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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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Writing Your Own Eulogy (Guest Blog by Armin Assadi)

Michelle Watson

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Armin is a man I admire greatly—as a leader and especially as a father. It’s my great honor to have him joining us today as he describes a current process that is “wrecking him in the best of ways.”
Prepare to have your heart inspired by the vulnerability of my friend. 

—Michelle

If you haven’t heard Stephen Covey’s maxim, “Begin with the end in mind” from his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, then this is a mental exercise just for you. Even if you have, I promise you, this is something as a father you want to do.
 
Your daughters will thank me.

Now don’t just skim through this. Try this. Imagine a funeral.
 
Envision the church or venue it’s being held in. What’s the outside look like? What’s the inside look like? Imagine what kind of music they’re playing. Look around and see all the people dressed in black filling the seats. Some are there to simply show their respect. Others are heartbroken, crying and grieving the loss of a loved one. 
 
At the front of the room sits a casket, surrounded by beautiful white flowers. You can smell the roses and lilies. The volume of the music goes down and you see someone stand up. Look closer. It’s your daughter and she’s making her way up to the podium to speak. She has tears streaming down her face as she looks at the coffin. You look inside the coffin and realize the person in the coffin is you and this is your funeral. 
 
Take it one step further. Look around the room from the standpoint of the podium. Who is in the room and filling those seats? Is it just family? Are there friends present? Co-workers? Now turn those people into the people you imagine would be at your funeral. 
 
Pause here for a second. 
 
This is what Stephen Covey meant by “begin with the end in mind.” 
He meant THE end. Death. 
 
If you’ve never done this exercise before, it feels weird, if not morbid. Even if it does, keep going. I promise you, it’s worth it. 
 
Back to the funeral. You see your daughter look around the room before she gets ready to speak. She wipes away her tears, composes herself the best she can. She clears her throat and begins to speak about her father…you.
 
This is where you come in. Since you’re not dead yet, you get to write your eulogy, the very one that your daughter is going to read at your funeral.
 
What do you imagine her saying? What do you want your daughter to say about you? What kind of father will she say you were? Husband? Leader? What will she say about the impact you made? Or the lives you touched? 
 
Don’t just think about what you’ve done so far or who you’ve been so far. Dream a little. It’s okay to be idealistic. Write down everything you would hope for your daughter say about you. Even if you know you can’t do all of it or even half of it. It doesn’t matter. Just write it down. 
 
Be a superhero or whatever you want to be. 
 
I share my eulogy at the end of this article. You don’t have to read it. Use it as a template or skip it altogether. It’s just here. If you read it, you’ll see I didn’t try to perfect it, make it eloquent or even poetic. All the grammatical errors will prove my point. I wrote it for me. I didn’t write it to get a good grade from my English teacher or to impress my friends and colleagues. I wrote it so that I can see what I ultimately value as a father. So that I can see what I want my life to add up to in the end. I see it as a guide or compass. 
 
If you’re wondering why begin with the end in mind, here is why for me. 
 
Not only has it helped me be successful with projects, goals, business, and ministry, it’s helped provide clarity. No matter what, you’re going to be active every day. Why not be active in a way that allows you to know that you’re actively taking steps that are leading you to an end destination of your choice? 
 
John Wooden stated it best when he said, “don’t mistake activity for achievement.” 

Beginning with the end in mind will help you know whether the activities of your life are leading you to the achievements you desire and want from life. 
 
This isn’t going to be easy or even come naturally, but it will come to you. You will begin dreaming, envisioning, and writing. Your heart and soul will pour out on paper. And in doing so, you will unleash a furious love from within you.
 
It will help you see the depth and power of your love for the girls in your life. More importantly, this will give you a way to create a strategy and a culture within your own family that truly aligns with your deep and real values. Not your resume values. 
 
I hope to see what you write someday and be inspired by it. God speed, good luck, and many blessings.
 
Armin

My Eulogy I’ve Written For My Daughters:

It may be weird to start my dad’s eulogy like this, but if you knew him at all, you’d know this is appropriate. My dad was a shameless man. He knew what he wanted in life and didn’t care what anybody else thought. He didn’t care how he was judged, frowned upon or talked about behind his back.

My dad taught us that, “if you’re going to be a person of faith, then you have to be a person who keeps your word.”

One of the promises he made to us was, “My promise to you is this: I will always prioritize God first, family second, and everything else comes after and the order should never change.” You know what, he really did live that out. If you didn’t know my dad, let me help you understand what I mean by that.

It's no secret that my dad had a hot temper at times. In his younger days, he took his anger out on people closest to him. Once he had us, he made a commitment that if he was going to lose his temper on anyone, it wouldn't be on his girls. Countless times I’ve heard my dad say, “I’m willing to fail at business, leadership, ministry and everything else, I’m just not willing to fail at being a husband, father, and son of God.”

My dad never missed a date night with me or my sister. He never missed a date night with my mom. He didn't just tell us, he showed us how much he loved our mom to set an example for us. He made sure that we knew anything less than a man going out of his way to love you is unacceptable and that my dad would never, ever want to meet someone who treated us any less than he did. Not if this guy wanted one of his girls!

My dad was a serious guy, but mom told us how he put his ego, pride, and often his dignity aside to make a complete fool of himself just so he could see us laugh. Let me tell you, that didn’t change with age. My dad always knew how to make us laugh and always reminded us how important it is to pursue joy, love, family, and God over status, income, or any other rat race of life.

He was an inspiration to so many, but especially us. The fact that my dad was alive long enough to get married and have kids was a miracle he never stopped being grateful for. He thanked God every day. But in dad-like fashion, he didn’t thank God with words, he thanked God with action, sacrifice, and commitment. He chose a life of reaching out to the last, the lost, and the left out because he knew that’s what he was until God found him. If dad wasn’t spending his time with his girls, he was doing what he could to make sure people like him would find the same God of love and redemption he did.

Dad, we will never stop missing you and we will never stop loving you. Thank you for choosing us as your legacy. You will not be forgotten. I’m sure you’re throwing a party in paradise and forcing everyone to try your Persian food. Love you dad!


