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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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Why Steve Harvey Is My Hero

Michelle Watson

I’m guessing by now that you’ve heard about the catastrophic gaffe of Steve Harvey [actor, host of Family Feud and of his own talk show] at the Miss Universe Pageant on December 20, 2015. Though I didn’t see it when it aired (and I bet you missed it too!), I have watched the replay as it captures an event that is being described as “the biggest tv fail of the year.”

By mistake, Steve Harvey announced that Miss Columbia had won the crown. She basked in the glory for about two minutes while waving at the audience as flowers, a sash, and a super-sized crown were awarded to her. Then all of a sudden Steve re-entered the stage while somberly saying the words, “I have to apologize.” He told the audience that he had misread the card and in actuality it was Miss Philippines that had won. His words rung out like a church bell tolling in the middle of a quiet night as he added, “I will take responsibility for this…it was my mistake.”

I sat down this week and watched some of the interviews that have aired since all of this happened. I have listened to Steve on his talk show addressing his epic failure. He stood there, alone on his own stage, facing worldwide criticism and attack for his blunder (one that has even led to death threats against him and his family) while courageously addressing the crowd. He didn’t hide or deny. He didn’t deflect or minimize. He didn’t blame or excuse.

If that isn’t a template for heroic fathering, I don’t know what is.

This man owned up.
This man faced his accusers (the world) and the women he hurt.
This man revealed his heart.
This man dropped all defensiveness.
This man asked for forgiveness.

Two weeks ago, almost a month after the incident, Steve dedicated an entire show to this whole fiasco. When asked by a female audience member how he was handling things, he responded:

“I could tell you some hard parts for me, but my deeper concern was for the two women. Because as bad as I felt, my heart bled for Miss Columbia. How could she possibly have felt?
I was stuck on those two women because I have daughters. My wife Marjorie said,
‘You did what your father raised you to be--you went out there and took the hit.’ ”

It touched my heart to hear him express compassion from the vantage point of a father of daughters. He was deeply moved while owning the fact that he had caused harm to two women who were daughters of another dad. He connected to his father heart as he voiced his concern for the potential damage done to these two world-changers.

Just last week on Good Morning America they played clips from the interviews between Mr. Harvey and these two. I was intrigued by how host T.J. Holmes introduced the piece:

“As any man who’s wronged a woman knows, at some point you’re going to have to face the music, sit her down and say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Steve is about to make that happen.”

Wow. That’s some good truth, T.J.

Make a decision.
Face the music.
Sit her down.
Say, “I’m sorry.”

I’m inspired by the way these two men, T.J. and Steve, demonstrate that real relationships involve times where a man must look into the face of the one he’s hurt and initiate the conversation with an apology.

Dad, have you done that with your daughter for hurt you’ve caused to her heart?

As one who has spent the past 18 years as a mental health therapist, I can assure you that I don’t hear stories like this enough. I wish I did. Instead, I have heard both women and many men tell me that the default of men tends towards ignoring, defending, blaming, and sometimes even denying that the event played out the way she says it did. Not always, but often. [I realize that I’ve most likely offended some of you right here. Yet please know that my heart is for men, not against them and my desire is to share things that could lead you to explore the deeper layers of yourself should you resonate with what I’m sharing].

I implore you as men, as fathers, as grandfathers, as leaders and influencers, to realize that you aren’t diminished in our eyes when you tell us that you have messed up and hurt us. It allows our hearts to heal when you ask our forgiveness. We women---your daughters, granddaughters, friends, employees, and co-workers really do respect you more when you own up, admit fault, and ask our forgiveness.

This is what I witnessed in the interviews between Steve and each of these women individually. It began with Steve holding back tears as he told Miss Columbia how truly sorry he was. He then boldly asked her, “How do you genuinely feel about how I handled the situation?” Oh my. Such a courageous question. He had no idea what she would say but opened himself up to hear her honest truth. He had to have known that neither of them would be able to move past this incident if they didn’t have this conversation.

She hesitated for a moment, followed with an awkward laugh and said, “You have to learn how to read the cards.” Then she had a phenomenal follow up while heralding, “You wanted me to win!”

