How Do I Keep from Breaking My Daughter?

May 19, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

This is an actual question put to me on a golf course recently by a friend and fellow dad of daughter.  I don’t know if that is word for word what he said.  If it wasn’t “break” it might have been “ruin” or “mess up.”  Regardless, it was something like that.

I love the question because it really gets at the heart of most guys’ fear about having a daughter.  We consider daughters to be significantly more breakable than a boy.  Boys are durable and tough, and girls are fragile.

Disclaimer: I am not saying that there is such a difference between boys and girls.  I’m saying that is how dads feel.  Little boys are significantly more fragile than most dads realize.

Clarification: Fragile does not connote weakness, at least not in this case.  It really is better understood as valuable and precious.  All things that are valuable and precious are breakable.  That’s how we feel.  You can’t judge our feelings (I may or not be crying now).

I think this belief that a dad can ruin a girl, easily leads many men to becoming passive in their parenting of their daughters.  “Since I am a blumbering idiot, I cannot be trusted.  Wife (I know, no one calls their wife, “wife”), you take care of it.”  If it is not that kind of passivity, a different kind emerges.  The second kind of passivity eliminates discipline.  “She is my beautiful princess.  She never does anything wrong.”  This is seen even more in dads that have sons first.  “Boys are punks like me and need beatings (exaggerated word for effect.  You guys are sensitive today) just like I needed them.  But my precious girl, she just needs more smooches and to be held and given everything she ever wants always.”

I think in my verbiage (turns out it’s not verbage, but verbiage and connote not connotate. Thanks red squigglies. Even though I’m ignoring you with the word “squigglies”) in that last sentence, anyone can figure out what one of my pieces of advice was–your daughter needs to be disciplined as well.

Despite the fact that she is beautiful and sweet, she also has a sinful, selfish heart that needs to be shaped.  She needs to be corrected, disciplined and punished, just as you would your son.  “Just as you would?  That can’t be true.  It has to be different.”  I can agree with that for the same reasons that I would say that you have to discipline different boys differently.  They have different personalities, tendencies, respond to different punishments uniquely, etc.  However, despite the differences between children in general and girls and boys specifically, one similarity remains–they need to have their selfish desires and hearts shaped by a loving parent.

I told my friend that your daughter learns that she is your beautiful princess when things are going well.  She learns to restrain selfishness and sin and (gulp) that she is not the literal or figurative center of the universe when she acts out.  It is possible to be the “fun one” and the “tough one,” to be the “doting dad” and the “disciplinarian.”

We risk “breaking” our daughters when we are one to the exclusion of the other.  Most guys, at least with girls, tend to dote and not discipline.  I certainly am not advocating the other extreme.

Balance, no not balance, but the appropriate role at the appropriate time under the appropriate circumstances is what we need to strive for as dads.  But that is a blog post for another day.


One Response to “How Do I Keep from Breaking My Daughter?”
  1. Sarah says:

    The more I hear/read/see about parenting, the more respect and fear I have of it. It is such a hard balance to hit (I imagine…seeing as how I’m single and childless, this is all hypothetical).

    I thought you were going another direction with this. I thought you were going to talk about stubborn, willful children and how to harness/redirect their energy without breaking their spirits. This is something I’d be curious to hear about given your story on Sunday (”I’m sick and tired…”) and my own stubbornness/willfulness as a child (and thus likelihood of having stubborn/willful children).

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