Armin Assadi is the co-founder of Position Intel, a GPS tracking software company, and Santosha.co, an all natural skincare company. He has lived more lives than most---from former refugee and crime boss to vocational minister in a mega church and entrepreneur to speaker and soon-to-be published author (The Power of Belief, release date: fall of 2019). He is married to the beautiful momtrepreneur, Ashlee, and father to his two very bossy girls that have him wrapped around their little fingers, Aida (3 years old) and Aviah (9 months old).

How to Talk with Your Daughter about Suicide

Michelle Watson

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Hello friends…This is the longest blog I’ve ever written, but with this topic being in the forefront of our minds due to recent events, I have chosen to address this topic thoroughly. I pray that my story and this information will be helpful to you.
–-Michelle

 “How could she do this when she had everything going for her? It honestly makes no sense that she would end her life because she has a global empire and actually just launched her new clothing line today! Look here---I have ‘Kate Spade’ everything---sunglasses, wallet, and even my school bag is her brand. You remember that she’s the reason I want to go into fashion, right?”
 
These emotional words poured forth from the depths of her 17-year old broken and confused heart as we began our counseling session that Tuesday. Our appointment was only hours after she’d heard the news that her beloved icon hanged herself that morning in NYC. And though we were having this conversation 3000 miles away from the tragic epicenter, she felt the impact personally, as if she’d lost a close friend.
 
Beyond that, neither of us had any way of knowing that only three days later we would grieve another tragic suicide by hanging, that of Anthony Bourdain, internationally acclaimed celebrity chef and television host. 
 
Then, as if these tragic deaths weren’t devastating enough, the story took a heart-wrenching turn when I learned that both of these influencers left young daughters behind, 13-year old Francis Beatrix Spade and 11-year old Ariane Bourdain. One who will now be raised solely by her widower father while the other will grow up without the loving guidance of her adored dad. 
 
All I can say is that two suicides in a row are two suicides too many.
 
As you can imagine, I’ve had similar raw conversations in my counseling office around this theme since these two individuals passed. One of my clients even expressed her fear that she now wonders whether she’s strong enough to resist her own suicidal urges. She said that if celebrities still commit suicide despite having access to the best resources in the world, then how can she trust herself to withstand the emotional gale force winds that regularly pound within her?
 
Dr. Margo Maine captures it best: statistics are people with the tears wiped away.” Her poignant way of expressing the human reality behind the numbers is underscored by the shocking fact that suicide rates have increased in the US by 25% in the past two decades, according to the CDC.

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I’ve heard it said that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. True as that is, when someone has suffered for years, the enduring pain doesn’t necessarily feel temporary.

Additionally, when someone has lived with physical or mental torment for a long period of time, it can significantly alter different areas of their brain. When the limbic system (our emotional center) is over-stimulated and “on fire,” it releases substantial levels of stress hormones, which then flood the frontal lobe (where we make decisions and activate sound judgment), leading to that part of the brain being “offline.”
 
Consequently, these individuals often find it hard to believe there will ever be an end to their agony, resulting in a genuine struggle to think clearly when it comes to problem solving and working through their distress. All they want is for the pain to end.
 
I haven’t shared a lot publicly about my past mental health struggles (though God has opened more doors the past few years to tell my story), but the truth is that I’ve lived through years of internal distress that were locked inside me until my late 30’s. In fact, I was in counseling for eight straight years and it was an excruciating process of going back into my trauma history to face all the layers of impact from sexual and spiritual abuse.
 
Trust me when I say that I hated putting my time, money, and energy into weekly therapy when all I wanted to do was spend my time, money, and energy on anything but therapy. 
 
But, as they say, hindsight is 20/20. 

  • I now look back and know that investing in counseling was my way of putting value on myself
  • I now look back and know that the costs on every level were necessary to my healing.
  • I now look back and know that I had to feel to heal.
  • I now look back and know that the only way out is through.
  • I now look back and know that I am a survivor, not a victim.

The hope-filled reality is that our brains can heal. I’m living proof of that fact! (Here are two excellent articles that confirm this: 1. on neurogenesis and neuroplasticity and 2. on posttraumatic growth.)
 
More specifically with regards to my healing journey, I can honestly tell you that the torment I used to experience in my mind and emotions is no longer therewhich translates to more calm and clarity. Of course I still have times of over-reacting, worrying, and the like, but overall there’s a settledness and true peace. Now I have the freedom to passionately move in ways that are in line with my God-given calling after years of feeling like I was going in circles despite my best efforts.
 
Also, I can confidently assert that the dissociative wiring inside my brain has been re-wired. Now I am grateful to experience an internally associated life without mental torment or dividedness. What this also means is that I am fully present to what I think and feel, and I have consistent joy that actually stays and holds! (If that sounds too good to be true or seems like it could never happen to you, I want to encourage you by saying that if healing could happen for me, it can happen for you too. Yes, it’s hard work…but it’s worth it in the end!)
 
Now let’s make this practical and personal. 
 
What do you do as a dad if you have a daughter you suspect may be suicidal? 
 
I’ll tell you some truths that have guided my responses to this question. When I started grad school in 1995, I wasn’t sure what to do or say if a counseling client admitted to being suicidal. But I can tell you that I was greatly comforted to learn key insights about navigating this complex topic, insights that still guide me as a clinician 21 years later:

  1. It’s good to initiate the topic of suicide if you have even the slightest concern about someone, which will help that person know that it’s safe to talk openly with you. (Asking about suicide won’t plant the idea in their minds about it, but instead gives them permission to talk because “the cat’s out of the bag,” and they weren’t the one to initiate the conversation).
  2. It’s good to disclose that you would be devastated if that person ever took their own life, including why it would matter to you. (I’ve teared up many times when disclosing my heart to suicidal clients, and typically this helps them release their tears while feeling that someone genuinely cares. Experts say that sometimes the individual will stay alive more for someone else than for themselves, and because I want to do everything possible to communicate compassionate care, I always remember this fact). 
  3. It’s good to ask whether they feel like they want to die or if they have a suicide plan---because those are two different things. If there is a plan in place, you must take immediate action to contract regarding their safety, call their support network, or discuss hospitalization. (By asking the straight-forward question, “are you suicidal?” you are encouraging honesty. You also want to watch their body language because it also will significantly reveal what’s going on inside. Remember that it’s worth risking their anger at you for intervening in order to get them the help they truly need).

