There are some funny posts going around about the various rules Dads have for dating their daughters. They include impossible standards and thinly veiled threats of great bodily harm (See: Shotgun). Talking with other Dads with daughters, we agree that they are pretty funny – and mostly true.
So, when our daughters have grown beyond the cute toddler years and the sweet Daddy-daughter dances, and boys begin to show interest – what do we do?
Here are a couple thoughts based on a popular t-shirt that I have seen more than a few times:
1. Get A Job: Are you responsible? Do you have a game plan for your life? I have invested a lot in my daughter and she has significant potential. Are you worthy of her?
2. I Don’t Like You: But I don’t know you. Maybe I will like you. The point is that if you are going to date my daughter, I want to get to know you and some acknowledgement from you that I am her Dad, and that matters to you, will help us get along much better.
3. I’m Everywhere: Ok, this isn’t true, but believe it anyway. I don’t have a “special set of skills” like Liam Neeson’s character in “Taken” but, as a Dad, I do have a knack for finding things out. I am pretty good at understanding when you aren’t being honest with me. So, how about we set up our relationship on honest, mutual respect just like I want you to do with my daughter?
4. You Hurt Her, I Hurt You: Um… this one is pretty much true but don’t be motivated by that. Be the kind of guy who treats people with respect and who has enough self-respect to do what is right…or else.
5. Be Home 30 Minutes Early: Mixed feelings about this one. If you all are having a good time doing wholesome things with a group of friends, just communicate with me. I am actually flexible and understanding. On the other hand, not much constructive happens after a certain time of night, and when it’s just the two of you. Be smart.
6. Get A Lawyer: I am going to ask questions and listen carefully to your answers. It may feel like you are being cross-examined. It may feel like I am nosy. Get used to it. This is one of the ways that I communicate my level of concern for my daughter and who she spends time with. If you keep telling the truth, there is nothing to worry about. If not, see #4.
7. If You Lie To Me, I Will Find Out: Sort of like #3. I have experience with people and can often tell when they are lying. But, again, don’t be motivated by avoiding being caught. Be motivated by trying to be a young man of integrity who treats others with respect. Be the kind of person who doesn’t lie. Actually, this will make you very attractive to my daughter because she has the same values. And having the same values is pretty attractive (easy there, tiger).
8. She’s My Princess, Not Your Conquest: Don’t even think about it. I am so confident in my daughters on this one, you won’t get close. If you see girls as a conquest, or an object to satisfy your desires, get help. Seriously. That kind of thinking can ruin your future.
9. I Don’t Mind Going Back To Jail: “No body, no crime.” OK, this is a silly one. But seriously, Dads actually talk to each other about what we would do if someone really hurt our daughters. I can’t recall having many conversations where Dads put a limit on that. OK, I talk a good game, but I am not a violent person. I will comfort my daughter if you hurt her, and help her learn from it but…
10. …Help Me, Help You: I changed this last one from the t-shirt because while it is true that if you do hurt her I will help her see the trends in your character that she should avoid in the next person she dates, (And I will make sure the other Dads of all other daughters in your social circle know about it), I would much rather celebrate your successes and learning than growl and rattle my saber. Show me some integrity and I’ll endorse you to my daughter.
These all apply to stepdaughters just as much as daughters. I believe it is all good if “the boy” knows there is not just one, but two men out there who care deeply and are invested in this wonderful daughter. We will pursue that to great lengths through proactive, caring conversation and diligence. And, if necessary, we can be reactive too.
Dads, Teach Your Daughter: Does your daughter feel good enough about herself to have high standards for the guys she hangs out with and dates? Does she have enough ego strength to communicate that she will not tolerate disrespect? How we have taught and treated our daughters will speak more strongly and have a greater impact on the nature of her dating relationships – really all of her relationships - than the t-shirts we wear, the guns we polish, or any other “tough guy” tactics we employ?
Be that good Dad that you want to be – starting today!
In addition to being a Dad to five pretty awesome young women (and husband to Tamara), Tom Emigh is the Principal at Acorn Leadership, a consulting firm that exists to build desire and capacity to lead. In addition to organizational/business consulting, Acorn provides Blended Family coaching, and ADD/ADHD coaching.
Tom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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