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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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What Men Think About #MeToo : The Top 6 Reactions

Michelle Watson

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My brilliant and wise friend, Shaunti Feldhahn, lends her voice to this ongoing conversation about sexual harassment against women. As a social researcher, she sheds light on what men have to say about the #MeToo movement. I believe you’re going to resonate with her findings and love her work as much as I do!   —Michelle

Suddenly, the lights turned on. Sexual harassment has always been there, in the shadowy corners of Hollywood and corporate America. Many people talk about honoring women yet have long excused (or winked at) abusive behavior.  But the Harvey Weinstein case flipped a switch. Suddenly: klieg lights. Suddenly: people are actually losing their jobs.

Wow.  

This is a sea change for our culture. This is a moment. And as a social researcher (who for 15 years has been hearing the innermost things people think but rarely say) I wanted to know what folks’ private thoughts were about this. I generally know what women think (a combination of relief, giddiness, and serves you right). But I was particularly curious what men think about the #MeToo tsunami.

Here’s what I found.

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Thought #1: I had no idea
I interviewed three men in an airport a few days ago. They were tired after a long day at a board meeting and eating a hasty Chinese food dinner before catching flights home to Seattle, Dallas, and Atlanta.  Their top reaction matches the top reaction of nearly every other man I’ve interviewed: I had no idea.  I had no idea it was this pervasive.  I had no idea you as women had to deal with this so consistently.  I feel so bad.

Not long after the #MeToo movement started, one man told me, “I think my female co-workers have tried to tell me about stuff that happened in other jobs, but I just assumed it was isolated. Sort of the same thing you’d feel if someone told you they got hit by a car. ‘Oh that must have been so painful. Glad that doesn’t happen very often!’”  

As one of the airport road warriors put it, “I’m still trying to figure out how to wrap my head around the fact that there’s been this whole parallel reality that I knew nothing about.”

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Thought #2: So now I’m angry — and I’m glad I have permission to say something about it
One thing I learned about men during the For Women Only research study, is that most men have a deep compulsion to provide for and protect those they care about. While most of that compulsion goes toward providing for and protecting their family (71% of men say it that is always or often on their mind, in case you’re curious), that same instinct wants to protect all those who are more vulnerable.  Which is what makes this doubly galling for all the good guys out there.  Women were being hurt right under their noses: and because they had no idea (or didn’t realize what a big deal it was), they failed to protect them.

Many of the men I spoke to were angry. Not in a “I’m going to go all Braveheart on you” sort of way, but in a quieter, simmering, “I’m now going to be on the lookout for this” sort of way. There was a sense of purpose: that if they saw it now, at least they could do something about it.

Thought #3: Shame
A lot of men have realized they’ve seen truly abusive behavior right in front of their eyes and downplayed or discounted it as no big deal. Like seeing one gregarious, raunchy boss who regularly did things like look at a news article about safe sex and joke to the gang – including the one woman – that having safe sex meant providing kneepads. Seeing… and never saying anything about it.

These men are now reckoning with the reality that what they personally observed (or heard about) was not just a coarse, unprofessional approach but in some cases true abuse. That over time those behaviors have real consequences for a woman’s thoughts, fears, worries, and even job prospects. That by downplaying it they failed to protect women who needed it (per Thought #2). 

Many of these men are doing some soul searching. How could I ever have thought that it was not that big of a deal?  They ask themselves. How could I have ever thought the woman should have to be the one to just ignore it or brush it off? Would I want some guy saying that stuff around my daughter? Would I want my wife to have to play along in order to not rock the boat? Would I want my daughter’s colleagues to excuse it just because its always been that way?

Famed director Quentin Tarantino, who worked with Harvey Weinstein on nearly all his films, had a telling mea culpa in a New York Times interview.  He said he had heard the rumors that Weinstein was a bit lecherous, but “I chalked it up to a ’50s-’60s era image of a boss chasing a secretary around the desk… As if that’s O.K. That’s the egg on my face right now.”


Thought #4: Who’s next? I’ll bet there are some men quaking in their boots right now. 
The question that many of us are asking — “Who’s next? Which domino will be the next to fall?” — is definitely in the minds of the average guy. And just like with women I talk to, I hear a savage satisfaction from men in knowing there are some abusers out there who are going to their jobs every day, wondering whether or when they will be reported for previous actions. 

One guy put it well. “It’s the same thing that you feel when the bad guy gets it at the end of the movie. If I was working in a corporate environment, and I had a skeleton in my past, I’d be living with a lot of looking over my shoulder.” After all, the first punishment of the guilty mind is waiting to be found out. 

Thought #5: But this means I have to restrain genuine affection for, respect for, and togetherness with female colleagues
There’s an inevitable downside to any good movement, and this is it for this one.  Nearly all the men mentioned this concern.  A single law partner who is genuinely interested in exploring a personal relationship with a junior associate is going to hold himself back.

She might be sensing some attraction and hoping he’ll reach out, but if she’s junior, she sure won’t say anything – and now he might not either.  An honorable man who would otherwise suggest that a female colleague join him to close the Boston deal is going to think twice.  After all, it will only be the two of them in the hotel.  And forget those genuine but platonic workplace hugs.  

As one guy ruefully put it, “It’s the law of unintended consequences.  The course correction needs to happen, but I worry that the men who care the most – who already were being careful – are the ones likely to hold themselves back even more!  And that could drain away the feeling of camaraderie at work.  I hope the pendulum doesn’t swing too far.”

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Thought #6: Finally, the good guys win… or at least aren’t losing
And finally, I’m also hearing an interesting, very private thought from many of these men. If they have not played it fast and loose over the years, if they have tried to be honorable, if they have been respectful of women … they have often watched men who did the opposite rocket past them in their careers.  So as one man put it, “I am all for this moment in history.  I think it is grand. Because it feels like, for once, the good guys aren’t losing. So many of the bad guys got ahead by disregarding the right thing in a lot of ways.  By trying to be straight up, a lot of good men got sidelined.  But now, finally, there’s a cost to the wrong attitude.”