There’s one more important aspect to this topic that merits addressing. 

If we read the accounts from friends and family after they’ve lost a loved one, rarely, if ever, did any of them know the situation was dire prior to the catastrophic event. This has been repeatedly confirmed by those who interacted with Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, as well as with those who knew Robin Williams four years ago and 28-year old Avicii recently. The pattern with all of them appears to be consistent: the pain is easy to hide and “putting on a good face” is an act, not their reality. This tells me that it’s wisdom to know what to look for so there is greater symptom awareness to reveal if someone may be sinking into despair.
 
Here are signs that could signal a deeper intensity than meets the eye (be sure to look and listen for these things in groupings, not individually):

  • Withdrawal/more isolation (when someone feels desperate and alone, it’s easy to push people away because they don’t have the energy or capacity to engage and talk)
  • Changes in sleeping patterns (a lot more or a lot less)
  • Lack of enjoyment in activities that used to bring joy
  • Depression (especially when the chronic sadness has lasted for more than two months)
  • Feelings of hopelessness (listen for anything that sounds like they’re giving up or saying that life isn’t worth living anymore)
  • Self-injurious behaviors (which, in and of themselves, aren’t always a cry for help, but when paired with other symptoms, are worth noting---whether cutting, reckless sexual activity, excessive spending, or anything where caution is thrown to the wind)
  • Increases in substance use/addictive behaviors (use of drugs, alcohol, gaming, or eating disorders, to name a few, can be used to numb pain, particularly if other coping strategies aren’t working well or haven’t yet been learned)
  • Cancelling appointments/not keeping commitments (this could be a sign of disconnection from people or from causes that used to have value)
  • Lack of motivation (particularly in areas that once brought a sense of purpose and meaning)
  • Friends or public figures recently committing suicide (when someone is battling with suicidal thoughts, there is power in suggestion when there was a “successful” end to someone’s pain)

Take a big deep breath. (I’m serious).
 
Dad, I realize that this topic is heavy and intense. And I know this is a lot to take in. I acknowledge that it may be something you don’t want to talk about or look at. But you have to meet your daughter where she is at because the world she lives in is impacted all too often by suicide. Out of love for your daughter, you need to delve into these depths with her so she’s not left to tread these waters alone. 

 

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Please believe me when I say that talking with her about what she’s feeling and fearing will go a long way to helping her release questions and emotions inside herself while being able to gain perspective from you in the process. 

If you want to initiate a conversation with your daughter about the topic of suicide, here are some suggestions to get you started:

  1. Let her read this blog and ask if anything resonates with her, whether experiences or thoughts she’s having now or has had in the past.
  2. Gently, yet boldly, ask, “Are you suicidal or have you ever been suicidal?” If she’s not struggling in this area, she most likely won’t be reactive. If she has a strong negative reaction, it could suggest that she’s hiding something from you…and even from herself. 
  3. Watch together Anderson Cooper’s town hall on suicide that recently aired (6.24.18).
  4. Let her know your story if you or someone you know has ever struggled with being suicidal or had suicidal thoughts. Though you may think you’re protecting her by not sharing about your past, the reality is that you are modeling that pain can be worked through and there is life on the other side. Let her know what you did to cope and what you wish you’d done differently. I assure you that your story will give her hope and she’ll entrust you with more of hers because she’ll trust that you won’t judge her since you’ve been through it yourself.
  5. Never get angry with her for disclosing that she’s feeling suicidal or struggling in this area. Never let your fear or sadness be expressed as frustration or anger. Never tell her she’s being stupid or foolish to want to end her life. Only show compassion and empathy. Listen hard and listen well. 
  6. Put your money where your heart [treasure] is. Offer to pay for counseling. Tell her that you will do everything possible to find her a good counselor (by calling her insurance company for her, asking for referrals from friends, offering to drive her to appointments or to pay for Uber or Lyft to transport her if she’s unable to drive herself).
  7. Assure her that if she ever has suicidal thoughts, urges, or a plan that you want her to call you 24/7. Let her know you will find a way to connect with her or get her help at any time, day or night, if she is at that point of intensity, feeling hopeless and all alone. 

Though this was a lot to take in, the truth is that there’s still a lot more that I could say! But at the same time it feels like there’s just not enough words to truly capture all that I want to say. So I’ll close with one my favorite acronyms for HOPE: Hold On, Pain Ends. 
 
Wait, I do have one more thing to add! 
 
The truest truth I can leave you with is this: Jesus and Abba Father God will hold your daughter when you can’t hold onto her yourself. And they promise to take the pain and sadness away bit by bit, exchanging beauty for ashes...and that is ultimately how pain ends.

———————-
 
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) is available 24/7 across the United States.

Why Father's Day Matters to Me

Michelle Watson

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June 19, 1910. Does this date ring a bell for you? 
 
It didn’t for me either. Nor did it seem noteworthy…until now, that is.
 
This day actually marks the first recorded Father’s Day in American history
 
For whatever reason, it never crossed my mind to investigate the origin of this annual holiday even though I’m passionate about focusing on fathers. So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that this whole thing started because a daughter wanted to celebrate her dad!
 
Here’s the brief backstory: In the early 1900’s a Spokane, Washington woman by the name of Sonora Smart Dodd decided that her father, Civil War veteran, William Jackson Smart, was worthy of being publicly honored for courageously stepping up to the plate after her mom died during childbirth, leaving him to raise a newborn baby and eight other children who were still under his roof at the time.
 
But this story is even more incredible.
 
William ended up as a single dad to a total of 14 children: four from his first marriage, six from his second marriage, a step father to three fatherless children from his second wife, and then became a father figure to the young daughter of his widowed sister, both whom he took in. Yet despite losing two wives to death, Mr. Smart was dedicated to being an invested single father during an era when this role for men was not necessarily the norm. 
 
Clearly, William Smart was a hero on the battlefield and in his home. 
 
With Senora Dodd leading the way, Spokane residents enthusiastically embraced this tradition of hailing fathers on the second Sunday in June each year during church services by giving them roses (red for the living and white in memory of the deceased). And because one honorable father did the right thing by singlehandedly investing in caring for his 14 children, our national holiday was born.
 
