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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.


Sugar and Spice: The Secret to Fathering Two Very Different Kinds of Daughters

Michelle Watson

I had the most delightfully random encounter this past weekend. I met a woman whose vim and vigor were contagious and our interaction ended up inspiring me to look at things through a different lens.

Here’s the story. I was sitting at a table outside a grocery store in Central Oregon soaking up the last bit of sunshine at the tail end of our Indian summer when the smell of barbecue began to waft my way. Before I knew it I was in conversation with a local culinary expert who clearly expressed her enjoyment of awakening the palates of regulars and strangers alike.

Soon I discovered that Kelly (a.k.a. the “BBQ Queen” as her name tag aptly stated) has been barbecuing at this one place for 19 years. I can confidently say that I have never in my life met anyone who has been so passionately invested in and excited about barbecue…EVER. All I can say is that her enthusiasm definitely rubbed off on me!

That’s all it took for her to open up and divulge some of her tasty secrets. “The way to get the best barbecue is to have equal parts of brown sugar and vinegar. Most people get it wrong with too much of one or too much of the other.  It’s got to be 50% sweet and 50% tangy. That’s all there is to it!”  

And with that, she was off.

Silly as it may sound, I have been chewing on her words all week. But my thoughts haven’t been about spare ribs or tri-tip. They’ve been about fathers and daughters.

I wonder if the same principle for good barbecue could apply to personality types in girls. I don’t quite know how it all breaks down but I tend to think there’s an even 50-50 split between the “sweet” ones and the “tangy” ones.  

Both are necessary to make our world function and thrive, and neither is better than the other. Just different. Complimentary opposites, I guess you could say.  

This leads me to ask the question:  Do fathers validate their “sweet” daughters as much as their “tangy” ones?

As a “tangy” daughter I can tell you that I often wished I was sweeter and kinder, more mellow and less reactive, more go-with-the-flow and pleasant. But the reality is that I popped out like this. Lots of zest and panache (which is a fancy way of saying drama and opinions)! Sometimes it’s been a good thing and sometimes it’s been a bit much…both for me and for my dad.

All of this pondering about girls and individual temperaments brings to mind a nursery rhyme I heard a lot growing up in the 60’s:

Sugar and spice and everything nice,

that’s what little girls are made of.

Snips and snails and puppy dog tales,

that’s what little boys are made of.

Though at the time this little jingle seemed cute and harmless, I realize now that it subtly planted seeds about what it meant to be a “nice little girl.” Add in the fact that positive responses from the general public seem to cater more to the “surgery” types than to those with a bit more “spice” and I can say that it left me often not knowing how to understand myself, let alone like myself.

So if we use the barbecue theory as a working template on fathering daughters, it means that 50% of you are raising “sweet” girls while the other 50% are rearing “tangy” ones.  And because your daughters see themselves in the reflection of you as their mirror it is vitally important that you let each of them know that both sugar and spice are what balances out life and makes the world go round.

Dad, your daughter will believe what you tell her about herself (and what you imply without words). If you have a “sweet” daughter you most likely find her easy to lead, and you enjoy her delightful qualities. That’s all well and good. It’s beautiful and wonderful.

But especially for those of you who father a more “spicy” female, make sure to validate and encourage her uniqueness, one with zip and pizzazz, letting her know that she truly does distinctively enhance the atmosphere around her (even if at times she pushes every button in you).

Let your daughter know that there are famous complimentary opposites everywhere you look. Help her understand that both have a place in the universe and both have equal value:

salt and pepper

sun and moon

fear and courage

cookies and milk

Dad, why not use all of this data as a launching pad for inspiration to intentionally speak positive, affirming words into your “sweet” and your “tangy” daughters every day for the next seven days.

Let each one know that her unique combination of savory flavors enhance your life in ways that make her one-of-a-kind blend just the “taste” you love. Text her right now and tell her!


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