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Portland, OR
USA

I exist to help dads learn to communicate and engage with their young adult daughters.  I provide resources from my vast amounts of research and experience with dads and daughters, and this is the place where you'll find the tools you need to become the hero you've always wanted to be.

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Blog

An Open Letter to Dads of Daughters

Michelle Watson

On this Father’s Day weekend, I want to give you a gift from my heart to yours…a gift of words. (I know that probably isn’t exactly your first choice, and you’d much prefer a paddle or a fitbit, but this is the best I can do from afar!). I want to begin with some validation and encouragement (just in case you don’t hear it enough!), and then end with a challenge.

As a father, you no doubt have a lot of weight on your shoulders and I’m guessing that you often feel overwhelmed with all that’s expected of you, even though at times you try to ignore the intensity and immensity of that reality. (I know this because many of you have trusted me enough to tell me what this is like for you).

And much of the time you find it easier to push away the discomfort of facing your own inadequacy so that you don’t have to sit in the space of admitting that it might actually be true  that you’re not enough.

But if you peel back the layers and allow yourself to be honest, even vulnerable, you’ll discover that every other father is feeling the exact same way---with a sense of being less than competent, at least when it comes to relationships. Perhaps it’s most noticeable when the women in your life say they need more from you or point out areas of ineptness. And that’s when you find yourself falling into a pattern of slinking back into your shell (or, as author John Gray says, into your cave) to find safety from the perceived attack.

But dad, you weren’t made to shrink back and hide. That’s not where you thrive. You were created to pursue and conquer, to hunt and gather. The truth is that you’re at your best when you’re taking action while proving to yourself and the world around you that you have what it takes to courageously go after the things--and people--you love and believe in.

So here you are, living each day with a wealth of experiential knowledge, some of it amazing, and some of it painfully debilitating. Yet all of it has brought you to where you are today, shaping the way you see yourself…and everyone around you. And it’s out of the overflow of all those experiences that you parent your daughter.

Now here’s where I’m going to go a bit deeper by addressing the “painfully debilitating” part.

Those devastating experiences, when left unhealed, lead you to believe that you don’t have it in you to live any differently or respond in ways other than the hand you were dealt. Those wounding interactions have left you stuck, which then have you repeating unhealthy relational patterns that really don’t work for you---or your daughter, for that matter.

Sadly, I meet too many deflated men who have lost their drive and ambition, especially when it comes to pursuing relationships. Somewhere along the way they’ve succumbed to the lie that they can’t be more than their history or their failures while believing that they’re destined to repeat mistakes that were modeled by their fathers.

Truthfully, this whole way of thinking and interpersonal relating breaks my heart because I see men who have shrunk back while using self-protective strategies so as not to be hurt again, usually like they were as kids. But those strategies create distance between them and the ones who call him “dad” while also keeping their offspring from reaping the benefits of being loved by the one man whose opinion matters most.

To make matters worse, instead of rising up to meet the challenges of fighting to maintain close relationships, men with these defaults too easily resign themselves to a position of impotence rather than being valiant pursuers and initiators, traits that I believe God created all men to embody in their DNA.

You see, when a father steps back, removes his armor, concedes before engaging, and walks away (literally or figuratively---such as when he is there physically but not emotionally), not only is he deflated, but so are his kids. Further, something disastrous happens inside of him when he believes that he doesn’t matter and instead defers to their mom. That’s when something inside him starts to atrophy.

From observing men these past seven years since founding The Abba Project, I’ve noticed that something begins to die in a man when he believes that he can’t rise up, change, make a difference, or lead his family. Even this past weekend I talked with a dad who said he’s a terrible father and seemed resigned to that fact. I literally stood in front of him and wept. Yes, it was awkward for a minute or two, but my heart was breaking for his children…and for him…because it seemed like he was believing a lie that his story can’t be rewritten at this point in his life. 

So what do you do if you didn’t get what you needed from your dad? What if that empowering, strengthening, life-giving deposit was never transferred from your father to you? Are you forever destined to a sense of stifling inadequacy in the core of your being? I don’t believe so.

Today I stand aligned with your spirit and affirm that you are a son of the best Dad ever.

And He as your Father makes you enough. 

Don’t let another day go by where you believe the lie that you don’t have what it takes to be a great dad. With God pouring His resources of “enoughness” into your depths, you will have enough to pour into your daughter (and son).

Humbly ask for supernatural help while being open to letting your Heavenly Father fill you with His wisdom, insight, strength, courage, tenacity, tenderness, compassion, and on it goes. God says if we ask for wisdom, He’ll give it. No questions asked, no groveling, no earning His favor. It’s simply His gift.

As you pray this prayer, I guarantee that if you sit in stillness and listen, God will download ideas that will lead you to connect with the unique needs of your daughter. Spend at least five minutes waiting for the download to come, and then immediately act upon the things God tells you in order to reach the heart of your girl. You might think you’re fabricating things as you listen, but it will get much easier to trust God’s voice when you put into action the ideas He gives you and see that they work.

So even if you don’t hear it enough: You matter. And every day that you give of yourself to your daughter is a day that changes her life…and yours.

Dad, I wish you the happiest Father’s Day ever and I CELEBRATE YOU as you continue to embrace the most important job you’ll ever have: being a dad.

Need a Father’s Day Gift Idea?

Michelle Watson

Hi Friends…

If you’re like me, sometimes you don’t exactly know what to get your dad for Father’s Day. So I’m coming to your rescue with a gift idea that keeps on giving!

 Why not order my book for yourself---or to give out as a gift to any dad of a daughter you know who could use a little extra support when it comes to successfully navigating the path to his daughter’s heart.

To make it even easier, simply click the button to grab your copy of “Dad, Here’s What I Really Need from You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter’s Heart”.

Thanks for helping me spread the word about my book as my hope is that it will continue to be a helpful resource for fathers who are ready to engage their daughter’s hearts in more proactive and intentional ways than ever before.

Happy Father’s Day to each of you dads, and I am always here cheering you on!

 Big hugs, Michelle

DAD BOOT CAMP: Five Bold Ideas For Dads To Engage Their Daughter's Hearts

Michelle Watson

I’ve heard it said that men do best when they’re challenged. And not just challenged to do something possible, but something bigger and harder than they could ever imagine doing.

Case in point: I watched a documentary awhile back where men voluntarily attended a week of grueling military boot camp, paying large sums of money to be pushed past their limits. Why did they do it? They said it was simply to prove that they could.

