I often hear fathers tell me that their daughters are complicated and complex, confusing and unpredictable. And you may not believe me, but I’ve discovered that we girls are not as hard to understand as we may seem! Keep reading and I’ll explain.
My decoding strategy for you, dad, is coming straight to you from the One Man who always got it right when it came to relationships, especially with women. Of course you know who I’m talking about: Jesus. I figure there’s no one better to learn from than the best!
Here are five “easy” steps to relating positively to your daughter, especially during those times when things are emotionally intense.
(And if you want a one-step plan, I would say to be gentle, soft, and calm. And yes, those ARE manly words, I assure you, because only a strong man can accomplish this!).
Here goes: There were two sisters, Martha and Mary, and as you know, they were close, personal friends of Jesus. He knew them and they knew him.
Let’s pick up the story (from Luke 10:38-42) where Martha is overly reactive, super stressed, and basically freaking out.
If you can relate to experiencing any of those realities in your home, listen to what Jesus (with his male energy) did to enter the fray with his frazzled female friend Martha.
1. He lets her vent to Him while He listens to all of what she has to say. Even when she dramatically tells Jesus that he “doesn’t care” (false assumptions always take place during meltdowns), she continues by crying about having to do everything by herself. And if that wasn’t enough, she then barks at Jesus and demands that he tell her sister to help her. Surprisingly, he doesn’t lecture her but listens and he essentially absorbs her intensity by being her sounding board.
2. He says her name twice….gently and lovingly.
There’s something calming when any of us hear our name (when it’s said kindly, that is). And for us girls, it’s grounding for us to be spoken to by name. If you speak your daughter’s name with love in your tone in a gentle way while she’s hitting her max, she will come towards you—-maybe not right away, but it is a powerful, healing strategy that works.
3. He sits with her in her emotional reality.
Notice that he doesn’t try to talk her out of what she’s feeling. He doesn’t try to get her to think rationally. No lecture. No criticism. No judgment. Jesus knows that she couldn’t hear him anyway while being so worked up. So he simply stays with her, looks at her, validates her, and puts words to what she’s feeling, noting that she’s “worried” and “upset.” He tenderly names her emotions.
4. He highlights all that is on her life plate.
As girls we are wired to multi-task. That’s why we can text, paint our nails, watch a television show, listen to music, and do homework…all at the same time! Yet all of a sudden we reach our limit and then comes the explosion, often without warning (even to ourselves). Again, this is where we need gentle grace not power positions. Jesus just told Martha that he knew she had “many things” going on that were contributing to her melt down. How kind of him to notice. If you validate all that is pressing in on your daughter, your words will go far toward making her feel heard and understood.
5. He redirects her to focus from many things to one thing.
Jesus tells her that “only one thing is needed.” The implication is that it’s about focusing on Him as the one thing rather than all the needs around her. When we girls get overwhelmed with “the much,” we need gentle, supportive guidance to breathe and take it one thing at a time. Breaking it down into bite size pieces is immensely helpful when we’re breaking down and falling apart.
Summing up: When your daughter is melting down…
- Move toward her
- Sit alongside her (or as close as she’ll let you get to her in the midst of her storm)
- Listen to her vent
- Lovingly say her name
- Tell her that you understand that she’s “worried and upset”
- Let her know you do see that she has a lot on her plate
- Assist in helping her to focus on one thing when the many things are overwhelming her (if she can’t focus on Jesus, help her narrow her focus to one area where she can gain mastery)
I know it’s easier said than done, but these five things will make all the difference when she is in the eye of the storm and you’re trying to keep her…and yourself…afloat.
After the storm has passed, the main thing your daughter will remember is that you, dad, were there in it with her.
Dr. Michelle Watson has a clinical counseling practice in Portland, Oregon and has served in that role for the past 18 years. She is founder of The Abba Project, a 9-month group forum that is designed to equip dads with daughters ages 13 to 30 to dial in with more intention and consistency, and has recently released her first book entitled, Dad, Here’s What I Really Need from You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter’s Heart. She invites you to visit www.drmichellewatson.com for more information and to sign up for her weekly Dad-Daughter Friday blogs where she provides practical tools so that every dad in America can become the action hero they want to be and their daughters need them to be. You can also follow or send feedback on Facebook at www.facebook.com/drmichellewatson and Twitter @mwatsonphd.