Another had a more personal observation, “I hope you can share that there are a lot of men who try to honor our wives, and women in general. We take that seriously. We may not be getting recognition for that.  We may have done poorly in comparison to other guys because we wouldn’t join the locker-room crowd. But that’s okay. I love that I can go to sleep at night with a clear conscience.”


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Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average, clueless people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, and For Men Only). Copyright ©Shaunti Feldhahn. Used with permission.

Dads, It’s Time to Start a Movement Today

Michelle Watson

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I once heard it said that “movies suspend reality for a period of time and open up new possibilities.”

This past week I watched something unfold on the small screen that wasn’t exactly a made-for-tv movie; instead, it was a real life drama. And it opened up something in me, namely a drive to speak up and speak out.

Like much of America, I witnessed the live news coverage of female victims speaking out against their sexual abuser, Dr. Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State, Olympic and USA Gymnastics doctor. What I discovered was that my reality wasn’t just suspended; it was activated. And yes, it launched in me a desire to be vulnerable and transparent with you today.

A couple of years ago I had a phone conversation with a dad who had just read my book, and I remember him saying that as he read my words he kept wondering if there was more to my story. Then he got to page 206 where I briefly talk about my wounds from my grandfather and it was then that he said I made more sense. He had wondered where I got my passion for fathers of daughters and hearing my backstory gave him a bit more context.

To be honest, I didn’t think it was all that important for dads to know much about my sexual abuse history from my maternal grandfather and others. In my mind it seemed unnecessary to include more than a small section about it in my book since my focus is on equipping dads to dial in to their daughter’s hearts. But today I am rethinking that decision.

Maybe you do want to hear my story.

Maybe you do need to hear my story.

And maybe my honesty will give you a window into what sexual assault does to women. So I am here today, emboldened to ask you as dads to enter into this conversation with me.

Sadly, many of your daughters share in this same reality because they too have been violated. In fact, I just listened to a powerful speech by a singer-songwriter named Halsey who shared these words at the Women’s March in NYC two weekends ago: “It’s 2018 and I’ve realized nobody is safe as long as she is alive, and every friend that I know has a story like mine. And the world tells me we should take it as a compliment.” 

 Dads, the truth is that sexual assault is an epidemic. And hard as it may be to hear, your daughters are being exploited and abused, violated and raped, and it’s time to make your voices heard to defend them, protect them, support them, believe them. Even more, we need you to challenge the men in your tribe while leading the way in saying, “This has to STOP!”

Last week I was transfixed as Rachael Denhollander, the final woman to testify out of 165 witnesses against Dr. Larry Nasser, boldly raised her voice to confront her abuser, all the while talking about accountability, repentance, forgiveness, and living by what the Bible says. I had tears streaming down my cheeks because I could relate to her story and imagined myself standing next to her as she gave her testimony. I was so moved by her words that I was compelled to post the most raw and real version of my story that I’ve ever shared on Facebook. [You can read the entire post here].

Here is an excerpt:

"To hear Rachael stand up and address her abuser head-on made me think about the time in my journey where I wished I could have confronted my grandfather. But he was dead by that point. So I wrote a letter in my journal that I pretended was going to be printed in the Granite Falls (MN) Times. I wanted everyone to know that the man they saw as a positive contributing member of their community (as a Bible teacher, a radio show host, a “man of the cloth,” a school board member, and a farmer) was also indeed a pedophile and sexual offender.

I chose to forgive him then and release my anger to God. That decision has held and I do not hold unforgiveness or bitterness towards him or any of my abusers. As a result, Jesus has met me in my process and I have been released from my attachment to abuse. My abuse no longer defines who I am."

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Today when Rachael finished her testimony, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina highlighted that she was the first woman to come forward and lead with courage. She then added that Rachael was “a five star general in this battle and the strongest person who has even been in my courtroom.”

I pray that today is a turning point day in our nation’s history where those who are victims of sexual assault will no longer be silenced, but will be believed and honored for their strength and courage.

I pray that today is a turning point in our nation’s history to stop sexual predators like my grandfather, no matter what rank they hold in our society.

Like Michigan Assistant Attorney General, Angela Povilaitis, said today, “We have seen how one voice can start a movement.”

Let today be the start of a movement where women’s voices are heard and where we no longer hold the secrets of evil that has been done to us. We are more than that.

Let today be the start of women coming together to stand united in supporting each other to embrace the truth of who we are in God’s eyes.

Let today be the start of new era where as empowered women we use our voices to stand up for the rights of those who have no voice, where we love well, and love BIG...which is the best way we can turn the tables on that which has sought to destroy us.

Let today be the start of a movement."

And now I implore you as fathers to join this movement.

  • It’s time to hear the stories of your daughters when it comes to knowing how they are being treated by men.
  • It’s time to ask questions in a non-judgmental way about what guys are doing to them and asking or demanding of them while giving your input about their value and worth.
  • It’s time to open up lines of communication about this topic---even if you’re uncomfortable “going there” with your daughters.
  • The time is now to stop cowering in fear, afraid that you may say it wrong, and instead step up and talk to your daughters about their sexual choices or experiences, assuring them that they deserve to be respected and that you are in their corner no matter what.
  • The time is now to tell her that “Dad has no problem stepping in to protect you, and all you have to do is say the word and I’ll be there.” [I know a dad who just did this with his adult daughter, so this really is possible and powerful].
  • The time is now to stop doing anything in your own personal life that objectifies women and contributes to this larger societal problem---from discontinuing pornography use to examining your own treatment of women to refusing to engage in emotional affairs or any sexual activity that dishonors your marital vows or relationship commitments.

