What dad is getting "right" per his teen daughter
Too often we hear the list of all the things dad is getting wrong when it comes to raising a teen girl but over the years, I have heard several things he is getting right.
He respects & understands that she is growing up.
When dad recognizes that his daughter is no longer 7 and is in fact 13, 15, 18 she is greatly appreciative. It is difficult for teen girls to deal with parents, especially dad if he is in denial about her growing up and doesn’t make the appropriate parenting adjustments.
She expects to be treated her age and not as a child anymore. This means changes in responsibility, freedom and restrictions. Dad’s who get this and truly make the effort in managing their expectations will build closer, healthier relationships with their teen daughter.
Dad's who treat and punish her like she is 5 will stay in a never ending battle of the wills during the teen years and it will be very turbulent. I heard of a dad who was still spanking his daughter at 15. You can almost guarantee the relationship will be built on fear and disrespect if this is happening.
He filters his words and uses a lot of encouragement.
Teen girls are HIGHLY sensitive to criticism or perceived criticism. Dad’s who recognize this and hold their tongue way more often then they want to because they understand that their words have power to destroy her will be closer to their daughters.
Teen girls hold onto the words of their father. A flippant comment could last a lifetime. You don't want to walk on eggshells but making unnecessary comments because you think they are "funny" could backfire. Avoid any and all joking about her appearance. This can be very damaging. Girls bodies are changing and that can make you uncomfortable but recognize it's very difficult for her and she doesn't need a critique. Let her grow-up.
Due to her stage of life development, she needs 2-3x more encouragement then correction. She needs built up by dad in ways no other person in her life is doing. This protects her in future relationship choices.
On the flip side, she needs to be your daughter, not your spouse. She does not like or want dad to share his life in ways he should a spouse. She really does not like you to be overly touchy or syrupy sweet. It freaks her out because it’s weird and uncomfortable. She totally gets when you are channeling energy into her that should be going into a marriage.
She is built up when dad tells her she is kind, hard working, strong, beautiful, smart, generous, a go-getter, resourceful, observant, etc... Words that describe her efforts and abilities are critical to her understanding herself and the more unique, the better.
He recognizes that building a relationship with her is the foundation to everything.
Dads who take time despite the difficulties going on in a family to just spend quality time that is fun, encouraging and specific to building a relationship with her will win. There is a saying I use all the time with parents...
Rules without Relationship = Rebellion
If you try to establish and enforce rules within a family and there is no relationship, you can guarantee she will rebel. You may have a super compliant girl and be able to rule her with fear but I promise you she is rebelling somewhere... sexually active, drinking, self-harm, disordered eating, etc... It's typically taken out on herself.
When dad understands that in order to truly have influence with his teen daughter there MUST be a foundational relationship, she will be more respectful and empathetic in the relationship. Too often the dad/daughter relationship is adversarial and a huge reason is that the true relationship is non-existent.
Teen girls will not respect, obey, trust or care if dad is not taking time to invest in her. When dad takes time out of his busy schedule and sets up activities for just the two of them it builds relationship. Finding a common activity that is just theirs or a consistent meet-up makes the difference. I met a dad who would take his daughter to breakfast 1x/week before high school. They had a day and a place. She said it was hard for her at first but she grew to value that time with her dad. The consistency was key.
I met another dad that was a successful business man and had several kids and he would take the time, even after a long, crazy day and sit with his daughter for a few minutes and enjoy whatever she was doing. The sky could be falling down around him and he would set it all aside and give her healthy attention. It communicated to her that she was known by him and that he saw her. She didn't expect him to spend hours but the 10 minutes was everything.
The awesome thing about investing in her is that it is never too late. You can start immediately and you will see changes. It may take time if you haven't done this but it is the number one move you can make to increasing positive experiences with your daughter.
When dad is level headed
I often have girls tell me that if they need to talk about certain things they will go to dad because he will not blow-up or get as emotional as mom. They like that dad can remember what being a teen was like and how hard it can be. Girls feel dad can relate more at times.
Dad's who have a temper and get angry all the time are not approachable and will not be who she goes to for help. Dad's who rule with lots of authority and lots of NOs will also not be as connected as they could be (if at all. she will fake it to keep the peace but not trust you).
Teen girls need stability so when dad is calm and can manage his emotions, he is doing a great job. She feels it and will draw closer because of it.
He respects her mom
Your daughter pays attention to EVERYTHING and she notices when her father treats her mother well, even in divorce. Many times I have heard girls comment on how her father does not say mean things about mom. Despite whatever is going on in a family, teen girls want their mother to be treated well and they note if this is happening.
She is learning what is acceptable treatment in a dating relationship based on how dad is treating mom. Believe it or not she even respects when dad backs up mom and she knows they are a united front. It brings her comfort even though in the moment you get resistance and conflict. Deep down she appreciates it.
Girls will tell me they hope to find someone who loves them as much as their father loves their mother. They also comment on parents being friends and notice when dad says kind things about mom. I've heard from girls whose parents are divorced talk about their father not bashing mom and how much they appreciate it.
Speaking words of encouragement about her mom builds her up because it helps her to see mom in new ways and to hear what matters to dad, especially in relationships. Everything is a learning experience for her.
Despite whatever is going on at home, your daughter does care and often desperately wants a connection with you. It's never too late to begin "noticing" her. She needs healthy attention from dad. She needs dad to recognize who she is becoming and to build that up in her. Sometimes just a small change can make a big difference.