When I was younger I never imagined myself with children, much less three of them. My oldest daughter is 15 (going on 20). The next girl in line is 11 and I’m sure she will be a multi-millionaire and change the world for the better. And then there’s my 9 year old who is just trying to keep his head down as his oldest sister is a teenager and the other sister is a tween. However, given his “Rain Man” abilities with massive Lego sets, I believe he is destined to be an engineer.
As I reminisce over many events since the day they were born, I come to the simple and obvious deduction…parenting is tough. (Queue Captain Obvious!)
No matter what anyone told me in advance either, I never imagined in my wildest dreams how unbelievably challenging parenting is. That said, it has also provided me with the most rewarding and joyous memories of my life. To see these little persons, develop over time to become distinct individuals with their own thoughts and feelings has been mind blowing.
However, I was not prepared for the trials I am facing with a teenage daughter (with another close behind). I never dreamed this ball of emotion that could change like the winds and that was just on the drive to school. So, I’ve been collecting some thoughts on the subject that I have learned thus far. Also, things I try to teach her, to prepare her to be a good person and a productive member of society who is not afraid to serve others regardless of their circumstance. Trust me, I’ve had many challenges so far but I do believe consistency is the key to success.
The following list are some of my thoughts on raising a teenage daughter. I am far from perfect and many of these are a work in progress but I hope I am on the right track:
- Accept the fact that the sweet, loving spirit you’ve spent the last decade with may disappear at times. Keep heart and be patient…she’ll return.
- When she starts to become a woman physically, don’t pull away and don’t be afraid to talk to her about it.
- Insist she goes to bed at a reasonable hour. Teenage girls need more sleep than toddlers do.
- Try not to be reactive. Count to 3, or 5…or, maybe 10. Breathe, just breathe!
- Tell her how much you love her and hug her often. Nothing deflates a tense teenage situation like a good hug.
- Make her hand over her phone at bedtime. This will force her to sleep. It’s also a proactive measure to ensure there isn’t any late night inappropriate texting or social media communications.
- If she has braces, tell her how beautiful she looks often. Show her a photo of what she looks like with yours.
- Friend her on all social media platforms. It’s a handy way to know what’s happening in her life and the type of friends she has. She may even forget you’re there.
- Remind her that the most sacred thing shared between a father and a daughter is trust.
- Get to know her friends. Let them hang out at your house. That way you know where they are and keeping out of trouble. Her friends’ parents will also appreciate it.
- Don’t be naïve. By the time she becomes a teenager, she’ll have heard about drugs, sex, alcohol and violence from social and mainstream media. Hopefully, she’ll have learned much of this from you first.
- Remind her that you are her father and not her friend. And, that you will always love her more than anyone.
- Make her put her smartphone down when she is at home and spend time together with the family.
- Listen to the music she listens too and don’t forget what your parents thought of what you listened too. My parents never understood why I loved KISS. In hindsight, I don’t know why either.
- Teach her not to gossip.
- Teach her that her character is easy to give away but very difficult to get back.
- Never insult her intelligence.
- Give her household chores to complete so she has something to be accountable for.
- Teach not to judge anyone. Teach her to serve people.
- Review her schoolwork often to ensure she is on the right path.
- If she is interested in a certain career path, set up some time with someone you may know in that career to provide some knowledge, wisdom, and advice.
- If she wants to go to the mall with her friends, drive her there and pick her up.
- Accept the fact that she will be a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Breath deep, be patient…it will get better.
- Be an ear when she needs you and resist the urge to try and solve her problems unless you’re asked. The longer you listen, the more you’ll learn. And as guys, we always tend to want to solve things without truly listening.
- Practice the Daddy/Daughter date. You don’t always have to do what she wants. You can choose too. Introduce her to new foods and activities.
- If you don’t approve of the way she looks before she goes out, send her back to start over. Be gentle and firm explaining self-respect.
- There will be days (many) when she’ll think you are wrong about everything. You have a lot more experience on earth than she does. Say what you need too.
- Don’t lecture. I am terrible at this.
- Never call her names…ever.
- Make sure she calls you if she’s going to be a bit late or if there is a change in plans. She has a phone for a reason.
- Teach her to read instructions and to figure things out for herself. You don’t need to solve everything for her.
- It is not the schools’ responsibility to teach sex education…it’s the parents.
- Volunteer to drive her and her friends places. Then just listen while they talk. You might be surprised at what you hear.
- Ask her who her role models are. If they are pop stars, actors, or fashion models, you have some teaching to do.
- Impress upon her the correlation between studying and good grades, good grades and university, university and success.
Again, many of these I am working on all the time. I shall press forward because I want to be a better father for her and my other children. I know there are many more that could be added to this list but that’s what I have come up with so far.
The teenage years have been interesting to this point. I don’t remember being so emotional when I was that age. And, there are days when her and I laugh ourselves to tears together. Other days I want to run away, curl up into a ball and cry wondering if God sent these beings to the right person. The most humbling experience of my life is coming to the self-realization of how much my example, whether positive or negative, has a direct effect on all my children’s’ lives. The power of example is priceless. Remember, you are always being watched.
Finally, never be afraid to talk to other parents that have already gone through these life shaping years. They will be empathetic and provide you good council. It will be a good reminder that you are not in this alone.