That was all it took for Steve to lean back in his seat, throw his hands in the air, then reach over to give her a “high five” and exclaim, “Yes! I wanted you to win!”

It was then that I watched something miraculous and powerful take place.

Miss Columbia softened her stance as she looked up at the larger-than-life photo that hung above them on his talk show stage while noting, “Look at your face.” She lifted her head to observe what HE had experienced on that fateful December day when admitting to a worldwide audience that he had announced the wrong winner.

Do you see what happens when someone owns up to the hurt they’ve caused another? Instead of blame and defensiveness, anger and perhaps even rage, there is an ability to look at what the other person is experiencing. There is power in admitting the harm you’ve caused and doing whatever it takes to make things right.

I believe that had Steve Harvey not faced this woman, let her see his sorrow for the pain he caused her, heard her out, and then asked her forgiveness, she may have never fully healed. Neither would he. Both could have been stuck on that day for the rest of their lives. Instead, Miss Columbia graciously said that she has moved on and believes this was her destiny.

Dad, I trust that you will join me in renewing our commitment today to step up to the plate and admit our part when we’ve harmed someone.

Let’s listen to the story that needs to be told by the one we’ve hurt while deciding to drop the defensiveness and really listen.

Let’s allow ourselves to be vulnerable and ask for forgiveness. I believe there’s a sizable number of daughters in this country who are still waiting to hear from their dads these two life-changing words: “I’m sorry.”

Today you can be a hero by choosing to have the difficult yet honest conversation with your daughter that can allow for her heart to heal. If there’s anything to be learned from Steve Harvey, it’s that healing takes place when a father (or father figure) looks into the eyes of the woman he has hurt and asks her to forgive him.

We’re all human and make mistakes. Yet two words healed two women because one man chose to admit his fault and make it right.

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The Dialed-in Dad Checklist: Your Fathering Self-Assessment

Michelle Watson

Let’s be honest. None of us like someone else telling us what to do.

It’s hard enough when we’re forced to sit for our annual review while hearing our boss give feedback about both our strengths and weaknesses. But since it’s protocol, we have no option but to endure the scrutiny.

However, unlike our work environment, when it comes to assessing fatherhood, it’s another ballgame. In that arena, the likelihood of individual defensiveness is higher, especially if the person giving the feedback is a stranger (a.k.a. me to you). I can understand how it could come across as a personal attack when the input isn’t based on a full understanding of the entirety of a situation.

In view of that reality, Dad, I want to offer you a way to evaluate yourself. No lecture. No force. No hovering. Just you lifting up the hood of your “car” and checking the wiring in order ensure optimum workability.

I want to give you a tool that equips you to assess yourself in the area of fathering. No one else will see it but you. My hope is that in having a template for self-evaluation, you will be more honest than if someone was looking over your shoulder.

I have such great respect for men who are open and willing to ask for help in order to achieve their goals, especially their fathering goals. Although many dads I’ve spoken with haven’t written down or articulated their parenting goals, I’ve discovered that those ideals are actually tucked deep within and clearer than may have realized. That’s where I believe this self-assessment will serve as a proactive tool in your fathering toolbox to support your personal growth as a dad because it will help you clarify your vision.

Let me add that I’ve absolutely loved hearing dads in The Abba Project (the group I lead for dads of daughters ages 13 to 30) tell me that they made a copy of this self-test and put it in a prominent place to remind them of what they need to work on.

Speaking of prominent places, I was blown away when Police Chief Bret, a former Abba Project Dad, sent me a picture a couple of years ago after our group ended. Placed next to his bulletproof vest, leather belt, and two guns was his Abba Project notebook, propped up as a daily reminder of the importance of investing in his three daughters. He wanted me to see that he wasn’t forgetting to dial in even after our group ended.

Let’s get practical now.

After you take the Dialed-In Dad Self-Test and see items that are not a part of your daily or weekly interactions with your daughter, write out two or three specific things that you are going to do starting today that will launch you on your journey toward being increasingly tuned-in to your daughter.

There’s no need to go down a path of guilt or shame for things you’ve done wrong in the past, and there’s no better time than the present to begin changing the past. You have today and every day from here on out to make up for lost time.