I’ll close with quoting the words of my friend Armin in response to my Facebook post last week. As a dad to two young daughters, he is a fierce protector of women, and with his permission I share his words with you. I truly believe that if more men stood in agreement with Armin then sexual assault against women as we know it would end because the honoring of women would be championed by great men like him…and you.

“I wholeheartedly believe that this sorry excuse of an era is coming to an end. A new dawn is on the horizon where survivors will not have to be silent for the fear of shame, rejection, judgment, condemnation and more. People will finally stop turning a blind eye or ear just because it’s ‘uncomfortable.’ The actions of brave women like yourself, the many women of Hollywood, and many more are finally seeing the fruit of bold courage after thousands of years of the same thing. I applaud you and all the women like you.

 It’s sad that it has to be ‘trendy’ for people to get behind those who have been persecuted for this movement to take place. But regardless, it has begun and there is nothing that will stop it at this point, as long as people don’t stay silent. Thank you for being the bold, courageous, loving, and inspiring leader that you are. Absolutely honored to know you and call you friend, Michelle Watson. Boldly forward!”

The time is now for every daughter to have her father standing alongside her, united in solidarity, as together they powerfully use their voices to tell men everywhere that sexual harassment, exploitation, assault, and violence against all women will no longer be tolerated.  

The time is now for every daughter to speak out and tell her story without fear, confidently knowing that her dad will be the first to believe her while supporting her through her healing process.

Dads, it's time to start a movement on behalf of your daughters today.

 

 Rachael Denhollander photo courtesy of CNN.

Don't Be Sorry (Guest blog by Taylor Smith)

Michelle Watson

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Taylor Smith is a dear friend and I have invited her back today to write another guest blog. Her story today is guaranteed to touch your heart and I’d love to hear from you after reading her powerful words where we’re all reminded to live each day as if it were our last.     — Michelle

 

It was not the kind of question I was expecting as we sat there, hands sticky with drips of ice cream running down our fingers.

It was not the kind of question I’d ever asked myself,

or had someone else ask me,

let alone a 14-year-old.

It was not the kind of question I wanted to think about,

or even acknowledge,

and yet, here I was,

face-to-face with a young teenage girl, being asked a question about a reality we will all one day face.

“What would you do if you knew it was your last day on earth?”

I closed my eyes.

‘What would I do if I knew it was my last day on earth?’

I wanted to answer right away with something that would be all-encompassing of my values,

something that would be richly and epically proportioned,

something that would be wise and an example to her and her two younger sisters sitting right next to her,

but,

my mouth was like a desert.

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I had nothing.

She took another bite of fudge brownie ice cream and said,

“I know what I’d do.”

I leaned in. I was curious. Something absolutely childlike and fanciful was soon to follow, I was sure.

But it wasn’t.

“I would ask for forgiveness,” she said. “I would go around and ask others for forgiveness.”

I set down my cup of melting ice cream.

This was no 14-year-old answer I’d ever heard of.

No eating cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

No meeting her favorite movie star crush.

No taking all her friends and family to Disneyland.

No. This answer was nothing childish.

“Have you ever asked for forgiveness before?” I questioned.

“Yes,” she said, taking another bite of ice cream.

“Was it easy for you?”

She put down her ice cream, too.

“No,” she said. “It’s difficult, and scary, but it’s what we’re called to do.”

Suddenly, I realized that any answer I would have given would have been a bit trivial, in comparison. Because -to be honest- my answer would have been more self-focused, more about satisfying my emotions and last-moment desires.

Her answer, “forgiveness,” was anything but selfish.

It was everything selfless, humble and sacrificial.

I owe a great deal to my honorary sister, Dative, for the question she asked me, and for the answer she gave,

for it has confronted me with something that makes most people start to squirm:

asking for forgiveness.

The reality is, because we’re human, we are hurting people all the time.

Most of the time we don’t even know it,

though sometimes we do,

and guilt may begin to rise up within us, compelling us to act.

In response to that guilt, we often say, “I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry” – if we were to give that phrase currency, how much value would you attach to it?

I can say I’m sorry like it’s my job.

Bump into you in the grocery store aisle, “Oops! I’m sorry!”

Accidentally spill a bit of coffee on your papers, “Oh my word. I’m so sorry!”

"I'm sorry" is worth pennies to me, passing through my hands before I even know they're gone.

"I'm sorry" is worth pennies to me, passing through my hands before I even know they're gone.

Speak a little too loud at the meeting, “I am soooo sorry.”

“I’m sorry” is worth pennies to me, passing through my hands before I even know they’re gone.

But asking, “Will you forgive me?”

That weighs a whole lot more.

 It’s not a question I dole out very often,

because it comes at a great cost: my vulnerability.

“I’m sorry” is a one-way street statement. It’s a band-aid quickly patched and left to hope the wound might heal, eventually.

“Will you forgive me?” requires a dialogue. It’s the burning antiseptic, tweezers pulling gravel out of flesh, inviting the healing process to begin.

Forgiveness necessitates empathy, humility and courage.

When answering her own question, “What would you do if you knew it was your last day on earth?,” Dative didn’t say she would go around telling people “I’m sorry.” There’s a difference between saying “I’m sorry” and asking for forgiveness.

‘Don’t be sorry,’ Dative’s words seemed to tell me. ‘Be vulnerable.’

How did Dative, a 14-year-old, arrive at the conclusion that the final 24-hours of her life she would spend doing one of the most vulnerable things you could do?

If I were to venture a guess, I believe it’s what has been modeled to her from the place where she grew up, a place that has shown her how true healing, restoration and reconciliation comes from radical forgiveness – a country called Rwanda.

It has only been 23 years since the Rwandan Genocide, when nearly 1 million people were killed in 100 days. And yet, if you were to visit Rwanda today, I’d be hard pressed if you didn’t come away with the word “peace” on the forefront of your mind.

Why?

Forgiveness heals seemingly fatal wounds.

 Dative knows this.

She’s lived it.

