One of my favorite things is receiving emails from dads and daughters who ask questions about how to better their relationship. Not that I always have the perfect answer, but there’s something refreshing about an authentic, heart-felt inquiry that opens up an honest interaction. I respect the courage it takes to ask vulnerable questions that have the potential to start movement towards proactive change.
Here’s a question I received recently from a 20-year-old young woman:
I think it would be helpful if you talked to dads about how to handle disagreements. My step-dad and I had a big fight over the weekend and it left me feeling like although we have improved our daily relationship, nothing has changed when it comes to the big stuff. I think it would help the fathers that you work with to learn conflict resolution skills.
Let me ask you a couple of questions as you ponder her words:
1. Does this sound like a woman who wants a better relationship with her step-dad, or one who doesn’t care about how they relate?
2. Do you think her underlying belief may be that her step-dad is to blame while she carries little to no responsibility in how things went down?
I tend towards believing that she must care about their relationship or she wouldn’t have written me. I also hear her implying that her step-dad bears the primary weight of responsibility in moving their relationship in a better direction, which happens to be something I agree with.
- You, dad, have to lead by example.
- Change has to begin with you.
- You must set the tone for how you want your daughter to respond to you and to others by modeling healthy interactions with her.
For example, if she yells at you and you yell back, things will quickly disintegrate and deteriorate (which you already know, right?!). So you cannot justify a harsh response to her when she has a disrespectful response to you or there’s no parent in the lead.
Believe it or not, your daughter doesn’t like it when her relationship with you is off-kilter. In fact, we girls don’t do well when our primary relationships are out of tune. So even when our defensiveness rears its ugly head, underneath it all we want there to be harmony. I’ve discovered that men typically want the same thing.
Here are a few ideas to help you as a father lead your daughter in resolving conflict:
Dad, I realize that it’s super hard, if not impossible, to pursue your daughter’s heart when one or both of you are heated. I also know that in order to lead your daughter in a way that is congruent with your heart goals you will need to embrace humility and gentleness while remembering how much she deeply matters to you (as opposed to focusing on her reaction to your reaction or vice versa).
This week I’d love to see you choose one thing from this list of ten resolution ideas and let me know how it works…in the trenches.
Turn the fight to right by leading with love. It’s the best way to diffuse a disagreement…every single time.