It’s hard on our fatherly pride when we don’t instinctively know what our adolescent daughters are trying to tell us or when we feel disrespected by how they communicate. When my daughters were teenagers, we had emotionally charged conversations that sometimes resulted in one of them angrily and emotionally (or actually) slamming a door on me. Sometimes, my feelings got hurt and my reaction was, “OK, if you’re gonna be like that, I’ll blow you off, too!”
Fortunately, my wife (a former teen girl herself — and thus a valuable source of information) assured me that such eruptions are normal for teenage girls as they try to discover and hang on to who they are. My growing girls needed to have me hear them out–and they also needed to find safe ways to push away from me. My job was not to drown in my wounded pride and say, “I’ll show you; I’m taking my marbles and going home.” Instead, it was to remain outside that “slammed door” so that when my daughters eventually emerged from their adolescent explosions and snits (which they always did), they knew that I was still available, still interested and still loved them. It is tough to stand there waiting and to open yourself back up when your feelings might once again be hurt. After all, if your daughter is a teenager, there are surely more slammed doors in your future. But, take it from dads who have been down this road already: it is worth it.
A tween or teenage daughter needs us to acknowledge and affirm what she feels and goes through. She may think, “If Dad doesn’t hear what I’m feeling, maybe what I’m feeling and what I’m going through is not important.” But her experiences are important. We must show her that we believe this; and never belittle or dismiss her or her world. In other words, we have to trust her. When we trust what our daughter feels, she learns to trust herself now and later in life.
Much of a girl’s strength is in her voice. By listening to her, you are being true to her voice. That will help her get through the difficulties of her own life and give her courage. When you provide your ears and your presence, you amplify your daughter’s voice and strengthen her belief in herself. It can be painful to listen when she is feeling sad or angry. But you have to have the courage to listen, and the courage to not prevent, deny or abruptly try to end her painful experiences.
Joe Kelly is a father, author, blogger, activist, and primary media source on fathering. He has written several books including the best-seller Dads and Daughters.