And if she knew it was the last day of her life,

she would do the costliest thing she could think of,

because she knows it yields a priceless reward:

healing, peace, freedom.

I bet most of us could share a personal story of forgiveness.

And upon further reflection, I bet we could all think of someone whom we’ve hurt, or wronged, and know that deep down, it’s probably the right thing to ask them for forgiveness – but probably not today, or tomorrow, or ever?

Dative’s question gives us an opportunity most people will never get – to plan how we would spend the last day of our life. For, how many of us will know when it’s our last day? Or when it’s our friend’s or brother’s or mother’s last day?

I have never been more caught off guard than when my dad passed away from a heart attack in 2008. When I think about the last 24-hours of his life, while I didn’t have the opportunity to say goodbye, I did have the opportunity to practice forgiveness.

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During the four years after my mom died, my dad did some amazing things with me and for me, but he also did things that left me hurt and wounded. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was burning up waiting for my dad to come ask me for forgiveness. However, I realized that during those four years, I undoubtedly did things that hurt him, too, and how I had an equal opportunity to come to him and ask for forgiveness.

 

So I did. I went up to my dad and said something to the effect of, “Dad, if I’ve ever done anything that made you think I love you any less, or that I didn’t desire your happiness, would you forgive me? Our relationship means far more to me than who is ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’”

How on earth my dad and I had that conversation in his last 24 hours, I have no idea. But God knew. And believe me, I haven’t forgotten it.

I don’t know when my last day on earth will be, and truth be told, neither do you.

In what I believe was a divinely-appointed conversation in an ice cream shop with my honorary little sister, Dative, I’ve been reminded that I have a choice to live each day as if it were my last – to not go to sleep at night with bitterness or guilt on my heart, should I not wake up and have the opportunity to ask one of the most meaningful, powerful and radical questions I could think to ask, “Will you forgive me?”

If I can be so bold,

don’t be sorry.

Be vulnerable.

Be humble.

Seek forgiveness.

Give forgiveness.

For you have been forgiven.

 

 

Be the First

Michelle Watson

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So here we are at the beginning of a new year, that time when we all turn the page and look forward to a fresh start. Some of us might even dare to believe that anything is possible as the script for 2018 is yet to be written.

When I think about the concept of firsts, especially when it comes to fathers understanding their daughters with more precision, I want to highlight what a big deal “firsts” are for us as girls.

To prove my point, you could ask any adult woman when she had her first crush.  She’ll immediately tell you because that memory is frozen in time and available for a fast recall whenever prompted.

Ask her about her first kiss, her first dance, first prom, or first breakup.  They’re all filed away.

Now let’s change it up a bit and address more than just romance or heartbreak.

You could ask her about her first job, her first paycheck, first car or first bad grade.  Yup… all stored in the vault.

Here’s how I see it. If your daughter is wired to remember firsts, then why not capitalize on that reality by being the first to do it right and get it right…all en route to her heart.

Dad, what if you made it your goal in this new year to create memories for your daughter by deciding to “be the first.”

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  • Be the first to tell her you lover her every single day so she never has to wonder if you do.
  • Be the first to choose kindness because it’s a virtue you want her to exemplify.
  • Be the first to set the bar high in modeling what a good man looks like, so all other men will be compared to you.
  • Be the first to tell her you’re sorry.
  • Be the first to show her that strong men can cry.
  • Be the first to model what humility looks like.
  • Be the first to write her a note telling her what you find special about her.
  • Be the first to take her on an adventure.
  • Be the first to buy her a “just-because” treat.
  • Be the first to take her out for an extravagant meal.
  • Be the first to wipe her tears and hold her in your arms when her life goes sideways.
  • Be the first to listen rather than lecture.
  • Be the first to “hold her anger” without reacting harshly in return.
  • Be the first to initiate deep conversations about spirituality, God, Faith, politics, goals, and even your life growing up.
  • Be the first to model a healthy spiritual life so she can follow your example.
  • Be the first to give of your time and energy to serve her.
  • Be the first to invest in launching her dreams by funding a project she is passionate about.
  • Be the first to applaud her successes from the front row.

Why be the first?

It’s the best way to show her what love looks like when backed by action. Better yet, she’ll relate to all other men based on what she experiences with you.

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Dad…you’ve got the whole year ahead to lead the way in loving your daughter first. Decide now to make this a year of firsts, beginning by choosing one thing in the list here to do today!

Put It In Writitng (A last minute Christmas gift that's guaranteed to be your daughter's favorite!)

Michelle Watson

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Dad, if you plan on being in line with the millions of other men across the country who will have waited until the last minute to get their Christmas gifts, then you’re going to want to keep reading.

Why? Because I have a Christmas gift idea for you that your daughter will love!

Better yet,

  • It won’t cost any money
  • It won’t require driving to the mall  (“you’re welcome!”)
  • It will only take about an hour of your time
  • It’s guaranteed to be one of her all-time favorite gifts

Do you want to know what it is?  WRITING A LETTER.

One of the greatest presents you can give your daughter is to affirm her through writing. In a world where written communication is increasingly digital (texts, emails, tweets), a letter scripted in your own handwriting is sure to stand out as unique.

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Let me share a story with you that highlights my suggestion.  

In the summer of 2016 I had the privilege of attending FishFest in Salem, Oregon. What made it extra special was that it was my first public appearance with KPDQ, the station that hosts my radio program, The Dad Whisperer.

It was a day I’ll never forget, due in part to the 104 degree weather, but also because it was meaningful to be a part of connecting with people while being entrusted with their stories. I also gave away copies of my book, which was a fun way to share them as a resource with our listeners.

Early in the day I talked with a dad who told me that his 17-year old daughter was living with her mom in the Midwest. He said that he made it a point to text her a few times a week because it was how they stayed connected. I affirmed him for consistently investing his daughter and then decided to say a bit more (I know…BIG SURPRISE!)