The only way these guys knew if they were capable of surviving the challenge was to make a commitment to go the distance no matter how hard it was along the way. After hearing this story, it brought home the truth that brave and bold go hand in hand.

If you are going to step into your daughter’s life in a braver and bolder way than ever before, you will most likely be doing things you never thought possible, things that might even make you feel a bit uncomfortable or less than competent. But I know you’ll do whatever it takes to reach her heart, even if it’s out of your comfort zone. 

To reach that goal, may I suggest a five-step path for boldly engaging your daughter's heart in order to ensure your rank among other courageous, risk-taking, valiant dads who are stepping up to put their love for their daughters into action.  

For easier recall, let’s use your hand as a template for these five things:

 1. Thumb

  • According to relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, a healthy relationship needs five deposits to every one withdrawal, so make sure to build her up five times more than you correct her.

  • Ask yourself: How often do I communicate my disapproval with a "thumbs down" in contrast to the times I give her a “thumbs up” to celebrate her successes?

2.   Pointer finger

  • Point her in the right direction by the choices you make, even behind closed doors.

  • Be aware that she will follow after you because she longs for your approval.

  • Ask yourself: By the way I live my life, in what direction am I pointing her?

  • 3,  Middle finger

  • Need I say more?! But what if your tallest finger became your reminder not to “give your daughter the finger” in moments of anger and rage, but instead to stand tall with personal integrity by modeling the very attributes you want her to embody?

  • Ask yourself: Am I leading with anger or am I treating her in a way that leads her to stand tall with confidence.

4.  Ring finger

  • This finger is typically reserved for the ring that tells the world she has a forever love.

  • Ask yourself: How have I shown love to my daughter today through my words, attitudes, and actions? (because if you don’t show your love, she won’t know your love. 

5.  Baby finger

  • The most fragile of all the fingers, this one reminds us that a daughter’s vulnerable heart is most beautiful when it is open, which happens naturally when treated with tender loving care.  

  • Ask yourself: Have I responded to her with gentleness and kindness, respect and love today?

 The truth is that a woman with an open heart will not only change the world, but will engage the world in like kind to the way her heart has been engaged. You, dad, have a key role in facilitating that process.

 Let today be the day you push past your limits to boldly engage your daughter’s heart…just to prove that you can!

P.S. If you want to hear more of my heart on the influence of a dad in his daughter’s life, as well as some of my own story, you can listen to a conversation with my friends Leary Gates and Armin Assadi on their BoldIdea Podcast. Enjoy!

The FATHER Formula

Michelle Watson

If I could give you a “1-2-3 Quick Fix Formula” for being the best dad alive, would you want it? Of course you would! It’s human nature to want the fastest, easiest, and most efficient path possible to success.

But when it comes to fathering, it doesn’t quite work that way. It’s the “slow and steady wins the race” pattern that really makes all the difference.

In other words, the most effective fathering tool is simply showing up.

Taking it a step further, I want to assure you that you don’t have to do big, extravagant, out-of-the-ordinary things to be a hero to your daughter. It’s all about being there for her in the day-in-and-day-out routine that matters the most.

If you recall the things your dad did that had the most value to you as a kid, I’m guessing the biggest impacts were often the seemingly small, regular things he did that now bring back the fondest memories---from playing catch or teaching you to ride a bike to letting you barbeque alongside him or raking leaves together. It’s those everyday things that communicated that you were worth his time and effort.

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So what means most to a daughter?

It’s being there to kiss her boo-boo’s (which get harder to make all better the older she gets) and letting her know that you want to understand where she hurts.

It’s about saying “no” to watching the game on television and “yes” to knocking on her door just to hear about her day.

It’s about having breakfast on Saturday mornings while watching cartoons or listening to her favorite music, reading the paper or talking about what interests her…even when it’s not your favorite subject.

It’s being at her track meets to see her win…or lose.

It’s about being willing to sit with her through torrents of tears and biting your tongue when everything inside you wants to give a mini-lesson (a.k.a., a lecture) that says, “I told you so,” or “how many times do you have to do it wrong before you’ll finally get it right?”

It’s about looking at her in the eyes to see her responses to your intensity (namely anger) and being willing to ask forgiveness when you’ve over-reacted and hurt her, thus closing her spirit.

It’s about giving her hugs even when she tells you she’s too old for cuddling…despite the fact that she longs to be close to you and needs to know you cherish her.

It’s about making sure that your job doesn’t consistently take priority over your family while choosing to remember that the greatest legacy you will ever leave is your kids, not your work.

I acknowledge that this fathering thing is not for the faint of heart. Truth be told, it actually would be easier if it wasn’t so daily. And it sure would be easier if your daughter came with a playbook.

But here you are, willing to learn what she needs so that you can give her one of the best gifts ever: your love.

So here is a fathering formula to assist you as you pursue your daughter’s heart, six things she needs from you. Whether you’re a dad who is already dialed-in or a dad who knows there is room for improvement, this provides a way to evaluate where you’re at while developing strategies for “kicking it up a notch” today:

The FATHER Formula is a template for you to gauge where you’re at when it comes to putting your love for your daughter into action. Write and let me know how it goes because I love celebrating with you as I applaud your willingness to make the FIRST move by AFFIRMING and TALKING with your girl, all the while finding the HUMOR in life around you, not taking yourself so seriously, and never giving up as you seek to ENGAGE her heart by communicating encouragement because you REALIZE how much your daughter needs you to be proud of her as you celebrate the uniqueness of who she is.

These six things will dramatically improve, revive, reinforce, and strengthen your relationship with your daughter. It’s all about getting in there and showing up, no special training necessary.

All you have to do is try.

And if you want The FATHER Formula in just twelve short words, here’s my summation: You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to be present.

Transfer of Power

Michelle Watson

You can breathe a sigh of relief because I promise you that this isn’t a political post. I’m only using this concept as a reference point to talk about fathering.

Let me ask you a question: What comes to mind when you read the three words in the title, Transfer of Power?

I’m guessing that your immediate thought ties to a change of position or roles between political leaders or administrative parties. That’s what comes to mind when I hear those words too.

During our recent election season I heard this phrase used repeatedly during the transition that took place in our highest office of government. And because my mind is always thinking about fathers and daughters, I found myself pondering how a similar dynamic happens (or should be happening) in homes when it comes to preparing kids to launch. I’m referencing that time when a daughter (or son) officially heads into adulthood around the age of 18. There really is a transfer of power, especially when she (or he) steps out from under the parental roof.

