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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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Dads, Dudes, and Duds

Michelle Watson

I’ll be honest. I was the daughter who gave my parents quite a few of their grey hairs. And yes, it happened over a guy. I dated him for a little over two years and not surprisingly, the whole thing drove a bit of a wedge in my relationship with my parents.

The more my parents said they didn’t like him, the more the two of us bonded. I think I was a bit warped after seeing Grease right after I graduated from high school in 1978. For whatever reason, that movie stayed with me, so a decade later when this guy and I dated, I figured we were like Danny and Sandy who were destined to be together against all odds.

What I wouldn't give now for a do-over.

But this does inspire me to address the topic that many dads have asked me to address: What do you do when your daughter chooses a guy you think is a dud or a loser?

The truth is that I’ve seen many parents alienate their daughter when she’s dating a guy who is not their choice. Clearly the age of the girl plays a part here, but as a general rule, she is going to have to decide what kind of guy is right for her. And she will do it with or without your help. I know it’s hard to see beyond the current struggle, but when it’s not a clear-cut issue (unless he’s abusive or involved in illegal or unethical practices), a key question for you to ask yourself is:

What do I want my forever relationship with her to look like, long past the present situation?

I’m not saying that she doesn’t need your input, because if you say nothing then she doesn’t have your perspective or insight. But if you only criticize and put her boyfriend down, she will run to him because she’ll say, “he understands and ‘gets me’ and gives me space to be me.”

She will interpret anything negative you say about him as an attack on her because she hears you saying that she has bad taste and can’t choose well. This is when a girl gets better at hiding what she’s doing with him if her own heart isn’t convinced he’s not good for her.

Since the focus of my blogs are to you as dads, here are a few practical questions for you to consider:

Dad: Do you talk at her, telling her what you don’t like about him?
Dude: Does he listen to her and side with her?
Do the math: Who will she choose to spend time with?

Dad: Do you pull back out of disgust, anger, or disappointment?
Dude: Does he move toward her, embracing her, holding her?
Do the math: Who will she choose to spend time with?

Dad: Do you put walls up in your interactions with her to protect your hurting heart over her choice with this guy?
Dude: Does he provide emotional support to lift her up and encourage her while she’s processing hurt and sadness from you?
Do the math: Who will she choose to spend time with?

If I had one piece of advice to give you dads if your daughter is dating a guy you don’t like, it is: Let your actions speak louder than your words. Words are key, but keep them few. Use your words wisely and sparingly. But do use words. (Silence is not an option.)

I do have another piece of advice, though: treat her the way you want a guy to treat her. Don’t back away.

As I said earlier, because more is caught than taught, be the kind of man you want her to marry. Let her experience real love from you. It will provide a good template for comparison. Here are a few questions you can ask her to possibly open up dialogue between the two of you and allow you to help her learn how to think, not just what to think:

  • Tell me what you like/love about him? (This way you start with something positive)
  • What does he like/love about you?
  • How does he let you know he enjoys you?
  • What do you laugh about when you’re together?
  • Tell me about his family. What is his relationship like with his mother/father/siblings?
  • What does he want to be when he “grows up”? 

(She may get defensive with these next ones so be careful to watch your tone so that you aren’t asking with an air of judgment)

  • How free are you to use your voice with him? (Saying “yes” and “no”, sharing opinions, preferences, etc.)
  • Do you have any concerns about him as a person? (His present/past)
  • If there was something about him you could change, what would it be?
  • Where do your spiritual beliefs match up and where do they differ?
  • What degree or educational goals does he have?
  • What career aspirations does he have?
  • How do you both navigate conflict when you disagree or differ in your opinions or choices?

These are heavy questions, which is why, depending on where your relationship is with your daughter, you may be able to ask only one or two of them at a time. Yet these questions will give you a template to work from over time in order to draw her out.

And if your daughter is in a relationship that currently breaks your heart, I encourage you to write out (yes, literally write out) a list of specific prayer requests. Watch God work as you use your voice to advocate on your daughter’s behalf with Father God.

And last, I leave you with a question to ponder: How can I maintain a quality relationship with my daughter even if I don’t like the choice she is making with this guy?

Continue to be the dad who outshines the dud so you can be the dude who never varies in his love for his daughter.

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