Great strides were made towards making this day a formalized festivity when President Woodrow Wilson attended the Father’s Day celebration in Spokane in 1912, only later to have President Calvin Coolidge declare in 1924 that he supported this day “in order to establish closer relationships between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.” (according to the Library of Congress). But it took until 1972 for President Richard Nixon to officially sign the public law to make Father’s Day an official day of celebration. (Who knew?! I guess Nixon’s mark on history goes beyond Watergate!)
 
I LOVE that the origin of Father’s Day is based on a true story of an overextended father who was the stable force in his family after he and his children had suffered great losses. 
 
I RESPECT this dad for choosing to sacrificially invest as a single parent to his children, which honestly makes me appreciate even more the foundation on which this holiday was built! 
 
I CELEBRATE that a daughter was the initiator of this national event as she went against societal norms for women of her day by leading a movement that she believed in…one that was based on love and gratitude for her father. 
 
The correlations between this trailblazer and her extraordinary father are evident:
 
Courageous dad; courageous daughter. 
Determined dad; determined daughter.
Ambitious dad; ambitious daughter.
Progressive dad; progressive daughter.
Resourceful dad; resourceful daughter.
 
Yet beyond simply being inspired by this dad-daughter duo, let’s now bridge the past to our present. 
 
Wikipedia captures it best: Father's Day is a celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society.” I especially resonate with two of the concepts stated in this definition, that of “paternal bonds” and “the influence of fathers in society.” I believe these two themes are sequential because as bonding takes place between dads and their kids, powerful and positive societal impacts follow. Stated more succinctly, dads matter when it comes to the health of our nation.  
 
But sadly, I am compelled to acknowledge another reality.
 
Though I would love my blog today to only zero in on positive fathering and strong paternal bonds, I must add one additional bit of sobering commentary. I write this to recognize those who have lived a different story. 
 
I know there are myriads of men and women (many whom I call my friends) who struggle to endure this day year after year due to the focus on honoring fathers. The reason for their distress is that their souls, bodies, and spirits ache because their fathers did not honor them. And because they have suffered unimaginable pain on behalf of their fathers, they have been left fractured and scarred, with deep father wounds and profound father voids. 
 
For those of you who struggle today, from my heart to yours I say: I am so sorry that you have suffered great pain and loss at the hands of your father. I grieve with you that you didn’t get the dad you needed, wanted, or deserved. And because hurting people hurt people, your dad’s own woundedness poured forth to injure you.
 
Yet no matter your story, these eternal truths remain true:

  • You are more than the pain you have suffered.
  • You are worth more than you know or believe.
  • You are truly valuable because you’re alive and you’re here.
  • You have gifts that have been honed in the deep places of your heartache.
  • God never wastes pain, and as your wounds heal, you will grow stronger and give more out of a deeper well. (I speak from experience on that one). 

No matter what this day means to you---whether it’s hard or easy, celebratory or painful--- I trust that you’ll come to know in the depths of your being that you have a Dad in heaven who is with you, calls you His own, is proud of you, and celebrates you. And He is nothing like your earthly father who has hurt you, wounded you, abandoned you, or violated you. Your heavenly Father has made you in His image and proclaims that all He has created is GOOD. That includes you.
 
Finally, since this holiday was founded by a daughter who championed this movement out of love and respect for her father, today I encourage you, Dad, to ask yourself if you’re being the kind of dad whose daughter would start a national holiday in recognition of you. 
 
Be the dad your daughter can celebrate today. 
 
And I wish you the happiest of Father’s Days…from my heart to yours! 

Is Your Unattended Baggage Hurting Your Daughter? (Guest Blog by Marc Alan Schelske)

Michelle Watson

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Marc Alan Schelske is a friend I have grown to greatly respect and admire. Today as you read his guest blog, you as fathers will no doubt be inspired by his profound insights to help you relate in healthier ways to your daughters.
- Michelle

That morning I got up early, hoping to enjoy some quiet before family and work obligations kicked in. I shuffled to the kitchen to brew myself some Earl Grey.

In the darkness, my shin collided hard with some unseen obstacle. I tripped and threw out my arms, catching myself as I fell against the wall. My impediment crashed across the hardwoods setting the dog to barking. That woke up the rest of my family.

Bruised, frustrated, annoyed at the dog, I switched on the light to see what had been so irresponsibly left in the hallway. There it was. The blue carry-on baggage that belonged to me.

The week prior I had made a quick weekend flight for a writer’s event. I flew home to a schedule already overfull. Jumping right into the rush of my week, I left my baggage unattended in the hallway, where it sat, waiting to trip some unsuspecting family member. Luckily it was me!

Unattended Baggage Can Be Dangerous

You’ve heard that recorded message that comes over the airport public address system, the one that warns about unattended bags? The airport officials are trying to protect against terrorism threats, but apparently unattended baggage can be a real terror in other ways.

This isn’t just a problem at the airport. Apparently it’s a problem in my hallway. It’s also a threat to our relationship with our daughters.

The truth is that all of us dads have baggage we’ve never unpacked. Our hearts carry wounds that have scabbed over with time but have never received the proper healing.This baggage is just sitting around waiting for someone to trip over it. If we’re not careful, it’s going to be our daughters.

How Does This Baggage Show Up?

Coming back from my trip, I quickly fell back into my routine. The luggage I’d not had time to deal with got pushed to the side of the hallway and quickly faded into the background. I forgot it was there until my shin cracked into it.

Our emotional baggage is much the same. Regardless of what trauma or pain we’ve experienced in the past, we find a way to make life work.

For some of us, the wounds are so deeply buried, that we don’t think of them—and that seems almost the same as if we had dealt with them. We seem fine.

So, can we know if we’ve got untended baggage before it’s too late? Sure! There are three clear flags. If these are present in your life in an ongoing way, you’ve got unattended baggage.

1) Unexpected Outbursts
I noticed my unattended baggage when my shin sent it careening down the hall, waking up my whole family with an unexpected crash. That’s often how our emotional baggage surfaces too. Unexpected, loud and painful.

A common example of this is a dad’s Zero-to-Rage speed. Scripture counsels us to be slow to anger, and yet many speed past that instruction. You can call it a short fuse. 