Since this child-to-adult transition is inevitable, the question for dads is this:

What steps are you taking to prepare your daughter to be independent, confident, and self-assured as she moves into adulthood?

Here’s one way to build a framework that addresses this question as taught to me by a colleague whose insight was honed from raising two children, as well as hosting 100 foster teenagers.

“By the age of 18, most kids are making the bulk of their own decisions, so why not let them make 50% of their own decisions by the time they’re nine years old. Then when they’re 14 or 15, let 75% of their decisions be their own. You want to let them succeed and fail while you as the parent are there to help them work through it.”

When I first heard this idea, it seemed ludicrous! Who lets their nine year old make 50% of their own decisions? Yet as I’ve given it more thought, I can see the wisdom in it.

The more a child is empowered to think for themselves---which includes learning the hard way, making mistakes, falling down and failing, but then getting back up while having parental support---the more empowered she (or he) will be to carry themselves in a similar way outside the home.   

And what dad doesn’t want his little girl to be strong and assertive, to be one who doesn’t follow the crowd but stands on her own two feet while thinking for herself?

Yet as good as all of that sounds in theory, remember that if you want your daughter to embody those qualities outside your home, she’s going to have to learn how to use those skills inside your home. In other words, your home is her training ground. And you, Dad, can support her process of transition into adulthood long before the day of her actual launch while strategically enhancing her level of success just by the way you interact with her every day until then.

I am keeping my promise for this not be a political post, yet feel compelled to highlight something I noticed between our outgoing and incoming presidents that recently impressed me. Regardless of which side of the political aisle you sit on, I believe this story holds a lesson that fathers can take to heart when it comes to preparing their daughters to leave home.

I saw former President Obama on the news last week, showing up after a long period of virtual obscurity. I’m guessing that most everyone (including me) expected him to finally weigh in on President Trump’s first 100 days in office, but instead he said something that I found surprisingly refreshing. He said that former President George Bush refrained from ever publicly criticizing him after leaving office and now he was going to do the same. I liked that. For once it meant that I didn’t have to tense my emotional muscles and brace for a televised verbal assault.

Here’s how Globe Columnist Jeff Jacoby put it:

“Obama has the same right as any American to speak his mind in public. Yet it’s a right he should refrain from exercising when it comes to his successor. In the modern era, most former presidents have taken pains not to openly criticize or second-guess those who succeed them in office. That reticence is commendable.”

Perhaps in the midst of all the recent political insanity there is something to be gained from observing these two powerful leaders. They no doubt disagree on a majority of issues yet have found a way to honor each other in this transition process regardless of their differing beliefs and convictions.  

Dads, how might you do the same with your daughter as she leaves (or prepares to leave) your home and step into adulthood?

Can you refrain from openly criticizing and second-guessing her decisions, especially those that are different from yours?

Can you give her grace to wrestle through questions and boundaries, relationships and choices while allowing her the freedom to make mistakes while always letting her know she is loved by you no matter what?

Can you opt not to show negative facial expressions when she tells you of a choice she’s made that you wouldn’t make or disagree with?

Can you pace with her process while matching your responses to her level of maturity?

Can you affirm those things she’s doing well rather than focusing primarily on areas of defeat?

Can you listen in such a way that she will keep opening up to you rather than shutting you out because she feels your disapproval?

If your daughter is nearing the age where she is ready to be launched, may I suggest three questions that you can ask her today:

  1. How can I best stand with you in ways that make you feel encouraged, supported, and let you know that I’m on your side--especially as you prepare to leave home?
     

  2. Is there anything I’m doing, saying, or implying that makes you feel that I don’t want you to succeed or don’t want you to leave the nest?
     

  3. What are you most scared about as you think ahead to being away from home and what can I do to help you navigate that challenge?

I know you want your daughter to succeed. You want to save her from heartache and regret. That’s why you sometimes want to step in and take over. I understand that. But that’s when it may be time to take to heart the words of Robert F. Kennedy, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” It seems to be part of the process for us all, doesn’t it?

So, what can you do to create a peaceful transfer of power with your daughter?

  • Be the safe place where she can land when she falls.

  • Make sure not to shame her in her process of learning.

  • Reflect back on your bumpy road to maturity.

  • When you think you can’t be any more patient, dig even deeper.

  • Pray for God to give you grace to stay calm while guiding her.

  • Remove all harshness and anger from your communication style.

  • Know that she won’t do things your way and that’s okay.

  • Remember that she’ll be more open to your opinion if she asks for it.

  • Listen twice as much as you talk.

  • Daily communicate love for who she is regardless of what she does or doesn’t do.

  • Remind her that her uniqueness will leave a mark on the world as she steps out and uses her gifts to impact others.

Dad, I know that your heart will ache as your daughter leaves the nest, but as you prepare her for the future, rest assured that the transfer of power from you to her will be stronger, healthier, and more peaceful if she has your support.

Let her know today that you are cheering her on as she steps forward into the next season of her life!

When Your Daughter Doesn't Get a Ring by Spring

Michelle Watson

I don't know if it's something in the air lately or if it's just the typical awakening that happens after a long winter, but suffice it to say that I’ve had more talks recently with women about their singleness than I’ve had in the entire past year combined!

Maybe it’s tied to the colorful spring blossoms magically popping up from the ground that are activating the not-far-from-the-surface desire in women to see love blossom for them in a similar way. All I know is that regardless of the impetus, there are a lot of women with aching hearts due to feeling alone now that spring has sprung.

If you could sit where I sit, you would see and hear passionate women with incredible gifts and amazing dreams who don’t feel fully alive or empowered to reach toward those dreams due to the fact that they are single. You heard me right; there are myriads of women who are blocked and stuck and stalled out in their life pursuits all because they don’t have guy pursuits in the works.

Just this past week an adorable 16-year old, with tears streaming down her cheeks, told me about her struggle with not having a boyfriend while most of her friends are coupled, leaving her to conclude that she’s not thin enough to attract a guy. In another conversation, a 33-year old successful career woman with current job promotion potential expressed her hypothesis that there must be some looming deficits that keeps men from pursuing her. She shared how hard it is when those first dates repeatedly fail to turn into second dates, leading her to believe she’s undesirable and not worth the effort.

You see, we as women most often conclude that there is something lacking in us when we’re not the one being chosen. Rarely do we think there’s something wrong with the guy.

