When your daughter is born, she recognizes your voice as deeper than her mother’s. As a toddler, she looks up at your enormous frame and realizes that you are big, smart, and tough. In her grade school years, she instinctively turns to you for direction.
Whatever outward impression she gives, her life is centered on discovering what you like in her, and what you want from her. She knows you are smarter than she is. She gives you authority because she needs you to love and adore her. She -can’t feel good about herself until she knows that you feel good about her. So you need to use your authority carefully and wisely. Your daughter -doesn’t want to see you as an equal. She wants you to be her hero, someone who is wiser and steadier and stronger than she is.
The only way you will alienate your daughter in the long term is by losing her respect, failing to lead, or failing to protect her. If you -don’t provide for her needs, she will find someone else who will—and that’s when trouble starts. -Don’t let that happen.
Nowadays, the idea of assuming authority makes many men uneasy. It smacks of political incorrectness. Pop psychologists and educators have told us that authority is suffocating, obtrusive, and will crush a child’s spirit. Fathers worry that if they push their kids or establish too many rules, they’ll just rebel. But the greatest danger comes from fathers who surrender leadership, particularly during their children’s teen years. Authority is not a threat to your relationship with your daughter—it is what will bring you closer to your daughter, and what will make her respect you more.
In fact, girls who end up in counselors’ offices, detention centers, or halfway homes are not girls who had authoritative fathers. Quite the opposite. Troubled young women spend most of their time in counseling describing the hurt they felt from fathers who abandoned them, retreated from their lives, or ignored them. They describe fathers who failed—or were afraid—to establish rules. They describe fathers who focused on their own emotional struggles rather than those of their daughters. They describe fathers who wanted to avoid any conflict, and so shied away from engaging their daughters in conversation, or challenging them when they made bad decisions.
Your natural instinct is to protect your daughter. Forget what pop culture and pop psychologists tell you. Do it.
And be ready. Your daughter wants you to be an authority figure, but as she matures, she will likely test you to see if you’re serious. Dads, as a rule, know adolescent boys will eventually start to challenge them. The one-on-one basketball games will get more competitive, and the son will start to buck dad’s authority.
Let me tell you a secret: many daughters challenge their fathers too. They’ll dive into a power struggle with you, not to see how tough you are, but to see how much you really care about them. So remember that when she pushes hard against your rules, flailing, crying that you are mean or unfair, she is really asking you a question: Am I worth the fight, Dad? Are you strong enough to handle me? Make sure she knows the answer is yes.