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Transfer of Power


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!