I know too many women--from their teens on up--who are less than enthusiastic about the incredible opportunities directly in front of them and instead are fixated on the one thing they don't have: a boyfriend. And it really doesn’t help when the questions keep coming by well-meaning inquirers that focus primarily on our dating lives as opposed to other aspects of our existence.

Truth be told, it’s never easy to repeatedly report that there’s not much happening in the romance department.

To make matters worse (and I speak from years of experience on this one), although we love attending wedding showers for our girlfriends and are honored to stand next to them as a bridesmaid when they enter into holy matrimony, there’s a bittersweet reality that accompanies these shindigs.

As single women we always secretly wonder if our forever soul mate might be waiting for us at these events, especially at weddings. Maybe he’ll be standing on the groom’s side of the platform and we’ll unintentionally exchange glances, only then to have the matchup seem obvious as we exit, walking down the aisle, arm in arm (because the bride made sure that we were paired up). Or we dream about Mr. Right possibly being at the reception where we’ll inadvertently bump into each other on the dance floor and sparks will instantaneously fly. And on it goes.

We can’t help but wonder if our forever story is waiting to be written at these celebrations. Try as we might not to think ahead, the whole idea of longing for a guy to notice us and choose us so that our fairy tale can begin seems to be constantly present (even though we rarely admit it publicly). Dreaming and wishing and hoping is half the fun…until nothing happens…again.

Someone told me this week that she and her mom agree that I’m the most vibrant single woman they know. As nice as that was to hear, my immediate thought was: Why aren’t there more women who are thriving in their singleness?

Dads, I believe you are more of a solution to the problem than you may realize.

Way too many women are inadvertently believing the lie that they’re not a success unless they’re dating, engaged, or married. That message is being perpetuated…everywhere…and it needs to stop.

Your input into your daughter’s life has the power to carry a counter cultural message---which is that she has vibrancy and purpose beyond her marital status.

Here’s what your single daughter needs to hear from you…today:

  1. She needs to learn what guys think--particularly when it comes to romance. You remember what it was like at the age where your daughter is right now. Tell her where your head was at, especially the part where you were distracted or lazy, selfish or unmotivated to pursue a girl because you knew the work it would take to commit and were focused on figuring out your own life. Let her know it's not something wrong with her that has guys doing what they do.

  2. She needs you to tell her that she’s beautiful and competent, qualified, and “enough” just the way she is, right where she’s at, whether or not there’s a boyfriend in the picture. Your daughter needs more encouragement, more support, and more validation from you in extra measure if she’s single. And even if she’s dating someone or already married, she still will thrive when hearing that you believe in her, are proud of her, and that you love her fully and completely (as a work in progress, just like you).

  3. She needs to hear that even if she never gets married, you are not disappointed in her and are fully proud of her. Focus on highlighting what she is doing, not what she isn’t. And I don’t know why it is, but a lot of women believe that their parents will be happier if we have a husband and give them grandchildren. So when we feel we’ve failed to make our parents happy or proud of us in those areas (even if it’s never been communicated directly), we feel like a failure. The reality is that it’s our “stuff.” But that’s why fathers are so important when it comes to communicating their affirmation of their daughters at every age regardless of marital status.

So what do you say, dads…will you join me in spreading this message to your girls?

Let's join together in emboldening single women to enthusiastically live their lives to the fullest while encouraging them to focus on using their unique gifts to make a difference in the world.

Let's stop asking mostly about their love lives and instead spend more time asking about the latest opportunities they’re embracing and inquire about the new things they’re learning.

Let's deepen our conversations to celebrate and highlight that which single women have to offer their communities rather than carelessly and needlessly directing the conversation to the one area where she may feel less confident or successful.

Let’s celebrate all women, not just those who are dating or married. All of us together have the power to change the way we interact and today is the day to broaden our focus so we’re talking about all things life-breathing, not just about boys and dating.

Dads, before I close, here’s one practical idea for investing in your single daughters in a creative, not-for-any-specific-occasion way:

What if you bought a quality ring for your daughter just to let her know she’s valuable…to you. Then every time she looks at it she will be reminded that you love her and that she’s a treasure.

Can you picture it? Single women across the nation showing off the rings they got this spring…from their dads!
 

P.S. Just in case your daughter might need a little spiritual encouragement, here is one of my favorite passages because it’s all about passionately embracing life as a single woman:

Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy…enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide, lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
…Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated…
For your Maker is your bridegroom---the Lord Almighty is his name!

Isaiah 54: 1-5

Beauty and the Beast: 10 Life Lessons about True Love Between a Dad and his Daughter

Michelle Watson

If you are a dad whose daughter who was born after 1991, there’s a good chance you know well the storyline of Beauty and the Beast.

And with the movie version just being released, I figured it was a good time to head to the theater to see what all the buzz is about, especially with Disney’s claim that it’s their next billion-dollar hit. Of course the real plot to the movie is about the way that love transforms a beast into a prince and a beauty into a princess, but I am drawn more to the subplot between a daughter and her dad.

But first. Just in case you haven’t seen the movie in awhile, here are the main themes (in the way men prefer information to be translated: bullet points!):

  • An entitled, narcissistic prince is transformed into a beast as punishment for being selfish
  • To break the spell, he must learn to love another and his love must be returned
  • Belle is the daughter of widower, Maurice, an eccentric inventor and music box maker
  • Belle is misunderstood by the townspeople for being “odd,” evidenced primarily by her love of reading books
  • Maurice is captured by the Beast, but Belle ends up taking her father’s place as prisoner
  • The Beast ends up giving Belle his library and over time, their friendship grows
  • Meanwhile, another suitor, Gaston, is hell bent on marrying Belle despite her refusals
  • Gaston (the truly narcissistic one in the story) tries to kill Maurice, convincing the townspeople that Maurice is a liar and mentally unstable
  • The Beast finally frees Belle to go to her father in his time of need
  • Gaston captures Maurice, and once he discovers the Belle loves the Beast, he locks them up both up, headed to an asylum
  • Belle and her dad escape capture and Belle returns to the castle
  • Gaston storms the castle, along with the townspeople, overpowering the Beast
  • Gaston kills the Beast, then falls to his death
  • Belle weeps over the death of her one true love, confessing her love for the Beast
  • The Beast is awakened by her love and turned back into a prince
  • They live happily ever after

Now that you’re updated on the plot, I want to highlight more than the obvious premise in this story about a love that transforms a beast into a prince and a beauty into a princess. I am drawn more to the incredible subplot about the relentless, sacrificial, generous love of a dad toward his daughter…and of a daughter for her father. And yes, I realize this is a fairy tale, but the life lessons here bear repeating.