You can blame it on your daughter’s disrespect or poor listening. But nobody is responsible for your burst of anger except you. If unexpected anger bursts in on us, boiling over in angry words, name-calling, blaming language or worse, that’s a flag that we have baggage that needs to be unpacked.

2) Outsized Responses
When my baggage crashed across the floor, and the dog started barking, the whole ordeal was far noisier than it needed to be. Similarly, emotional baggage often surfaces with a much bigger “crash” than seems reasonable.

If your daughter does something irritating or forgets some small responsibility, how do you react? Think about the tone of voice you use, the type of language you employ, the level of consequence you apply.

If what she did, objectively, weighs in at about a 4 or 5 in terms of seriousness, but the intensity of your response to her is more like a 9 or 10, that’s an outsized response. Maybe you pride yourself on being a strict parent, or “not taking any garbage.”

Well, consider the possibility that your intensity has nothing to do with your daughter, or with wanting to “run a tight ship.” It’s possible that you are inflicting emotional intensity on your daughter that doesn’t belong to her. Regular outsized responses are a flag that you have baggage that needs to be unpacked.

3) Hidden Hazards
In the dark that morning, I couldn’t see my luggage in the pathway. Because I couldn’t see it, I couldn’t avoid running into it. 

Emotional baggage is often invisible in the same way. Sometimes it’s invisible to you. Often, it’s invisible to your daughter.

She’s just going her life, being a kid. She doesn’t understand one particular thing might rub you the wrong way. She probably doesn’t get why you have so much energy around a particular behavior. In her mind “it’s not a big deal.” In your mind, it’s suddenly everything.

If interacting with you is a “minefield,” full of hidden hazards, that’s a flag that you have unattended baggage that needs to be unpacked.

Don’t Give Your Daughter Your Baggage!

The whole incident with the luggage in the hallway could have easily been avoided. All that was needed was for me to take responsibility. Instead of leaving my bag unattended and packed in the hallway, I could have taken the time to unpack it and put it away.

When we don’t take responsibility for our emotional baggage, it often becomes someone else’s problem. Our denial ends up hurting people we love. Then, our baggage becomes their baggage.
 
As dads, one of our chief responsibilities is to set up our children for the best possible chance of a healthy life. Passing our unpacked baggage on to them is a violation of this commitment.

If you find your relationship with your daughter marked by unexpected outbursts, outsized responses, and hidden hazards, it’s time to take responsibility.

Maybe that means investing time in learning how to listen to and process your emotions. 
(I wrote a book about that called The Wisdom of Your Heart: Discovering the God-given Power and Purpose of your Emotions.) 

Maybe it means getting coaching from a professional, like a therapist or a pastor with skills in this area. It’s not weakness to get support in this area; it is you giving your best attention to being the best dad you can be—and that’s part of your commitment to set your daughter up for the best possible life experience.

Don’t leave your baggage out where she can trip over it.

Instead, give her a healthy example of courage and personal responsibility by unpacking your own baggage before it becomes someone else's problem.

Dads and Princess Longings

Michelle Watson

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“I wish I could be a princess,” my 9-year-old niece Amy said longingly as we walked out of the theater after seeing Princess Diaries starring Anne Hathaway back in 2001.
 
I’ll never forget the faraway look in Amy’s eyes as she expressed her secret wish to be in the same place as Mia Thermopolis, whose fairy tale came true after being plucked from obscurity upon discovering that she was the heir apparent to the crown of Genovia, a small fictional kingdom in Europe. 
 
My theory as to why this movie struck box office gold, yielding $165.3 million, was that it captured the heart longings of many girls (young and old) as their fantasies were captured on the big screen. 
 
As my niece Amy twirled around in the foyer that day, still in her post-movie daze, I tried to tell her about something beyond the fairy tale, about the way that we can be women who use our platforms to influence the world for good, whether or not we’re a tiara-donning princess. I’m not so sure that she fully grasped my lesson in her pre-adolescent stage of development, but I did my best to make the most of a teachable moment!
 
This weekend the entire world will be transfixed on seeing a real life princess story unfold as Meghan Markle marries Prince Harry in London, England. 
 
Now you as a dad may think this whole thing is a bit silly and sensationalized, but I assure you that your daughter (and perhaps other women you know) may have a different opinion. In fact, I just read an article describing the royal wedding as “one of the most anticipated events of the year” with a play-by-play timeline of the entire day, starting with guests arriving at 9 a.m. GMT/4 a.m. EST up until the bride arrives at 11:59 a.m. GMT/6:59 a.m. EST, with only one minute to spare when the wedding is slated to begin promptly at 12 p.m. GMT/7 a.m. EST. Whew…that’s precision, wouldn’t you say?!
 
I have to ask myself what it is about this type of romantic story that captivates women around the world.
 
In my research with teen and 20-something girls, I asked them whether they ever longed to be a princess. I was told repeatedly that there is something in the heart of a girl where she longs to be chosen above all the rest. 
 
Essentially, she yearns to know that she is uniquely special, that she stands out from other girls in a way that sets her apart. She doesn’t want to blend in with the crowd; she wants to be cherished and loved just for being herself, even when less than perfect. 
 
Then I asked these girls an even more important question: How can your dad make you feel more like royalty, like a princess?

I believe you’ll find their responses informative as you glean from their input and apply it to your own relationship with your daughter:

·      “I would love to hear my dad say how he really feels about me and express his enjoyment in being around me.”

·      “I wish he would spend more time with me.”

·      “Maybe reach out to see how I’m doing more consistently instead of the other way around.”

·      Encourage my dreams without telling me they’re impractical or too unrealistic.”

·      “My dad already treats me that way…I’m his little girl, always.”

·     “He could just out of nowhere--and for no reason other than to make me feel those things--just send a little letter or note or message saying that he loves methinks I am special, accepts me, and enjoys who I am. Just to hear his honesty about what he thinks about me and when he thinks about me makes me feel all of those things.”

·      “I think one of the biggest things is when he helps me to see my strength, my beauty, my talent, my uniqueness, and when he shows me that I am a woman to be cherished and pursuedby doing just that.” 

·      “Anything my dad does to just let me know he is thinking about me or wants to spend time with me means a lot and makes me feel honored, like a princess.”
 

So Dad, why not use the royal wedding this weekend as a conversation starter to delve into those distinctive places tucked deep inside your daughter. If you ask, I imagine she’ll share her thoughts.