I encouraged him to write letters to his daughter periodically, adding that when a dad writes something in his own handwriting, it stands out from technology. I acknowledge that I may have misread his body language, but I got the sense that I’d said enough. So we smiled and said goodbye.

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An hour or so later, a beautiful woman in her late 50’s came to pick up her copy of my book since she was another winner. She told me that she even though she had two sons she was looking forward to reading it, promising to give it away, when finished, to a dad of a daughter who could use it.

It was then that I took a risk by asking a question in the hope of opening up a “deeper conversation.” I decided to inquire about her relationship with her dad.

 She readily shared that her father was a quiet man, clarifying that they didn’t have much of a relationship because he worked a lot. Then her tone changed and she broke into a beaming smile while telling me one specific memory.

“When I was in eighth grade, my dad went out of town for business. It was during that one particular trip that he wrote me two letters. I don’t quite know why he did it, but I’m glad he did.”

 I had a sense that I already knew the answer to my next question but asked it anyway, “Did you save the letters?”   

 Without hesitation she confessed, “Yes, I sure did….and I still have them.”

 I immediately told her that I knew just the man who needed to hear her story. She graciously gave me permission to share about her treasured letters with this other father who I believed would benefit from hearing a personal story about the importance of a dad’s written words to his daughter. I later found him and we talked a bit more.

Suffice it to say, this woman’s story bears repeating in that it serves as a powerful lesson to fathers of daughters.

Dad, put your words of affirmation, acceptance, kindness, belief, encouragement, promise, and praise into writing because your daughter will treasure what you say to her for a lifetime.

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Now let me reveal one more reason why a letter from you will have significant impact. It’s due to the fact that I have saved every single card my dad has ever made me…and I have a lot of them! I count them among my most valued possessions.

The time you spend now putting your thoughts, feelings, wishes, hopes, and dreams into written form will pay dividends long after you’re gone as she reads and rereads your words.

Whether you’re a dad who has already begun this practice or you are a tentative newbie, I want to share a few ideas to support your pen-to-paper challenge.

Here are a few dad-to-daughter letter-writing ideas to add to your repertoire:

  • What is one of the first things you remember about her from when she was born and you looked at her for the first time?
  • What beauty did you see in her then and what beautiful features do you see in her now?  (Girls love hearing about their eyes, smile, and the unique features that you see as beautiful)
  • Write about a favorite childhood memory you have of her.
  • What strengths do you believe she has, both in terms of skill and in her person (her character, personality)?
  • Write about a favorite childhood memory you have of her.
  • Tell her specific reasons you’re proud of her.
  • Write about what obstacles you have seen her overcome—emphasize such qualities as courage, resilience, strength, commitment, endurance, and power.
  • Write about dreams you have for her future, whether in the form of your wishes for her or things you pray about for her—do this without preaching or lecturing, only encourage.
  • Tell her what it means to you to spend time with her.
  • Communicate why you love being her dad in this season of her life (add current things about her age right now that you’re aware of and highlight them as positive).
  • Let her know that you will always be there for her, telling her what it means to you to be her dad.

Dad, why not take the time right now to put your love for your daughter in writing.

And as you give her the gift of a letter from you this Christmas, I guarantee that it will be one of her favorite gifts…EVER!

 

 

 

P.D.C. (Public Display of Connection)

Michelle Watson

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A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a group of dads when the conversation turned to their daughter’s mood swings and their common experiences in not knowing what to do much of the time. Understandably, this Venusian dynamic creates a challenge for most every dad when it comes to figuring out how to navigate the “changing weather patterns” with no “meteorological training,” if you know what I mean!

Every dad admitted to often feeling lost without a road map when it comes to pacing with the twists and turns of teenage and young adult female development.

As I sat there listening to the added pressure these dads feel when struggling to decode the verbal and non-verbal cues of their daughters, it was clear that they all wanted to engage and pursue their daughter’s hearts despite the challenges. Their camaraderie led the way for openness around admitting their confusion over sometimes being invited closer while at other times being pushed away.

Over the last eight years of interacting with dads of daughters, I have discovered that men thrive when they talk with other dads who struggle with their girls in similar ways. Through the process of discussing honestly what’s really happening at home, I’ve noticed that some of the false guilt that seems to unconsciously build up begins to diminish. Even more, men simultaneously feel less alone while many of these interpersonal realities are normalized.

As we talked about ways to connect even when it’s hard, I shared that adolescent girls, in particular, may not always like physical touch from their dads because they may be embarrassed if their friends are watching or might think they’re too old for cuddling, hugging, or hand-holding.

But I suggested that especially during stressful times what their daughters really might need is a hug so that she feels wrapped in safe arms that are holding her when she’s overwhelmed with life. And this isn’t just my opinion; it’s actually backed up by research, which states that when we give or receive a hug it releases oxytocin in our brains, an antidote to the effect of cortisol, the stress hormone.

Hugs release oxytocin in our brains and relieve stress.

Hugs release oxytocin in our brains and relieve stress.

Since they were still tracking with me, I continued.

“Dads, it’s vital for you to consistently find ways to connect with your daughters, both inside and outside your homes, because daughters need their dads to teach them what safe touch feels like (in ways that honor her individual wiring—with some wanting less physical touch and others preferring more). Make sure to never pull away and detach during those harder years or your daughter will be left to wonder why she’s not worth your time and energy.”

It was then that I described the importance of appropriate physical touch and I actually meant to say the words, “public display of affection” (P.D.A.). But it was one of those times where my words got mixed up, and instead what came out of my mouth was, “public display of connection!(which I’m now referring to as “P.D.C.”).

 I love when “happy mistakes” like that happen because those words have stayed with me ever since. This has led me now to ponder the question: What would it look like if every dad consistently initiated points of healthy physical connection with his daughter in public places where life is on display?