Here are ten things this movie teaches about the power of real love between a father and a daughter that plays out in the way they relate to each other:

1. They respect each other’s differences
Dad is an inventor who tinkers away in his shop and finally creates a music box that he believes will usher in a new life for the two of them if he is able to sell it at a fair. Belle is wired differently than her dad and is inspired by books that allow her to travel the world in her mind. Two different areas of interest; yet both dad and daughter encourage each other to love what they individually love and enjoy what they each enjoy.

2. Dad lets his daughter close to him while he works
There are two times in the movie where Maurice is working on something and Belle hands him the tool he needs to fix the problem. She anticipates the need before he asks, thus revealing that he had previously allowed her up close and personal to him in his work. This dad was willing to accept help from his daughter, thus bonding the two of them and building her confidence.

3. She brings her self-image questions to her dad
The opening song in this musical is about Belle being peculiar and strange in the eyes of her community. She knows she doesn’t fit in with her peers while preferring to learn by reading books rather than pining away for a husband like the other girls. So she brings her questions about her identity to her dad, asking if he thinks she is odd. Dad immediately rejects that theory, and instead builds her up and affirms her.

4. She has freedom to ask dad for what she wants
As Dad leaves to sell his music box at the fair, he asks his daughter what she wants him to bring her upon his return. All she asks for is one thing: a rose. Dad initiated the conversation by asking her what she wanted and she unreservedly uses her voice in response.

5. As a single parent, dad does an awesome job of raising his daughter alone
This single-parent father deserves kudos for raising a daughter who isn’t narcissistic or entitled. When asked what she wanted from him, her simple request of one rose reveals her lack of need for extravagance, but shows that their bond that was deeper than possessions. This also reveals that dad didn’t use things as a substitute for real relating and time spent together in dad-daughter bonding.

6. She is willing to sacrifice out of love for her dad
Belle is a teenager and oftentimes this is a season where girls are self-focused, not other-focused. If this daughter is willing to be taken prisoner so that her dad can be free, it most likely means that dad had been modeling to her this depth of sacrificial love in the way he related to her. When a dad gives of himself in sacrificial love to his daughter, it will come back to him at some point (even if it seems a bit lost during adolescence).

7. She is fearless, confident, assertive, and stands up for herself
There are two places where we see Belle’s inner strength:
1. She declines Gaston’s request for marriage, unwilling to settle for a man who isn’t her type nor whom she wants to marry.
2. When she first meets the Beast, she boldly confronts him and later unabashedly refuses his demand that she dine with him due to his rude tone and behavior. She must have learned to assert herself in her home, giving her confidence to “hold her own” when confronted with a crisis situation that could have caused her to shrink back.

8. They stand up for each other, especially in the heat of battle
When Belle is released by the Beast to go to her father, it is because he is in crisis. Gaston has swayed the townspeople to believe her dad is crazy. So she literally goes the distance to defend her dad against false accusations, and then he does the same for her when everyone believes she has fabricated the story about the Beast. This dad and daughter came to each other’s rescue when the opposition sought to misrepresent the truth of who they individually were.

9. Dad heard his daughter’s heart
When Dad heard Belle speak of her fondness for the Beast, he honored her and encouraged her to follow her heart, all with his full backing. And yes, we all know that love can be blind and this is when a dad must find a way to speak into his daughter’s life when the guy she claims to love may be dangerous or destructive. But when a dad hears his daughter’s heart and confirms that she is loved well, his support and blessing releases her to pursue that love with assurance.

10. Dad protected his daughter against a bad suitor
Though a dad may be called upon to support his daughter’s choice in love, there are times that you as a dad must tell her what you see as red flags. I LOVE that Maurice repeatedly tells Gaston that he can never have his daughter’s hand in marriage. We don’t see that Belle ever told her dad that she didn’t want to marry Gaston, yet dad ran interference against the dud, which protected her heart in the process. Go Dad!

So there you have it: 10 Life Lessons from Beauty and the Beast as modeled by an amazing dad to his daughter. To me, the beautiful aspect to this story comes in seeing a confident, courageous, and empowered woman who didn’t change herself to fit in, fully supported by a dad who believed in her, loved her well, and taught her not to back down from a fight.

I love that subplot as much, if not more, than the love story that transformed a beast into a prince and a common girl into a princess.

Finally, I share two quotes that you as a dad can use to fan into flame the beauty inside your precious daughter:

“The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries or the way she combs her hair. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives and the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.”   -Audrey Hepburn

“What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in….[where you are] unanxious and unintimidated.” I Peter 3:4-6 MSG  

Dad, choose one of the ten things above to put into action with your daughter today. Let’s see the fairy tale come to life today as you, the real hero in the story, release your daughter to be the best version of herself---caring, confident, and courageous, and one who knows her dad is backing her all the way!

He Came, In Pieces: A Guest Blog by Taylor Smith

Michelle Watson

Taylor Smith is a dear friend, a true inspiration, and a gifted communicator. I invited her to write a guest blog today to shed light on what it’s like as a 27-year old to navigate life after the death of her father. She reminds us that the legacy we leave behind speaks powerfully even after we’re gone. 
-Michelle

I got a call from you today.

Well, sort of.

“Hi, Taylor. I came across a file of your dads. Looks like it contains some personal things. I thought you might like to have it.”

What? I mean, yes. Yes. I would like to have it. I would love to have it, actually.”

“Great. I’m glad I was able to track you down, Taylor. I hope all is well.”

CLICK.

Dad, that is so your style,
unannounced,
coming in right outta the middle of nowhere,
all of your 78-inches somehow stuffed into this bulky, white envelope, which my fingers gripped so tight my knuckles turned white.

I wasn’t expecting you to arrive this way.

I mean, I think about you every day, but I didn’t think I’d be sitting on my living room floor, holding onto what I could only assume were
pieces of you,
in some forgotten file folder that was left in a sea of other forgotten file folders somewhere in a closet.

But here it was.
Here you were.
Uninvited and undeniably commanding the center of my attention in a matter of seconds
in a way that no one else could.

When I slid my finger under the envelope’s opening, I was holding my breath.
And I’m pretty sure I still wasn’t breathing when I tipped the envelope down and a red folder slid into my lap.

Open it, Taylor. Come on. Just do it.

