What do I tell my daughter?
I came in on my 14-year-old daughter the other day as she was applying mascara before heading out to see her friends. She is just a baby! I thought. Why does she need to look like a woman? Wait, is she a woman? When did that happen!!!??? My immediate next thought was that some boy would take advantage of her because she is so beautiful and wonderful and nice (oyabaka). I started looking up how a father should explain to his daughter about boys, about protecting herself.
"How to talk about boys with your daughter" resulted in 543,000,000,000 results. Contrary to my expectations, many of the articles were focused more on how I, as a father, should not exaggerate the dangers. Much of the advise was to have an open conversation about how some boys are nice, others are not. I am sharing the ones I found most useful below. Click on the title to follow the links to the original articles.
The important takeaways from this article for me were about helping my daughter to understand the importance of setting boundaries, how to have real conversations with guys, encouraging her strengths, and perseverance.
This article took the approach of pointing out what we should not do. Saying that the common approach is to scare our daughters with the message that guys are immature, dangerous, and only want one thing. While there are bad guys out there, applying that to all boys is not fair to the good ones and also may make it harder for our daughters to open up when one comes along. An open (clear) minded approach is best.
This article was a bit broader in its coverage. Similar to the first article, boundaries and setting standards for herself is important. Valuable both daughters and sons, letting them know that no matter what, Daddy will be there. Encouraging her to believe in herself, be confident and self-aware. Be assertive, speak up for what she wants.
I am going to repurpose this article into an introduction for me and my daughter to talk about this stuff. After writing and publishing it I am going to make her read it and then we can discuss it in more detail. Use the tools you are given, right?
Being the HeadunterDad, of course I could not just leave it well enough alone so needed to get into job stuff too. I found most of the advice given around preparing our teenage daughters for high school, college and dealing with boys and life is applicable for their careers both before and after finding a job.
Boundaries: In the workplace, this can be a bigger challenge with bigger negative consequences. Knowing what is right for her, where to draw the line, and how to keep her focus at work can be learned early, while still in school, and it will stick with her.
Strength: I am a devout supporter of Gallup's discover your strengths. We are all good at some things and bad at others. She can be more competitive if she enhances her already existing strengths rather than spending all her time trying to fix a weakness. Help your daughter identify her strengths early on. This will lead the next item...
Confidence, self-awareness: Knowing her strengths will give her confidence. This helps her to say no to peer pressure, take on risks that may lead to bigger achievements, and raise her hand when the top job opens up. Help her develop this every day.
Assertiveness: This point struck a chord as there was a similar theme in my article, Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice. That's What Little Girls are Made of. "Women need to be independently and unapologetically decisive in order to succeed in a man's world". If she cannot ask for what she wants, she is unlikely to get it.
Re-reading what I have written, I realize that much of this is not a one-time conversation but something that we should be sharing with our daughters if not daily, at least often. Maybe you tell her you love her and that she is the best daughter quite a bit but when was the last time you told her the importance of setting boundaries? When was the last time you suggested to her that considering new ideas and new people objectively and with an open mind is the better way? There is no better time than the present.
The HeadhunterDad, AKA Lawrence Kieffer, is a professor of career studies at Temple University, Japan campus, the COO for Fidel Consulting an APAC Recruiting and Staffing firm focused on IT professionals, a devoted husband, and father of two amazing kids. Follow on Twitter, Linkedin or Facebook.