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Portland, OR

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.



Filtering by Tag: Dads

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


Thinking Backward

Michelle Watson

It's "Archive August!" This blog was originally posted on February 6, 2015.

If you’ve ever played sports (which I assume includes all of you in one way or another), you know that every single time you step onto the field or court, you always know where the goal is. Always.

The goal has everything to do with the direction you run, the points you make (or miss), and whether you win or lose.

The energy you expend is always oriented toward the goal because that’s where the points are. That’s what counts.

Without a clear goal, you can’t play the game.

Without a clear goal, you can’t win the game.

With your daughter, it’s the same way.

As you think about “the game you’re playing” (I’m using game as a metaphor to capture the essence of the interpersonal dynamic between the two of you, not as something fake in your relationship), are you clear about the goal you have in your relationship with her?

I can’t think of too many dads I’ve met who are clear about the goal or outcome they are shooting for with their daughter. Maybe a general idea, but not a specific goal.

And for a goal to work, it has to be clear, specific, measurable, and achievable.

Dad, I ask you this: Have you taken the time to honestly and directly state for yourself your goals as a father with your daughter?

Using the sports analogy above, it may help to think of it like this: If your end goal is to launch your daughter at the age of 18 as a healthy, confident, authentic, clear-minded, and vibrant young woman who is ready to take on the world, what are you currently doing to help her get there? Or let’s break it down further, what is your "halftime assessment plan" if she is nine years old and you’re about half way there?

I’m going to add one more layer to this concept of goal setting with your daughter. I call it thinking backward.

This time I recommend that you think about not just the here and now, but also about the future. It can be a new way of looking at the present by imagining the end of your life and thinking backward from then to now. I’m not trying to be morbid. Just stating a reality that we all have to face.

We all leave a legacy. One way or another, we leave an imprint.

So I invite you to ask yourself a tough question, one that will allow you to be brutally honest with yourself while sitting in the reality that you are leaving a legacy for good or bad, whether you want to or not.

What do you want your legacy to look like? For real.

You will literally change the course of history through your active engagement with your daughter at the heart level. She will carry you with her after you leave this earth. Your legacy will live on through her in proportion to your heart investment in her.

Though you won’t be around forever physically, you will be around forever in the deposit you leave in your daughter’s life. A theory in the field of psychology claims that some adults have an internalized parent who lives on inside them. Long after that parent is gone, the adult child may still seek to please the parent who is no longer around to see the performance. So again I ask you: What are you doing now to make sure your daughter hears your encouraging, supportive, loving, grace-filled, validating, inspiring, and motivating voice in her head forever?

Carefully consider the following statement, and then finish the sentence in your own words:

Looking at the response you just wrote, is it a head response or a heart response? I knowyou wrote a heart response. How do I know that? Because every dad I’ve ever invited to finish this sentence has written a heart response.

Here are some of the things I’ve heard dads say they hope their daughters would say about them at the end of their lives:

“There isn’t anything he wouldn’t do or give for me, even at a cost to himself.”

“I never doubted his love for me.”

“I knew he adored me.”

“He loved the Lord with all his heart and soul, and he loved me in the same way.”

Dad, if I could take one more minute of your time I want to encourage you to take what you wrote in the box above and break it down into three action steps. (Remember that action heroes have to take action in order to be a hero.)

For example, if you wrote that you want your daughter to know you love her, write HOW your love will look. Be specific. You might write something like this:

1. I will drive her to school every Friday while stopping at Starbucks on the way so we have a tradition that is ours and ours alone.

2. I will take her on a dad-daughter date once a month as a way to let her know by my actions that she is worth my time, money, and energy.

3. I will write her a letter every year on her birthday to tell her the exact ways I’ve seen her grow in that year while making sure she hears why she is special to me.

Do you see how the concept of love grew legs by the action plan that accompanied it?

I trust that this exercise of thinking backwards will be one that now guides your action steps in the present. I’m cheering you on from here. Go Dad!

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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.” 


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.


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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