But it’s not that easy, you see.
Because it wasn’t just a matter of opening a folder that contained some of my dad’s things –

Opening this folder also meant opening up part of my soul,
the deep, hidden part that craves just one more day,
one more hour
to create a last precious father-daughter memory.
And that’s a really raw place to tear open.
So it’s really not that easy.

But I did it.

The first piece of paper was a letter circa early 2000.
The letterhead stated Arkansas Swimming Hall of Fame.

It said,
“Dear Arthur, as you know, because of your outstanding contribution to the sport of swimming in the state of Arkansas, you have been inducted into the Arkansas Swimming Hall of Fame.”

Whoa. Hold up. Dad, this is a BIG DEAL. Why didn’t you tell me about this??

The letter went on to talk about my dad’s swimming career, most of which I already knew, but when it was there, printed on this formal letter, it made my eyes go wide, my heart swell with pride.

Dad, you were the dark horse, the unheard of swimmer who somehow conquered it all. You were nationally ranked, a five-time All American. You were a champion.

You were so much more than a swimmer, Dad, but I am so proud that you didn’t let your inexperience in the swimming world hold you back. You did it. You worked so hard and you made your mark.

So with this mysterious folder, business was off to a good start. But who knew what else was buried in the pile.

Mechanically, I reached for the next thing in the stack- a card “For a Son Who’s Loved So Much.”

It was a “just because” card from my dad’s mom, who I called my nana.

Nana and I weren’t super close. We never really had the opportunity to be, living more than a thousand miles apart. To tell you the truth, I always thought that I would never be able to relate to her – a sophisticated Southern woman and me, a prank-loving, spontaneous-dancing, free-spirit child.

But reading her words allowed me to learn more about my nana –and her relationship to her son, my dad- than I had ever known.

“Words cannot express my love for you – it grows every year, if that is even possible. How I cherish the loving memories of your childhood (rosy red cheeks that looked as good as apples)… You are my Guardian Angel.”

Wow, Dad. You and nana must have been really close. I know I didn’t know her very well, but she really loved you. I’m so glad that you were so loved by your mom – that she thought the world of you. Because you so deserved that, Dad. You really did.

The next few things were business documents that didn’t mean much to me,
but behind those pages were what I had been hoping for, yet not hoping for,
the really personal stuff.

The stack of cards that I was holding in my hands wasn’t just my dad,
it was my mom, too – letters she had written him from their nearly 15 years of marriage.

I tell you, this folder was the most beautiful gift.

I learned a lot about my dad,
about some things that he was too humble to share,
about him as a son and as a husband,
a man who was deeply loved, deeply passionate, and all together, deeply deep.
Yup. That was my dad. One deep dude.

I finished reading the cards and closed the folder, only wishing that there had been just a few more cards, a few more keepsakes or napkin-scribbled notes that could bring more of him back to me.

When you lose someone you love, there are
days when your heart is heavy,
days when you just need a good cry, or scream,
days when you are angry at their not being there,
days when your memories of them bring you this amazing warmth,
days when you shout thanksgiving praise that you even got to know them at all.

Then there are days like this one,
when you receive the blessing of a mysterious file folder, filled with things you never would have asked for -had a genie granted you five wishes- and you find yourself rolling on the floor, laughing, thinking that

I have the best dad ever. Thank you, God. Thank you for this moment, too. I will always remember it. I will always remember you, Dad.

Love, Taylor

It's Never Too Late to Make Amends: A Real Life Dad-Adult Daughter Story

Michelle Watson

There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

As they sat side by side on the platform in front of a packed auditorium, their raw emotion was palatable, expressed visibly as each of them told their story through their tears. We all sat there mesmerized, with an awareness that we were being invited into one of the most honest interactions we’d ever witnessed between a dad and his adult daughter. She went first.

Affirmation. My dad never gave it and still never does. I think that is why I’m never sure I matter. He is available in a variety of ways---there if I want to talk, for example, but not affirming. I can’t even explain the hole I’ve felt in my heart at his lack of affirmation. For many years I didn’t even realize that hole was there. And once I did, I first ignored it and told myself I didn’t care. But eventually it hurt too much to ignore.”

It was my dear friend Constance on the stage that day, her voice cracking as she spoke those words in front of a live audience. In that moment she wasn’t thinking about the fact that she was the CEO of a long-running non-profit organization, an accomplished musician, a vibrant national speaker, an author of two books, or a wife and a mother to three amazing children, notwithstanding the fact that she had coordinated the conference we were all attending.

Right then it was as if she was a ten-year old girl again, acutely in touch with the longings of her heart. She wished for her daddy to notice her, to tell her she was beautiful in his eyes, and to let her know that he had time for her because she was one of the most important priorities in his life.

With her dad’s, permission to share these details publicly, she then began reading an email dialogue between she and I that had taken place a couple years earlier with regard to hurts from her father, Dan. Here is some of what I had written to encourage her:

“Constance, it saddens me to think of how amazing you and your sister are and it breaks my heart to hear that your dad elevates ministry ventures over connecting with the two of you. It shows that he doesn’t have a cup that is full enough to pour into your life. I imagine that he gives you the best that he has and it’s definitely not enough. When he does ministry he must not have to give of himself in the same way he has to as a dad. It must tap into a different place inside of him.”

Looking directly at her father there on the platform, Constance turned and asked him: “Dad, how did it make you feel to hear those emails read?”

It's never too late to make amends (2).png

With script in hand, Dan read his carefully prepared response to his daughter’s query (she had given him the questions ahead of time so he had ample time to think through his answers):

I was saddened to realize how much you craved my approval and affirmation and I was oblivious to your need. I was so focused on avoiding the loss of my business of 25 years and losing my home as a result of the ‘Great Recession,’ combined with the concerns of pastoring a new church that I didn’t recognize your need.”

Then, in her beautifully authentic way, Constance led her dad to dig deeper and share why he agreed to join her there that day to tell their story:

“Because I love you and you asked me to come. You have asked me before to attend your events and I’ve always had a reason not to attend. But because I now realize how important it is to you, I am making you a priority and accepted your invitation. I recognize mistakes I’ve made in the past and am thankful for the opportunity to make better decisions. You are important to me and I want to affirm you.”

Dan could hardly get through that part without fighting back tears. As you can imagine, his daughter was right there with him, feeling every word of his heartfelt emotion. He continued:

“I hope that our strengthened relationship will give hope to those in attendance who may be dealing with similar issues with their parents. I also want to bring this to the attention of parents with adult or soon-to-be-adult children so they’ll know that down deep at some level your children still need your approval, your acceptance, your affirmation, and your love. It may not seem like it, but they do.”