Here are some questions to get the dialogue started as you pursue her intentionally and celebrate her longings with her:
 
1. As a little girl (or even now) were you drawn to movies about princesses? Who were your favorite characters and why?

2. Now that you’re older, do you ever think about being a princess anymore? If you did bring “the princess” back into your life, what would that look like for you?

3. Can you think of any ways that I could make you feel more like a princess? 
 
4. If I was to fill up your love tank by making you feel more loved and special and accepted and enjoyed, what could I do specifically to make you feel those things now in your life? 
 
Have fun making this weekend one where your daughter feels like a princess because it’s always a good time to bring the princess back!

My Birthday Wish

Michelle Watson

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Today is my birthday and I’m 58 years old.
 
Wow…saying that out loud really does serve as a reality check! But honestly, I’m not one of those women who keeps her age a secret (obviously). I know it’s just a number, right?

Today I’m inviting you to join me in my celebration as I make a wish while simultaneously blowing out a massive number of candles on THE best homemade carrot cake ever made! (Seriously…my mom’s cake could win awards).

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So here’s my birthday wish: That every dad reading this blog will immediately touch base with his daughter, which will be like blowing her a kiss by speaking words of love, life, and blessing to her.
 
That, my friend, is what we on Venus call a “heart turn.”
 
I want every heart of every dad to turn toward his daughter in a renewed way…today.

Now if you happen to be a dad who has a burned out bridge with your daughter, then my birthday wish for you is that you will do whatever it takes to rebuild or repair that bridge. Humble yourself, listen to how you’ve hurt her, ask for forgiveness, make amends, and then do something fun (a.k.a. reparative and restorative) together. 

Gary is one of my new heroes, proving that it's NEVER TOO LATE to do the right thing. He gave me permission to share his words with you:
 

"As I was listening to some of your podcasts today I was crying because I have been such a BAD dad through the last 30 years. I have been on a journey of trying to heal my own wounds. It’s a long story but today my daughter and I are leaving for a Father/Daughter trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. All because your podcasts gave me the idea!!!! I’m 62 and she will be 30 this year.

 

 
I tried to get your book today so we could have it for a the trip but the local Barnes and Noble book store does not have it in stock, so I’ll have to order one when we get back home... 
 
Thank you for sharing your lovely heart and allowing me to gain wisdom through your heart!'"
 

Yes, this is what my heart truly longs for today and this is exactly what a father’s turned heart looks like: love backed with action. 
 
Dads, this is the best birthday present I could ever ask for!

Your Words Wear Me Out!

Michelle Watson

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Dad, have you ever thought---or said---these five words to your daughter? If so, you’re not alone!

Truth be told, I’ve had more dads than I can count tell me they often are glassy-eyed as their daughters (especially adolescent girls) talk so fast and furious that it’s like they’re standing there looking into a vast abyss of words. They admit to me that this is when their minds suddenly go blank and they can’t even think of what to say next because they’ve taken a detour from the main conversation a few exits back!

Case in point: Just this week a dad told me that he literally had no idea what his teenage daughter was even talking about as he sat there and tried to keep up. My heart went out to him as I validated that his experience was normal. I then encouraged him not to walk away, ignore her, or shut her out because in doing so he shuts her down. Girls take those non-verbal cues and not only interpret them as rejection, but assume that something is inherently wrong with who they are because they couldn’t keep dad interested in what they were saying.

With that backdrop, I think you’ll enjoy hearing the backstory to the title of this blog.

I’ll never forget the Monday night when my dad and I were having dinner at Costco (yes, we enjoy fine dining in the Watson family!). As he took a bite of his pepperoni pizza, out of my dad’s mouth popped this unexpected revelation:

“To be honest, Michelle, a lot of the time your words wear me out.
 I just can’t listen to you as much as you want me to because of
 there being so many words. Half the time you lose me.”

I’m not gonna lie. I was shocked. I didn’t even know what to say at first because my dad had never told me anything about this before and it kind of smacked me upside the head. 

But, on the other hand, I was thankful that he was being honest with me. I love real conversations that sit in the center of authentic relationships, even when they’re challenging and hard.

So my dad and I kept talking about it, on and off, throughout that night. 

I remember telling him that I realize I do talk a lot, but that I never ever intend to overwhelm or overpower him. I told him that as an extrovert, words just seem to flow easily and freely.We even reminisced about a similar message being written on almost all of my report cards back in elementary school, “Michelle talks too much.”

(Who would have ever thought that my “talking gift” would eventually become an open door to host my own radio program?! Perhaps my story can serve as an encouragement to you if your daughter drives you bonkers at times with all her words!)

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So what do you do if, like my dad, you have a daughter who has the “gift of gab” where her words really do exhaust you? 

Here are a few pointers that might help you to go the distance with your verbose daughter:

1.    Hold on to the words of my friend, Joe Kelly (a.k.a. The Dad Man), who says that “a girl’s voice may be the most valuable and most threatened resource she has,” which means that as you respect and honor her voice, you teach her that what she has to say has merit (even as she’s figuring out what it is she has to say!).
 

2.    Remember that we as girls tend to figure things out by talking; so you are giving her a profound gift just by actively listening as she hears herself process everythingout loud.
 

3.    Rest assured that your idea of what it means to have too many words and her idea of too many words are two different things. And as the adult it’s your job to pace with her---not the other way around.
 

4.    Make sure that your own inner dialogue centers around gratitude that she’s actually talking with youbecause it sets a solid foundation for her to be open and transparent with you for years to come (and the rest of her life, actually)
 

5.    Don’t shame her or try to change her by criticizing her “mastery of language.”(how’s that for a nice reframe?!)

6.    Remind yourself that God creates---and loves---both introverts and extroverts(where one isn’t better than the other) and He’s wired her this way for a purpose.
 

7.    Turn your exhaustion and/or frustration into a prayer for her future, asking God to give her opportunities to use her giftedness with words to speak life and love into those around her.
 