For me, one of the best ways my dad and I share “P.D.C.” is during our annual Perfume Day event every December (which you well know by now if you’ve been reading my blogs for any length of time). It’s one of the highlights of my year where we get dressed up, go out to lunch, and my dad treats me to perfume at Nordstrom. More importantly, it’s special that my dad enters into the whole experience with absolute JOY! And it never gets old to have multiple female sales clerks say that they wish their dad would do something similar with them.

 And yes, my dad and I walk hand in hand (or arm in arm) around the store. I feel comfortable with this kind of public display of connection because it says that my dad loves me and values me…and vice versa!

It seems to me that if every dad figured out a way to publicly demonstrate relational connection to his daughter, she would feel his love in a way that would go straight to her heart. And she would know that her dad wants the world to know that he’s proud and grateful to be her father. (Additional benefit: it gives a message to boys that this girl has a dialed-in dad!).

 We as girls thrive when we feel connected to the people we love. And we wither when there’s disconnect. Just notice the amount of time your daughter spends in the center of relational crises and it will prove my point. It’s either her drama or the drama of her friends that takes her away from staying balanced.

Daughters sometimes push their dads away while secretly wishing he'd connect with her.

Daughters sometimes push their dads away while secretly wishing he'd connect with her.

I truly believe that every daughter needs her dad even when she doesn’t always know that he’s what she needs. In fact, daughters sometimes push their dads away while secretly wishing that he’d not give up even when she makes him work to connect with her emotionally and relationally.

Dad…it’s up to you to take the initiative to connect with your daughter’s heart. You have the responsibility as her father to find a way to reach her. I know it’s not always easy, especially when you feel disrespected or ignored, yet that doesn’t excuse you from still needing to move towards her.

As we head into this busy month of December, be the dad who finds a way to publicly put your love for your daughter on display in ways that let her know she’s one of your greatest loves!

 

 P.S.  If you’re not sure where to start, feel free to follow my dad’s lead and initiate Perfume Day with your daughter. Here’s the link to my blog where I’ve shared the story…   https://goo.gl/svwWKC

Or you can listen to my dad and I talking about our favorite annual event on my radio program, The Dad Whisperer…    https://goo.gl/9fTrzZ

Enjoy!

Dads: Six Essential Love Do's and Don'ts for Your Daughter

Michelle Watson

By Guest Blogger, Dr. Meg Meeker

By Guest Blogger, Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker and I have become friends over the past couple of years as we share a similar passion for equipping fathers of daughters to dial into their heart space. I believe her words will inspire you to be better dads by hearing her insights into your daughter’s unique needs. —Michelle

Men love differently than women. That’s why you scratch your head in confusion when your daughter or wife cries and insists that you don’t understand. They want you to know what they want, like, and need, without ever telling you. You, on the other hand, love deeply but differently.

As you work on your relationship with your daughter, you must remember that different things will make her feel loved than what make you feel loved.

First, she feels loved when you pay attention to her. When she comes home from a soccer game and you ask if she wants to go have ice cream because you want to hear all about the game, she feels loved. When she goes on a date and comes home at midnight, she feels loved if you are waiting up for her. Sure, you can ask her how her time was, but the mere fact that you cared enough to make sure she got home safely makes her feel deeply loved.

Women, like men, want to feel that someone in their lives adores them. Adoration is the sense that you can do no wrong. Why should you communicate this to your daughter when she, of course, makes mistakes? Because she needs it from you. Because she needs it from you, your daughter has a space in her heart that is designed for you alone. No one else can occupy that spot.

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When you express your adoration to her, she realizes that you have a spot in your heart just for her. A father who adores his daughter holds her in high esteem, wants only the best for her, and feels that no one in the world compares with her. She is more beautiful, kinder, and stronger than all women (or girls) her age. Every daughter wants her father to feel this way about her. And she wants her father to express this to her.

Our culture ties girls in knots, and your daughter is no exception. Not matter how hard you try to isolate her from the ugly influences of a world that sexualizes and degrades women, you can’t. And since you are the primary means by which she develops a healthy sense of beauty and sexuality, when it comes to shaping these in her, it’s on your shoulders. When it comes to loving your daughter, remember these important ideas:

  1. Do tell her that you love her. Tell her as frequently as feels natural to you. Sometimes you may feel timid, but press through the discomfort. Every daughter need to hear I love you, from her dad.
  2. Do express adoration. Let her know that she is the apple of your eye. If you have multiple daughters, tell each one of them at different times.
  3. Do believe in her. If the two of you don’t get along well and fight constantly, you can still show her than you believe in her. Examine her character and find what is good in her. Look deeply into her life and find her natural gifts. Then, communicate to her that you are her “number one fan.” Tell her that you know she can succeed. You know that she is smarter than she thinks, wiser than she believes, and far more capable than she realizes. Communicating this is extremely important because most girls, particularly during the teen years, feel terribly inadequate, dumb, and unattractive. You need to really amp up your positive comments during the tough times and help her combat these feelings.
  4. Don’t remark on her weight – EVER. No pet names for parts of her body, no calling her “sexy”, and no telling her that she is chubby or that she could stand to lose a few pounds. No matter what you say about her weight, she will her in her mind say, My dad thinks I’m fat; therefore I am ugly. Since you can’t win, avoid this. I can’t tell you the number of messes that I’ve been involved in undoing with daughters whose fathers have innocently commented about their weight as they grow up.
  5. Don’t remark on her looks very often. I know that this feels counterintuitive. Shouldn’t every girl know that her dad thinks she is beautiful? Of course; but don’t overdo it. You don’t want her to feel like appearance is a priority to you. Remember, when you comment on something, it lets the hearer know that the topic is significant to you (otherwise why would you comment on it?). You want to be sure that your daughter knows that what you really cherish about her is her inner beauty. So talk about that.
  6. Don’t spare words of encouragement or affection. Girls use more works, and they bond through words. Girls feel that words connect them with others. So tell your daughter what you admire about her and tell her why. I promise that if you are sincere, your words will change the woman that she becomes.

