Your Daughter Needs a Hero


Your daughter wants you to be an authority figure, but as she matures she will likely test you to see if you’re serious.

"What are you going to be when you grow up?"

You probably started hearing that when you were eight years old. Chances are, your first thoughts were about Superman, or you wanted to be a cowboy, a fireman, a knight, or a football star. What you really wanted to be was a hero.

Well, I have news for you. Your daughter wants a hero—and she has chosen you.

Think about heroes: they protect people, they persevere, they exhibit altruistic love, they are faithful to their inner convictions, and they understand right from wrong and act on it. No fireman counts the odds when he runs through sheets of flame and showers of concrete to save just one terrified person.

Heroes are humble, but to those they rescue, they are bigger than life.

So how do you become a hero to your daughter? First, you should know that she can’t survive without one. She needs a hero to navigate her through a treacherous popular culture. And you should know that being a twenty-first-century hero is tough stuff. It requires emotional fortitude, mental self-control, and physical restraint. It means walking into embarrassing, uncomfortable, or even life-threatening situations in order to rescue your daughter.

You might need to show up at a party where your daughter’s friends—and maybe your daughter—have been drinking, and take her home. You might need to talk to her about the clothes she wears and the music she likes. And yes, you might even need to get in the car at one in the morning, go to her boyfriend’s house, and insist that she come home.

Here’s what your daughter needs from you. Leadership

When your daughter is born, she recognizes your voice as deeper than her mother’s. As a toddler, she looks up at your enormous frame and realizes that you are big, smart, and tough. In her grade school years, she instinctively turns to you for direction.

Whatever outward impression she gives, her life is centered on discovering what you like in her, and what you want from her. She knows you are smarter than she is. She gives you authority because she needs you to love and adore her. She can’t feel good about herself until she knows that you feel good about her. So you need to use your authority carefully and wisely. Your daughter doesn’t want to see you as an equal. She wants you to be her hero, someone who is wiser and steadier and stronger than she is.

The only way you will alienate your daughter in the long term is by losing her respect, failing to lead, or failing to protect her. If you don't provide for her needs, she will find someone else who will—and that’s when trouble starts. Don’t let that happen.

Nowadays, the idea of assuming authority makes many men uneasy. It smacks of political incorrectness. Pop psychologists and educators have told us that authority is suffocating, obtrusive, and will crush a child’s spirit. Fathers worry that if they push their kids or establish too many rules, they’ll just rebel. But the greatest danger comes from fathers who surrender leadership, particularly during their children’s teen years. Authority is not a threat to your relationship with your daughter—it is what will bring you closer to your daughter, and what will make her respect you more.

In fact, girls who end up in counselors’ offices, detention centers, or halfway homes are not girls who had authoritative fathers. Quite the opposite. Troubled young women spend most of their time in counseling describing the hurt they felt from fathers who abandoned them, retreated from their lives, or ignored them. They describe fathers who failed—or were afraid—to establish rules. They describe fathers who focused on their own emotional struggles rather than those of their daughters. They describe fathers who wanted to avoid any conflict, and so shied away from engaging their daughters in conversation, or challenging them when they made bad decisions.

Your natural instinct is to protect your daughter. Forget what pop culture and pop psychologists tell you. Do it.

And be ready. Your daughter wants you to be an authority figure, but as she matures, she will likely test you to see if you’re serious. Dads, as a rule, know adolescent boys will eventually start to challenge them. The one-on-one basketball games will get more competitive, and the son will start to buck dad’s authority.

Let me tell you a secret: many daughters challenge their fathers too. They’ll dive into a power struggle with you, not to see how tough you are, but to see how much you really care about them. So remember that when she pushes hard against your rules, flailing, crying that you are mean or unfair, she is really asking you a question: Am I worth the fight, Dad? Are you strong enough to handle me? Make sure she knows the answer is yes.


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