8.    Find creative ways to support her love for languageby encouraging her to:
 

·     try joining the debate class at school

·     job shadow someone at a local television or radio station where she will get a front row seat to seeing life as an anchor, reporter, or host (which will inspire her to look toward her future and set goals)

·     write something for the local newspaper or a national organization

·     submit an article for an online magazine or digital forum 

·     start blogging her own thoughts, passions, observations, questions, and convictions as she finds her unique voice

·     begin taking steps to pursue writing a book on a topic that speaks to her heart

·     volunteer at a nursing home where older folks who are lonely would cherish time with a talkative young girl while giving her their full attention as they enjoy her company
 

9.    In the meantime---before she gets from where she is now to where she will be---be willing to do your own work to grow by challenging yourself to track with her wordsas you ask questions to draw her out so she knows that the things that matter to her matter to you. (I realize this seems counterintuitive to ask her to talk more, but trust me…it will bear great dividends in her life as you do this!)

Dad, decide right now to give the gift of validation by celebrating every word that comes out of your talkative daughter’s mouthwhile reminding yourself that your listening ear communicates loudly and directly to her that she is worthy. 

How about letting her know today---by staying for the entire conversation and actively listening ---that her words don’t wear you out (and even if they do, that can be our little secret). Then cherish the fact that your daughter has a voice and is learning to use it wisely as she practices expressing it. 

Summing up: Empowered womenhave a voiceEmpowered women use their voice.

Andwhenempowered women use their voices while simultaneously having dads who celebrate them, they receive a double blessing. 

So Dad, put your love into action today by celebrating the words coming out of your daughter’s mouth as you let her know you are listening.  


 

 

From Parenting to Partnering: How to Be A Father to Your Adult Daughter (Guest Blog by Hannah Ellenwood)

Michelle Watson

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I am excited at the opportunity to share about my experience of navigating adulthood with my dad. More specifically, I’ll be opening up about how he’s helped me so that any dads in that same season with your own daughters can hear it straight from me---a 26-year old daughter, who has learned (and am still learning) to live as a healthy, independent woman.
 
The transition from 'teen' to 'adult' was a thrilling and scary time beyond what I had ever anticipated. And the reality is that we daughters NEED you---our dads---in that transition more than ever.
 
I’ll never forget the day I packed up and moved across the ocean for college. Because I grew up as a missionary kid in the Czech Republic, my parents had taken me to the airport to see me off, but they couldn’t come with me. I was thrilled and absolutely terrified at the same time. My mom was in tears while my dad just laughed, smiled and said: “I honestly couldn’t be more excited for you to go!” 
 
I remember feeling a little offended at first – I wanted him to be sad I was leaving. But then he continued:

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"I’ve spent the past 19 years investing in you and praying for the woman you would become and now I get to watch you live out who you are. I have full confidence in you and full confidence in God, who is in you. And I am SO PROUD to be your dad."

He wasn’t celebrating the fact that he was getting rid of me. He was celebrating meand this new season that he was releasing me into---independence as an adult woman. And though he was sending me off, I always knew he would be available to me when I needed a place to land.

And this is why I want to give you some practical pointers today.

Let’s be real. As exciting as it is to release your daughter into becoming an independent woman, it’s also a bit awkward and can feel clunky to navigate. The reality is, though, that she still needs you and this may be the first time in her life that she realizes just how much.

It’s key for you to partner with her as she navigates this new world of adulthood.
 
Here are some of the significant ways my dad has done that with me over the past seven years. I hope they spur you on to think of practical ideas for how you can partner with your daughter in this season of her life:
 
1. Pursue her– I know it can be tricky to figure out the balance of being involved as a dad with not being too involved. I’ve talked to several friends whose dads have seemed to just go silent once they left the house. They all say they wish he would reach out more and pursue them with more intentionality. I love when my dad connects with me on FaceTime for no other reason than to catch up. It makes me feel so valued – and it tells me he enjoys our conversations and sharing life with me. He’ll ask me about my week and catch me up on his. It speaks volumes to me that on his drive to or from the office, or while he’s relaxing at home, he’ll pick up the phone and call. I love that he thinks of me!

2. Learn the stranger– Just because she’s out of your house doesn’t mean you should stop learning your daughter and the person she’s becoming. I can tell you one thing for sure – nothing about our twenties is clear. We are more confused about who we are now than we’ve ever been. I’ve changed directions for what seems like a hundred times. I’ve come face-to-face with my ugly sin. I’ve found new things that make me come alive. I’ve discovered more of who I was created to be, but I’ve struggled with it just as much. So, dads, keep leaning in and learning the stranger-- and by that I mean ask good questions. Listen with compassion. Give her space to change and grow, but be a student of her as she does. I have really appreciated the questions my dad asks me as I figure life out. They are asked in the context of who I am and who I’ve been, and they help me thoughtfully consider who I am becoming. And I know that he’s learning right along with me.

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3. Know your daughter– As you learn who she is, show her that you know her and relate to her from the things you’ve learned. It is so easy to continue relating to your daughter as the little girl you raised. And while she still is your little girl, she’s also becoming a woman, influenced by her new community, her work, and the city she lives in. She’s her own woman. It goes a long way when you allow her to be the woman she is becoming; when you’ve taken the time to learn who she is today and choose to relate to her from that point.  She may start caring about social issues she didn’t used to care about or get involved in activities that she's just now discovering she likes. She may approach relationships differently and need you to help her navigate all the change.

4. Celebrate who she is– As she is changing and becoming the woman she was created to be, find ways to celebrate what you’ve learned about her. Send her a text telling her what you are proud of. Take her out to dinner when she accomplishes a goal. I remember one day my dad sent me a text out of the blue telling me something he had observed in me over the past couple of months and simply said he was so proud to be my dad. He doesn’t do it all the time, but when he does, it has the power to transform my whole week. I see myself differently when I get to see myself through his eyes. 

5. Be there to catch her and hold her when she fails– She will make mistakes. I’ve made so many. In fact, just a few weeks ago I realized I owed three times more than what I thought I would with taxes. It was my first time filing under self-employment – I didn’t know what I was doing. The news shook me. I immediately texted my dad because I needed him to "save the day". He was boarding a five-hour flight. But he knew that I had the potential to worry myself into a pit that would be hard to get out of, so he bought wifi on the plane just so he could keep talking things through with me and speaking truth to me. That small act of love made me feel deeply loved and cared for because I know he never gets wifi on the plane. It truly meant the world to me. Your daughter will probably make mistakes like this too. And she will need you to be there to catch her, love her, encourage her while speaking truth to her when she feels lost, lonely and confused. You have incredible power to remind her what is true and who she is. 