Dad, I know this is a lot of information to take in, so how about taking one item from this list and then commit to putting it into action this week now that you know what to do to put your love for your daughter into action!

Pediatrician, mother and best-selling author of six books, Dr. Meg Meeker is one of the country’s leading authority on parenting, teens and children’s health. Her most recent book, Hero is a powerful affirmation of fatherhood that shows men how being a strong, active father can be their greatest triumph. Copyright ©Dr. Meg Meeker. Used with permission.

To Boo or Not to Boo...That is the Question

Michelle Watson

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Since this is Halloween Week, it seems only fitting to share something that might be considered a treat (if this indeed is helpful, that is!)or maybe it’s a trick. I’ll let you decide.

First, a question: When you hear the word “boo!” what comes to mind?

I’m guessing that you’re picturing someone shouting that word while jumping out from a hiding place towards you. And if the attempt is successful, you probably had the bageebers scared out of you when they did!

But instead of that specific reference point, I’m switching things up today (hence, the trick!).

When I hear the word boo,” I immediately think of an audience in a sports arena loudly shouting that word to a referee when they disagree with a call. Can you envision that roaring sound as an entire crowd of strangers bonds over their shared opinion in response to a team they love?

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In that context, the word boo” expresses disagreement and intense displeasure, which basically lines up with Webster’s definition of it being a response marked by someone “showing disapproval or contempt.” This led me to look up the word contempt, which is described as “the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.”

 That said, I’m wondering if you as a dad are more readily inclined to shout a “boo” or a cheer.

If we’re being honest, we can all admit to having “boo-ed” someone before. In those times we can easily move into a “one up” position that not only communicates disapproval, but might come across as mockery of the other person’s decision or position. Of course that isn’t typically our intention, but that’s how the other person could perceive it, especially daughters from their dads.

We as women are easily devastated with that kind of negative interaction, even if sometimes we’re the one who started it. That’s where you as a dad have to be the bigger person. I’m not sure why it is, but there’s something that becomes magnified inside us as girls when there’s a disapproving look from you even if words aren’t spoken. We have feelers on top of feelers and then we internalize your disapproval. Honestly, there’s nothing worse than knowing we’ve disappointed you. It’s not the same as if some stupid kid at school says it.

It’s like we lose our footing if that viewpoint comes from someone we admire or elevate, especially you.

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When it comes to our dads, it’s a devastating blow when you “boo” us. That’s when we start believing that we’re “less than” or worthless or deserving of your scorn because that’s what we hear you saying about us (even if you’re unaware that this is what’s being communicated). It’s then that we often stop trying because we think that we can’t please you anyway. Or we get hurt when you haven’t noticed how hard we’re trying because you only notice the things we aren’t doing (hence, the “boo”).

 The weight of the relationship has everything to do with the impact of the opinion.

 So if you’re a dad who wants to ensure that you’re not “boo-ing” your daughter, use these questions to reflect on how you interact with her:

 

  • Does your daughter hear your comments about her clothing only when you disapprove of the choices she’s made?
  • Does she know when you do approve of how she’s dressed because she hears you telling her that she’s beautiful in your eyes?
  • Do you readily make your opinion known when you don’t like the guy she’s interested in or do you make sure she knows how proud you are of her when she chooses well, especially when it comes to guys? (you might have to dig deep on this one to find something worthy of your commendation)
  • Do you let her know your disapproval when she doesn’t do her chores or follow the rules, but fail to celebrate when she does respond positively and do things right?
  • Do you come down hard on her when her grades start to slip, but forget to applaud her when she hits it out of the ballpark on tests or gets her homework done?
  • Does your daughter get an earful when you disapprove of the way she interacts with her siblings, but rarely hears you notice all the times she works hard to get along with them?

 

Remember that negativity breeds negativity so if you want your daughter to grow and thrive, she needs to hear you cheering her on from the stands more than using that three letter word.

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So Dad, ask yourself if you’ve shouted more “boo’s” than cheers this week. Then give your daughter a Halloween treat by letting her know that you’re celebrating her with affirmation and encouragement…just because you love her.

 

A Daughter Needs Her Dad to Help Her Build a Lemonade Stand

Michelle Watson

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The adage is true—life gives out lemons. To you, and to everyone else, including your daughter.


Without asking, I know what you want for her. Out loud you might say, “I pray for my daughter to be happy and fulfill God’s plan for her life.” That’s nice and honorable. But your unspoken thoughts want something closer to perfection.

 

You imagine your little girl will be a well-recognized scholar/athlete/leader through high school, graduate college in four years with an impressive degree, get married to someone just like you in her twenties, give you three perfect grandchildren in her thirties, build a dream house just a few miles away from yours, and stay happily married for the rest of her life.

 

I have no statistics to back this up, but that “perfect” scenario probably happens to less than one-tenth of one percent of all girls.

 


Taking it one step further. Dad, if you start expressing those thoughts to your daughter, you might be saddling her with a list of impossible standards and expectations that drives her away and leaves her feeling like a permanent failure. She values your approval. It’s quite possible that she wants to meet a man like you and build a family like the one in which she grew up. But that has to come out of her gifts, goals, and dreams. Not yours.

 

When a dad puts his daughter on a track of specific expectations, there’s a high likelihood that an unexpected jolt of reality will take her off that track. We live in a fallen world in which sin, disease, abuse, accidents, discrimination, mental illness, materialism, deceit, and a long list of other nasty things lurk just around the next corner. We don’t need to look for explanations or excuses. Sometimes suffering happens as a direct result of our bad choices. Sometimes bad things just happen.

 

If you’ve already painted the impossible perfect scenario for how your daughter’s life will look, that canvas should be taken down off the wall before anyone sees it. Especially her.

