The father-daughter relationship isn’t always easy. So often, fathers tell me their daughters are complicated, complex, confusing, and unpredictable. The mysterious nature of a young daughter’s tantrum, a teenage attitude, or an adult’s cold shoulder spooks fathers everywhere into frustration in their relationships.
However, I have discovered that we girls are not as hard to understand as we may seem! My decoding strategy comes straight from the one Man in all of history who always got it right when it came to relationships. You may know who I’m talking about: Jesus. I figure there’s no better example than learning from the best! Here are 5 strategies for relating to your daughter (especially when she’s struggling).
5 Strategies for Relating to Your Daughter (Especially When She’s Struggling)
During His time on earth He met two sisters, Martha and Mary, and they were close, personal friends of Jesus. He knew them and they knew him—for better or worse. Let’s pick up the story (from Luke 10:38-42 if you want to look it up later) 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 did to enter the fray with His frazzled female friend.
Here are the 5 “easy” steps to decoding and relating to your daughter, especially during those times when things are emotionally intense.
1. He lets her vent to Him while He listens to all of it.
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 myself.” 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 but listens and 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. 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 and in a gentle way, she will come toward 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 and talk her out of what she’s feeling or try to get her to think rationally. No lecture. No criticism. Jesus knows that she couldn’t hear it 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, calling it “worry” and “upset.” He tenderly names her emotions. No judgment.
4. He highlights all that is on her life plate.
As girls we are wired to multi-task. That’s why we can talk on the phone, paint our nails, watch a show, and do homework…all at the same time! Yet all of a sudden, we reach the end of our rope and implode. Again, this is where we need gentle grace not power positions. Jesus just told Martha that He knew she had “many things” going on, leading 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 long and far to make her feel heard and understood.
5. He directs her to focus on 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 take it one thing at a time. Breaking it down into bite size pieces is immensely helpful when we’re breaking down.
Summing up: When your daughter is melting down, sit alongside her and listen to her vent. Move toward her, and lovingly say her name. Tell her that you understand that she is “worried and upset.” Let her know you do see that she has a lot on her plate, and assist in helping her to focus on one issue.
I know it’s easier said than done, but these 5 things will make all the difference in the eye of the storm when you are there trying to keep up with her complexity. And after the storm has passed, the main thing your daughter will remember is that you dad were there with her.
This post originally appeared over at Dr. Michelle Watson-Canfield’s Blog.