Dads, we - your adult daughters - still need you. 
We make mistakes and have a lot we're trying to figure out and it can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. We are going to trip and fall on our faces, and we need you to be there to love us when we do. 
 
And it’s okay if it feels clunky trying to figure this out. It feels clunky to us too. But the fact that you’re pursuing us with intentionality says everything.
 
And the rhythms you set for engaging us now set the tone for our relationship as adults - and now is the best time to start practicing. 

"I Want More of My Dad"

Michelle Watson

I’m at the age where attending funerals is becoming more commonplace. And truly, there’s nothing like an end of life celebration to bring everything into perspective.

Awhile back I attended a funeral for a dear friend’s husband. There was hardly a dry eye in the place as one of their sons shared story after story about what his dad had meant to him.

While choking back tears, he invited us all to dig a bit deeper as he said, “I think everyone in here could say, ‘I want more of my dad.’”

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Dads, Don't "Should" On Your Daughter

Michelle Watson

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By now, Dads, you know that I love giving you “insider trade secrets” so that you are more equipped to decode your daughters. Today I’m adding another tool to your fathering tool belt to support that goal.

I don’t know what it is about the word “should” that makes it a power word on my planet of Venus, but I’m telling you that I literally hear this word all the time!

Here are some examples of things I’ve heard from women just this week (for real!):

  • I should love this time of year, but I just don’t.
  • I probably should have dealt better with that situation and not let her get to me.  
  • I don’t know what’s wrong with me…I should be grateful for all the good things happening in my life, but I’m just so depressed.
  • All of my friends are doing things right---like saving money, moving towards marriage, buying a house, getting pregnant, and on it goes. When I see all that’s going right for them, it makes me think of what I’m not doing and all the things I should have been doing long before now. I’m way behind where I want to be and won’t ever catch up.
  • I know I should care about the people in my life, but I hate all the drama and I’m sick of caring this much because it takes me down.
  • I guess you get stuck on a path in life of where you think you should be.
  • When I get around my friends, I constantly compare myself to them and think that I should be more like them. But the truth is that I feel like a fraud. I don’t fit in because they’re all prettier, richer, and more accomplished than me.
  • I should be getting up earlier and spending more time with God, but I never get that right either.
  • I am so stressed right now and feel so much pressure constantly to make everyone happy----at work, at home, with my friends, etc, and it seems that someone is always disappointed in me or mad at me. I know I should be doing more, but I can barely keep my head above water as it Is and hardly have any time for myself.

Dads, let me ask you a question: Does your heart break like mine as you hear these collective voices of self-condemnation that are doused with a thick dose of unrealistic expectations, smothered by the constant pressure to measure up?

For me, as I worked my way down this list, I noticed a mounting heaviness, even some sadness, as each self-deprecating sentence unfolded. Every one of these women feels like she’s not doing enough or being enough while seeing herself as falling short when she compares herself to those around her. It all amounts to: SHE’s not enough.

In fact, it’s this comparison game that is destroying her self confidence, her happiness, her inner peace, her joy, her optimism, her perspective, her energy…and on it goes.

I’m guessing you’ve heard similar messages from your daughters.

Let me share with you how I typically respond to these kinds of statements when I am sitting in my counseling office or meeting with women I mentor. Here’s what I say time and again:

“Don’t ‘should’ on yourself.”

 As you can imagine, initially there’s an awkward laugh…and that’s part of my strategy for lightening the atmosphere in the room, even if just for a minute. When a woman starts down the dreaded “should” path, my desire is to guide her to see what it’s doing to her. And I’ve discovered that most women don’t even know they’ve said these words until I’ve pointed them out! 

Now here’s the best part: I notice that a positive shift begins to happen when a woman clearly sees the amount of undue pressure she’s putting on herself.

There’s an even greater shift when she admits that she’s caught in a destructive cycle where she can never succeed, never relax, never enjoy life, and never get out from under the tyranny of her own self-degrading messages. Then I love seeing her breathe a sigh of relief as the truth starts setting her free.

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Now that you’re more informed about the mental struggles that tend to barrage us as Venusians, I want to point out that even though you as her dad don’t intend to add more pressure when addressing things that need changing---whether it’s that she didn’t respond right or do what she was supposed to do or didn’t answer right away you when you asked her a question…or…fill in the blank---the reality is that your daughter is often weighed down by your “should” messages.

 

What she hears is that she’s a failure and a disappointment to you. And since she already believes that about herself much of the time anyway, it’s oftentimes more than she can bear.

And yes, her attitudes and behaviors are things that need correcting and shaping at various times and in certain situations…BUT REMEMBER:

  1. It’s all about timing. Wait until you…and she…are in a good emotional space where you are able to convey your message well, which increases the chances that it will be received positively by her. Otherwise, it’s a recipe for disaster.
  2. It’s all about noticing. Before speaking, take the time to listen and find out if there’s something deeper going on that may be causing her to be sour or unpleasant. If she’s already had a bad day, decide that now isn’t the time to “should” on her. Come back and talk to her later if you want to reach her heart. And you’ll see that it’s always a win when you speak to her heart – the deeper part – before speaking to her behavior or attitude.
  3. It’s all about validating. Make it your goal to hear her side of the story while seeking to understand why things went down the way they did. Wait to give feedback until she’s open, and with this slight course correction in WHEN you respond, HOW you respond, and WHAT you say when you respond, you will increase the likelihood of a successful interaction.

If you’re a dad who doesn’t want to “should” on your daughter anymore, decide today to delete the word “should” from your vocabulary, and instead, find other words to make statements, ask questions, or nudge her to action.

And just in case you’d like to have an alternative script in hand for the next time a situation like this presents itself, here’s a way you might try saying it to her:

“It seems like you have a lot weighing on you right now. I know when I’m stressed and feeling pressured to do everything right, I get overwhelmed too…maybe in different ways than you, but stress still impacts me somewhat the same.

 I’d love to better understand what you’re feeling and thinking, so if you’d like me to listen or help, I’m here.”

Why not try it out and let me know how it goes. Better said, I really think you should try this and then let me know how it works!