Then the two of them, as if in a well-choreographed dance, began to tell the backstory of their family history, beginning with Dan marrying Constance’s mom when she was 15 and he was 17, to their divorce 14 years later. They added many more heartbreaking details, including Dan eventually remarrying and starting a new family that didn’t always include his three older children, part of which led Constance to explode at her dad years earlier in a restaurant because of his dismissive responses towards her, an accumulation of hurt that had built up over the years.

By this time we, the audience, were all on the edge of our seats, feeling their pain and distress right along with them. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place. Dan kept going:

In my mind I thought I was affirming my daughter with my occasional compliments, so with regret I now realize it was not enough to satisfy her need. I was aware that Constance was not happy with me and I honestly didn’t know why. I didn’t realize the depth of her hurt and bitterness. And I will admit that I was raised without much affirmation from my parents and succumbed to the same malady.

But I can now be painfully honest; I needed to learn to respect my adult children and not just give them unwanted criticism. There is a time parents have to begin to deal with their children on a respect basis; like many, I was late in recognizing this. But I have now!”

It was so refreshing to hear a dad---and a pastor, no less---honestly admitting his failures as a father to his adult daughter out in the open, in front of strangers. There wasn’t defensiveness or mudslinging in an attempt to explain, justify, or qualify his actions. Instead, his honesty and tender willingness to understand how he had hurt his daughter was part of the process that allowed her to continue releasing the hurts that she had carried for so many years.

Now it was Constance’s turn to respond:

“Even though I was really angry at my dad, for some reason there was also a part of me that wanted to hope for something more. I think it was God in me. He gave me eyes to see my dad in a new light. Through conversations I saw more of the pain and rejection he had carried as a little boy, and also as a father and husband. I also realized that he was actually genuinely ignorant of my need for his affirmation. The more I looked at him through eyes of compassion for his brokenness, the easier it was to believe things could be better.

But the biggest boost to our relationship was that he wanted to change. He was in a season of having retired from work and was looking at his life in new ways and asking God to change him. And that is what I have seen the most these past few years---my dad is ACTIVELY choosing to look at the parts of himself that are not loving, and is open to change.”

Can you hear the softness in her voice that was evident now in the telling of her story? And she didn’t stop there:

“Two years ago I felt God nudging me to pray a prayer of blessing over my dad. Even though I was still holding on to some of the old feelings of bitterness, I started to cry. Something huge shifted in me in that moment. And I noticed a big shift in our relationship ever since. It was like something was loosed when I chose to pray blessing instead of holding on to old bitterness, and I think it meant something in him to hear me do that too. Since that time, I have noticed that my dad frequently tells me that he loves me, and more importantly (at least for me), that he is proud of me.

This has changed not only our relationship, but my relationship with myself. Somehow, knowing that my dad is proud of me has diminished my need to have others be proud of me too. And the more I know that and can rest in his love for me, the better and better our relationship gets.”

What hope their story brings in highlighting that it’s never too late for a dad and a daughter to mend their relationship. Here is a woman disclosing that it took her until her late 30’s to begin peeling back the layers of her father wounds and voids.

But the other amazing reality is that she has a dad who was willing to meet her in that process by also looking at himself and owning his part of the whole.

The lessons I take from their story are numerous. Among them:

  • It’s never too late to heal a broken relationship between a dad and his daughter.

  • In order to move forward, a dad needs to hear the impact of his actions (or inaction) on his daughter’s heart and life…without defensiveness.

  • It takes tremendous courage for a dad to ask God to change him, but if he does, it will yield positive results with children.

  • When a dad opens up about his life (particularly his childhood), it gives his daughter more insight into why he is the way he is.

  • A daughter can ask God to help her look at her dad through the eyes of compassion for his own brokenness as she begins to take steps to forgive him.

  • When a daughter prays for God to bless her father, it helps to release her bitterness.

I want to close by giving Dan the last word---from one dad to another. I hope that his words will touch your heart as a dad so that like him, you will be willing to look within yourself in order to pursue a more vibrant and positive relationship with your daughter:

“Looking back, I can remember the clues she was sending, but at the time I was clueless. It is never too late, and yes, I am committed to continuously changing to conform to God’s will for me as a father. The great thing about God is He wants to restore broken relationships and if we will cooperate with Him, He will change us if we will pray for those we have hurt or been hurt by. Then God will begin a work of restoration in them because with God, all things are possible.”

Well said, Dan. And on behalf of daughters everywhere, I want to give you my most sincere thanks for your humble willingness to honestly admit your shortcomings as a father, coupled with publicly modeling what it looks like for a dad to actively turn his heart toward his grown-up girl.

Your story gives us all great hope that we ever too old to change…whether a dad or an adult daughter.


 

Turning the Light on 50 Shades Darker

Michelle Watson

I’m going to be blunt today, right out of the gate. My question to you as a father is this: Where is your daughter learning about sex?

The reality is that she’s learning about sex constantly. I know you’re already aware of that fact (which no doubt terrifies you), so this probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. And if you’re like many dads I’ve talked with, you may not even want to think about the possibility of your daughter being sexually active.

Yet everywhere your daughter turns she is being bombarded with sex: on magazine covers, in sitcoms and movies, and in conversations--- at school, the gym, with friends, on dates, her workplace, and on it goes. Sexual content is so powerfully pervasive that at times it seems like it’s in the air we breathe. To say that the sexual dial has been turned up across our country is an understatement.

The time is now for you as a dad to enter into this conversation with your daughter, even if it is a bit uncomfortable for you. Why? Because she’s learning about sex somewhere, so why not from you?

Maurice Hilliard was a women’s basketball coach at Pepperdine for ten years in the early 2000’s and often found himself unexpectedly designated to a “dad role” with the girls on his team. He conducted a survey of 720 teenage girls and found that:

  • 97% of the girls said that having parents a teen could talk to could help reduce teen pregnancy in general

  • 93% said that having loving parents they could talk to did reduce their own risk of teen pregnancy

  • 76% said that their fathers were very or somewhat influential on their decision to have sex.

With three-quarters of young women saying that their dads matter when it comes to their sexual choices, clearly it is vital that you as a dad seriously consider “kicking it up a notch” to engage your daughter in honest conversation about sex. If you, as a guy and male role model don’t talk to her about sex, she will learn about it everywhere and anywhere else. She needs you to speak into her life about this topic.  

Why am I talking about this today?

