advice is that when she backs away, you inch closer. Some dads might think “Fine, if you don’t want to hang out with me, I’ll find something I’d rather be doing.” But like all women, your daughter wants to be pursued.
Soon enough, she will once again want your wisdom regarding many of the weighty and trivial issues facing teenage girls today. Don’t miss that moment. Make sure you’re available because – as always – she’ll be counting on her dad.
“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11 NLT
Jay Payleitner is a radio producer, popular speaker and author of ten books including 52 Things Daughters Need from Their Dads and One-Minute Devotions for Dads. For more, go to jaypayleitner.com.