Here’s the bottom line: Being intentional makes a big difference.

Challenge yourself to choose a couple of new ways to connect with your daughter as you go forward on this journey (use the items which received the lowest scores on the checklist to guide you here). And if you’re like the men in my groups, you’re ready to use your score both as a gauge for where you are now as well as a guide for where you still need to focus.

By doing this, you’ll be clearer on where to take action so you can more specifically invest in your daughter’s life today.

Here’s the Dialed-in Dad Checklist:

Dialed-In Dad Checklist with Scoring Sheet

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ABC'S of Fathering

Michelle Watson

It's Archive August! This blog was originally posted on 11.14.14.

Ever since John Gray’s book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, was released twelve years ago many of us been referring to women as “Venusians” and men as “Martians.”  

I realize that guys got the short end of the stick on that label (sorry men!), but regardless of descriptions this book really does sum up the obvious:  men and women are from two different planets.

We don’t think the same. We don’t talk the same. We don’t feel the same. We don’t live the same. Our wiring is different. Our needs are different. Our priorities are different.

This brings to mind something that one of the dads in my group inadvertently said one session. He wasn’t sure of the name of the original book title so in talking about the differences between men and women he said, 

“Women really are from Venus and Men are from…is it Pluto?!”

He didn’t say it to be funny but we all roared with laughter.  I told him I actually like his version better than the original!

I didn’t realize this until later but experts say that the distance between Mars and Venus is anywhere between 35 and 222 million miles while the distance between Venus and Pluto is actually farther than that. The distance between Venus and Pluto is actually three billion miles, which probably more accurately reflects the gap between men and women!  

For a lot of dads who start this journey of intentionally pursuing their daughter’s hearts they think their relationships can’t get any closer.  They’ve resigned themselves to believing that the three billion mile gap is not only normal but is a fact that can’t be changed or altered.  

I talked to a couple of dads just this week who have admitted to blowing it with their daughters.  Each one is now living with relational distance as a result.  They feel they’re going to have to live with it the way it is.

I’m standing here shouting a message of hope to these dads and each of you by saying, 

“Yes, it can be changed…

but YOU are the one who has to move your planet closer to hers.”

In the past five years since starting The Abba Project (the group I lead for dads with daughters between the ages of 13 and 30), I’ve slowly been learning to speak Martian.  I guess you could say that I’m bordering on being bi-lingual!  

One of the main things I’ve learned about speaking Martian is that you men don’t like too many words. You want me to get straight to the point. You want an action plan, and you want solutions that work.

Following that grid, here are three “quick-and-to-the-point” components to being a dialed-in dad, something I like to call “The ABC’s of Fathering.” 

Action.

I’m guessing that every one of you had a favorite superhero growing up.  I’m also guessing that the reason you identified with your particular crime fighter was because he took action.  Could you even imagine an impotent, lethargic, unmotivated, and distracted version of your champion?  Of course not!

It’s the same with fathering.  In order to be your daughter’s superhero, you have to take action to intentionally and consistently pursue her heart.  And by “heart” I am referring to her core self that feels passionate and comes alive when being all of who she was created to be.

You probably already have a handle on what action steps touch your daughter’s heart, but in case you would like an extra idea or two, action ideas include (but are not limited to):  daily affirming her in written or verbal ways, showing up at events she is involved in, patiently holding her emotional reactivity, being present with your attention, listening fully, investing financially, and leading spiritually.

Be the man you want her to marry.

The best way you can ensure that your daughter will marry a quality dude and not a dud is to model the kind of guy you want her to walk down the aisle to. You communicate more about her value and worth by the way you treat her than any lecture you could ever give. Stated otherwise, more is caught than taught. Let her experience in real time what it feels like to be treated like a lady by you, the first man who held her heart and the one guy in the world who doesn’t have a hidden agenda in loving her.

Consistency.