It ties to the release of the movie 50 Shades Darker that debuted just two weeks ago today. And no, I haven’t seen it or it’s prequel, 50 Shades of Grey, which are both based on a best-selling trilogy about a lot more than just sex within a committed relationship. From what I’ve heard, between movies one and two the sexual interactions have grown increasingly aggressive, intense, and raw, which begs the question:

What made Fifty Shades of Grey the most searched movie in 2015, earning $571 million worldwide? And what made 50 Shades Darker dominate Valentine’s Day last week with $12 million in revenue on just that one day?

Before the movie debuted, I watched an interview with the male lead, Jamie Dorman, who plays Christian Grey. Jamie said that his character has “a voracious sexual appetite,” and to prepare for his role he not only met prostitutes, but even spent a night in an S&M dungeon.

I’m guessing that most of us have an idea of what S&M means, but in keeping with the honest nature of this blog, here are definitions of sadism and masochism, just to ensure that we’re all talking about the same thing. Sadism means that you get pleasure from inflicting pain on someone by humiliating them, and masochism means that you get pleasure from receiving pain or by being humiliated, which specifically can include spanking, whipping, being tied with ropes or chains, being locked up in cages, breast torture, blood play, vaginal torture, hot wax, asphyxiation, restraints, gags, and on it goes. Additionally, there are designated roles as a dominant or a submissive during these erotic rituals.

Are you as disturbed by this as I am?!

Humiliation and torture: These two words jump off the page at me; I imagine they do to you, too. If your daughter is conditioned to believe that dishonor and degradation, cruelty and brutality are acceptable components of an intimate exchange, she will not be able to stand strong as an empowered, vibrant, confident, healthy young woman. If this is how your daughters are learning they deserve to be treated--during sex or elsewhere--I assure you that our society will disintegrate from within and our foundation will crumble. Just ask someone who has been sexually abused to share her story and you will hear how sexual assault and injury have wreaked havoc on her self worth and self esteem. Once done, the damage can be lifelong.

Further, I fail to understand how this type of disrespectful, potentially abusive sexual interaction is being touted as typical, normal, and mainstream by the very nature of it being celebrated in this blockbuster film. I acknowledge that some might say that S&M in it’s true form is consensual. Yet as a licensed professional counselor of 20 years, I tend towards believing that there is often a traumatic backstory for those who engage in this type of behavior, thus leading me to assert that “consensual” is a relative term.

I ask myself: How can a movie like this possibly be a source of education about sex while normalizing this kind of behavior? Adding to that reality is the fact that marriage is rarely presented as a significant moral value in relation to sexual interactions anymore. Sadly, sometimes it feels like there’s no turning back when it comes to cultural norms around this issue, which deeply and profoundly breaks my heart, especially when in my counseling office I hear gut-wrenching stories of sexual exchanges gone wrong, resulting in detrimental impacts on women.

Then this week I read an article in People Magazine about Jamie Dorman regarding his experience of playing Christian Grey. I was shocked to learn that not only does he not endorse Christian’s approach to sex, but he doesn’t even think his wife would want to see the movie. He is clearly profiting from the ravenous sexual appetites of his viewers while simultaneously opposing that which he has invested in. The article continues by nonchalantly transitioning from content about his “experimenting with some rather complicated bedroom accessories” during filming to then talking about things “getting even more animated” at home with his wife and two young daughters, ages three and one, while watching their two favorite movies, Frozen and Trolls.

Did you catch that he’s a dad to two little girls? Jamie Dorman is a father to two young, vulnerable daughters, and he has chosen to endorse S&M by putting his name and reputation behind such activity. I have to wonder if his girls will ever watch these movies one day, and if so, is this how he wants them to learn about sex? Does he want his precious treasures to be treated in ways that he has modeled throughout some of the 118 minutes of this film?

Lest we mistakenly assume that this theme is tied only to these two present day movies, there are actually new sexual apps springing up everyday. And if you have a daughter between the ages of 13 and 29 (according to research), there is a strong likelihood that she has already been asked to send a nude selfie, making her incredibly vulnerable to exploitation and cyberbullying. In fact, this kind of exchange is now often considered a typical part of a relationship, and sexual hookups are increasingly considered par for the course.

I’ve not ever spoken out this strongly in a blog before, where I’m calling out someone I’ve never met on his lifestyle choices. But I am so disturbed by what this recent movie portrays that I cannot stay silent. Moreover, I appeal to you as a father: You have to address this issue, sex, with your daughter.

Please don’t assume that your daughter has clarity on this subject, particularly if you haven’t been a part of the conversation with her. Never conclude that she is immune from devastating, life-long impacts should she engage in sexual activity at an early age. Sexual exploration is a dangerous new norm, and she needs you to help protect her.

Dad, if you’re ready to tackle this subject with your daughter, here are some suggestions:

  1. Tell her your wishes, hopes, dreams, and expectations for how she should be treated, sexually and otherwise. If you don’t tell her directly, she won’t know. She needs to hear your words in order to know your heart.

  2. Let her know that you believe she is worthy of being treated with respect, with dignity and honor, while communicating your hope that she will never tolerate humiliation or torture in a romantic relationship. Again, if you don’t say it directly, she won’t know exactly what you’re thinking on this issue. If you affirm her worth and value, it will stick with her long after you’ve said the words.

  3. In an age appropriate way, tell her a story of someone you’ve known (it could even be you) who didn’t navigate a relationship wisely and had to learn the hard way. Being honest with your daughter can go a long way towards letting her know you’ve not always been perfect, which could then set the foundation for future conversations should she need to come to you with a need at some point down the road.

  4. Invite her to write out her “minimum dating requirements,” which are those absolute relationship deal breakers should she ever be asked, forced, or pressured to engage in activities that don’t sit right in the core of her being. Start the conversation early, even as young as fourth or fifth grade. For extra credit, help her write this out, followed with asking if she will let you hold her accountable to keep her standards high in each of these areas. Then check in with her a couple times a year.

  5. Treat your daughter the way you want her to be treated…always. When she experiences being treated well by you, she will expect that same treatment from others, especially guys. Remember that more is caught than taught. Letting her experience honorable treatment from you is better than any lecture you could give her.

Dads, I know this is a tough subject to address, and yet honestly, we’ve just barely scratched the surface today. It’s time to turn the lights on so you can see the potentially treacherous sexual dynamics that swirl around your daughter and choose to courageously open up this conversation with her.

Truthfully, this is too important to ignore. Your daughter’s future depends on it.