 

What happens when she gets cut from a team or doesn’t get into the college of her choice?

What happens when one bad choice leaves her unmarried and pregnant?

What happens when she and her husband can’t get pregnant?

Or a child has Down Syndrome?

Or her husband turns abusive? 

When illness, accident, or some seemingly random series of events leaves a gaping wound in her heart, mind, or soul, will you still be her champion? 

 

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When life gives her lemons, your daughter needs her dad to help build a lemonade stand.

 

There may be other people in her life that love her almost as much as you. But you’re the one who has dreamed about her future since before she was even born. You see how the pieces fit.

 

You know how to take the bad stuff and help turn it somehow into good stuff.

 

When the issues require human hands to be involved, raise yours. Be the hero with the hammer to build that lemonade stand.

 

Teach your daughter to squeeze every drop out of every lemon and add just the right amount of sugar, and stand beside her as she enjoys some ice-cold refreshment. Don’t forget to say thanks when she shares a glass with you. Don’t be surprised when she also offers a glass to others she meets on the road of life. 

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Takeaway

It’s quite a balancing act. Pushing our kids to reach for the stars. And being there to catch them when they fall. One more reason God made dads with strong arms and strong hearts. 

 

“This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.” 

—Augustine 

 

 

Excerpt from 52 Things Daughter Need from Their Dads: What Fathers can Do to Build a Lasting Relationship by Jay Payleitner, 2013. Used by permission.

Helping Your Daughter Live With An Open Heart

Michelle Watson

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 (Hey everyone…I know this is heavier-weighted content, but hang in there…I promise it will be worth it!)

Every once in awhile a speaker will communicate truth in such a way that it literally touches a core place inside the listener. Dr. Larry Crabb has been one of those truth-speakers into my life. I’ll never forget hearing him speak a few years ago where his insights were so impactful that I chewed on what he said for days, culminating in my telling him through tears the impact of his words on my soul and spirit.

The reason I’m sharing this with you today as a dad of a daughter is to empower you to guard and protect, lead, and champion your daughter’s heart with increasing precision because her open heart is her lifeline to health, vitality, purpose, and vision. I believe this will give you insight into why it’s vital that your daughter’s heart stay open in order to be the woman God created her to be.

Here is the essence of Dr. Larry’s seminar on gender:

In Genesis 2 when Adam first saw Eve, he called her “iyshah,” a female form of the word for man, “iysh.”  However, in Genesis 1:26 and 27 when God says, “Let us make mankind in our own image…male and female He created them,” these are two different Hebrew words to denote gender. “Zakar” is used for male and “nequebah” for female. 

During his talk Dr. Larry said, “I don’t think you women are necessarily going to like the meaning of the word for female, but here it is: Nequebah literally means punctured, bored through.”  Hmmm…that was indeed a very unexpected, odd definition of the word in my opinion. Our collective responses in the room led most of us to turn toward each other with puzzled looks on our faces.

He then took us to 2 Kings 12:9 where we read that King Joash commissioned Jehoiada, the high priest, to “nequebah” the lid of a box for use as a container of money for repairing the temple. The box was opened as a vessel that was used for God’s purposes.

 

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Dr. Larry further explained that “nequebah” means “to be opened while arranging yourself consistently for a larger purpose than you.” I LOVED hearing that!  My spirit began to awaken with curiosity as I was now intrigued and wanted to hear more.

Bridging this concept then to Jesus on the cross, he noted that it was literally this act of being punctured and bored through that demonstrated Jesus’ openness to God’s larger purpose both in Him and through Him. Clearly Jesus understood and lived out the meaning of surrendered openness as a reflection of the depth of relationship He had with His Father. He modeled the beauty of submission, surrender, obedience and openness.  

Even today I continue to ponder this truth that Jesus made the choice to suffer and die by allowing Himself to be punctured and bored through. And I still am overcome with emotion as I celebrate the reality of Christ’s selfless love, a love that has truly aligned itself with the core of who I am as a woman. I had never thought of Jesus’ death on the cross in this way before.

I see now---according to this definition---that Jesus has fully identified with me as a woman (since God, the Three-in-one, isn’t gender specific) and I revel in knowing that He still connects with me as a female in this way.

The reality for me, a woman with an abuse history---where I have been taken advantage of, violated, and overpowered by more than one man---has been to activate instinctual self-protection whenever I don’t feel safe. In fact, throughout a bulk of the first four decades of my life I would often put up an invisible internal wall out of fear that I would be “punctured” again. Sometimes those walls have been literal (where I’d create physical distance) whereas at other times it was an unspoken barrier that people would feel around me that gave them the message that I wasn’t available or open to relating.

 

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The truth is that I used to feel threatened as a result of someone activating or bumping up against my deep-seeded fears. It used to tap into my core terror of being crushed or bored through or stolen from. I can tell you honestly that in those instances I never intended to be brash or harsh. But when I was triggered, my openness would close off and I would go into fight-or-flight mode.

I know that God longs for me to reconnect with His original design for me as a woman, one who is open and vulnerable, willing to be used by Him to impact others by inviting them also to respond with openness.

I have found that by welcoming people into my heart, my life, and my home, I experience the redemption of God’s original purpose for me as a woman: one who lives vulnerably without fear, all the while being open and released to give and receive only what is for God’s purposes. 

And from this incredible place of healing and freedom, the walls of self-protection are no longer needed when I focus on Him as my Protector.

Dr. Larry closed by giving us one of the most incredible definitions of being a woman that I have ever heard:

“A beautiful woman is so at rest in God’s delight in her that she enjoys her undamageable beauty such that she invites others to connect and relate openly not guardedly, invitingly not controllingly, courageously not defensively---to encourage another to be consumed by God’s beauty at any cost to herself so that she can reveal God to His community.”

As a father, why not use these words to guide your prayers for your daughter so she can connect to her beautiful female essence while reflecting the God who made her in His image!