A friend of mine just sent me a video of a dad and his four-year old daughter creating their own musical montage to Taylor Swift's hit song, ‘Shake it Off.’ The title of it reads: “She Left Her Husband and Daughter Home Alone. What They Did? Prepare to Smile.”
The blurb says that while some dads park their kids in front of the television so they can relax, this dad did the opposite. He brought out props and costumes and created something magical with his little girl that she most likely will never forget. It didn’t cost money but it cost him time and energy. The write-up ends by saying that this dad did all of this “with so much palpable joy that it's impossible not to smile. This little girl's lucky to have such a fun, loving dad.”
I have no doubt it will go viral. Why? Because every woman who sees it will share it with all of her friends and every smile will come from projecting herself onto the screen. Let me say it another way: Every daughter wants a relationship with her dad like this little girl has with her daddy: connected, fun, interactive, engaging, sweet, and loving.
And lest we think that dads aren’t equally impacted by this video, I happened to mention it yesterday to former Abba Project dad Mike and he had actually watched it earlier in the day. I asked why he watched it. “I wanted to see the connection because I’m so conscious now of connecting to a daughter’s heart.”
There it is. Connection. Daughter. Heart.
Mike went on to say, “Why am I not more proactive than reactive? I want more do-overs with my kids. I want to be present.”
There’s something powerful about a dad being present in the moment that is the best way to connect with his daughter.
So just in case you want an action plan to make deeper connection happen, I’ll share five keys to being a connected dad:
1. ALLY WITH YOUR DAUGHTER’S HEART
There is so much in life that is against; be the man who is for. Being her heart ally means truly listening to her needs and wants, then choosing to engage with her around the things she enjoys. It’s not even about meeting her half way. It’s about going the extra mile towards her even if she doesn’t come your way, seeking to understand life through her eyes. And the best measure of success will come when you see her respond as you intentionally and consistently pursue her, all the while softening your responses with validating more than lecturing.
2. ANGER DROPPED
If you were to walk up and ask, “Michelle, if you could give me one piece of advice about how to be the best dad I can be to my daughter, what would it be?” Without hesitation I would say: Stop venting your anger at her.
Your anger destroys her spirit.
Your anger shuts her down.
Your anger makes her give up.
Your anger makes her believe that she is unloveable, unworthy and not worth loving.
Your anger crushes the core of who she is. Enough said.
3. ASK QUESTIONS
As we all know, there are questions that get to the heart of a person and there are questions used to interrogate and intimidate. To accomplish the former, it invites the question: How do you ask good questions to pace with your daughter while she talks?
Here’s an easy solution to this dilemma. All you have to do is provide a follow-up question using the exact word or words that she just used in her last sentence.
Start with a general question: “How was your day at school?
She answers, “fine.” (by the way, on Venus we call this is a non-answer answer!)
Then ask, “What about it was fine?”
She answers, “Well, this really hot guy smiled at me in math.”
Follow with, “What about him is hot?”
This will require a ton of active listening. But that’s a vital part of connecting so I know you’re all about making that happen.
4. ANSWER WITH: “I’M WONDERING”
This tool has been described by dads in The Abba Project as “the #1 greatest help in opening up communication with our daughters.” All you have to do is add these two little words to the beginning of any question you ask her.
Andy used to ask his 17-year old daughter, “Why aren’t you going to school today?” Every time it ended the same: her wall went up and she barked her response. Figuring he had nothing to lose he tried it and instead asked, ‘I’m wondering…why aren’t you going to school today?” And miraculously she started talking. Andy came back to the group and enthusiastically announced, “I couldn’t believe it worked!”
5. AFFIRM, Affirm, Affirm
I heard an Abba Project dad recently say, “I never thought what I said mattered that much.” Oh contraire. I’m here to tell you that YOU are a KEY to your daughter’s well-being and confidence. One affirmation from you could offset an entire horrible, no good, very bad day.
In fact, the overriding themes in research strongly support that children who feel connected to their fathers do better in school, achieve higher grades, experience less depression, display greater self-esteem, report lower rates of suicide, and on it goes. Basically, I’m here to implore you to be the life-breathing voice in her head. Your voice will ring in her mind long after you speak. You can never affirm and encourage enough.
To be a connected dad, it’s going to take work. But like any worthwhile project, the harder the work, the greater the value. And the harder the work, the greater the reward.
Just remember: the most important part in all of this is turning your heart (not just your head) toward your daughter…
It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being present.
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