There is a great verse that says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is like a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12). This essentially means that if you make a promise to your daughter, keep it.  And the result of being a promise-keeping, heart-pursuing, truth-speaking, tender-loving, stay-the-course dad is a daughter 

  • whose heart will stay open (the opposite of a “sick heart”)
  • who will be a vibrant, growing, maturing, life-giving “tree"
  • who will have greater self-confidence, more emotional stability, and succeed in reaching her life goals (all of this is confirmed in the research) 

When your daughter consistently experiences that she can trust you, she will internalize your positive view of her. Your steady, dependable, reliable, and faithful pursuit of her heart will yield dividends that will last long after you’re gone.  She is your forever investment.

And like I say in my book:  The harder the work, the greater the value.  And the harder the work, the greater the reward.  Your daughter is worth the work.  She is your reward.  

So there it is.  A “1-2-3, A-B-C” formula with an action plan that works if you work it.  And there’s no better time than the present to kick these ABC’s into action in order to be the dad you want to be and the dad your daughter needs you to be.  

 

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Daddy, Daddy...Watch Me!

Michelle Watson

Today I went on a run and something unusual happened. 

A woman with two little dogs on leashes (here in Oregon we are a big pro-canine state where most citizens attend very well to the needs of their fluffy and furry friends) had just stopped to give them a breather when she saw me and enthusiastically called out, “Wow...you are a fast runner!" 

I was stunned but kept going, only then to have few clumsy words tumble out of my mouth in response, "Oh, bless your heart.”

You've got to understand. I am not a fast runner. Okay, maybe if you put me up against a first grader I might be considered fast. But that’s about it, even on a good day.

I actually started jogging the summer after my senior year of high school. Even still I only run in very small doses, three times a week at best. And sometimes when the weather is bad I decide I’m not in the mood and then take the whole week off. This simply translates to the fact that I don’t invest much time into this sport and consequently I’m a bit slow on the draw. That’s why today was a first.  

I noticed how the empowering words from a complete stranger had a very powerful impact on my energy, my mood, and my stride.  And as her words echoed repeatedly in my head after jetting past her, I not only started telling myself that I must be a fast runner if this lady said I was, but I literally started running with slightly increased speed! 

The result is that I embodied her observation. 

There really is something robust and potent in positive words spoken, even random observatory words from a bystander.  

This got me thinking back to when I was a little girl.  I remember wanting my dad to be the one to notice that I was running fast or doing something that required an extra dose of physical strength or stamina.  I wanted him to watch and be proud of me.  Those two things always went hand in hand. 

There was and continues to be something about my dad applauding me while declaring that I am fast and strong that seems to make it more valid. I thrive on his belief in me even when I don’t believe in myself.

Why is it that when a dad sees and affirms something that it’s worth a triple word score?  I don’t know why that is but it’s got to be written down somewhere in the fathering handbook.

I think it must have to do with the fact that because dads are strong and invincible, if dad says it’s true then it has to be true. Let me say it another way: if the strongest and mightiest and most physically powerful member of the family affirms my strength and prowess, then maybe there’s a little bit of that in me.  Maybe it means that I’m strong and powerful too.

Summing up, here’s what we as your daughters need from you Dad:

  • We need you to watch us lift things that are heavy and endure things that are hard. 
  • We need you to show up, watch us, and cheer us on.
  • We need you to tell us that we can do it.
  • We need you to see us grow and succeed, try and fail, fall down and get up again. 
  • We need you to be proud of us…through the entire process.
  • We need you not to expect perfection.
  • We need you to know that we hear your voice from the stands (literally and figuratively).
  • We need you to know that your absence shouts as loudly as your presence.
  • We need you to believe in us when we’ve lost our way, helping us find our way back home.

And since a picture is worth a thousand words, this one says it all. Here is my friend Jay actively engaging with his precious daughter Ava. Both the picture and his corresponding words melt my heart: “Her biggest weapon on the field is laughter.” 

When seeing this picture I can’t help but add: “How incredible that he’s close enough to hear.”  

Dad, getting close can be a mixed bag. One time it will be her anger and another time tears.  The next, brilliant insights followed with thought-provoking questions (that may push buttons…for both of you). Yet right around the corner you’ll be sprinkled with her laughter, often when you least expect it. That’s when you’ll be glad you scooted close.

Cheering from the stands is well and good.  But always make sure you’re close enough to hear.

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