Today was one of those opportunities for me to further practice my effective communication skills with teenage females. I know – the mental equivalent of jumping into a tree shredder. My daughter can reduce a grown man down to wood chips as effectively as those big machines used by the city.
But nevertheless, every once in a while, a face-to-face is both necessary and unavoidable. So, think of this as your safety manual: How to effectively engage in a face-to-face talk with your teenage daughter without either of you getting shredded to pieces.
Think Before You Speak
Rule one is to make sure the brain is firing on all eight before engaging the mouth. Think before you go in there firing off both barrels.
If you remember nothing else from this article, remember this: NEVER yell at your daughter. Your daughter records everything you say, as well as how you say it. (She is, after all, her mother’s daughter too.) If you have ever raised your voice at your daughter, then STOP IT. Your daughter deserves your respect; she is a woman and deserves to be treated as one.
Start With Affirmation
Every woman can tell you the day they became a woman. And it wasn’t when they could drive, or got a job, or left home. While you might see the wonderful little girl who used to curl up in your lap or give you little girl kisses, she sees herself in a completely different light.
The world of young women is fiercely competitive and mean in a way that we men can not even begin to comprehend. Almost every video, magazine, advertisement, and store tells her she does not measure up. Add to this her peers at school and nearly every other woman she meets or sees. She is constantly comparing herself.
Hear this, men: You are one of your teenage daughter’s few sources of affirmation. What you say to her will either build her up or destroy her. Your words are a powerful tool. Like a skill saw, you can either create or permanently scar. Be surgical or be careless, but either way, your handiwork will be visible to everyone she meets for the rest of her life.
She remembers every word you say and how you said it. Before you say a word, let that thought settle into place and allow it to filter everything that comes from your mouth.
Start with affirmation. Shouldn’t be too hard. At least 3 things. Related things, not shots in the dark. Focus, take careful aim, and shoot. You want your words to hit the mark – her heart. You do that, and I promise the rest will be easy.
No “I Love You, But… “
You know what you want to say; this is the how-to.
Start with affirmation. No hug, no rub the shoulder, no touch, no “I love you” — just words of affirmation. If you start with an “I love you” of any kind or a hug or touch, she will hear a “but…
“I love you, but…” and then there is the criticism: the flaw – the thing she hates about herself.
So no ”Buts.” Look her in the eye, and tell her she is brilliant. If you do it right, she just might believe you. And if she believes you, then she just might begin to believe it about herself. If you do it right, you will have her heart, and whatever you say next she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Like I said, your handiwork will be visible to everyone she meets.
Don’t Add Criticism
In whatever you have to say to her, do NOT add any criticism. She messed up, did wrong – whatever; the fact is, she already knows that things went south somewhere.
Make it your own policy to never tell anyone what they already know.
You should have asked… Yes. She already knows that.
You went the wrong way… Yes. She already knows that.
You did it wrong… Yes. She already knows that.
Do you know what you did wrong? Maybe not.
Do you know how to fix it? Maybe not.
Do you know how to turn the situation around? Obviously not. Because if she did, she would have done it, and you would not have to sit down and talk to her face-to-face.
Don’t Be Afraid To Talk
Your teenage daughter desperately wants you to teach her, to tell her, to talk to her. The more often, the better. She wants to know that you are not afraid to talk.
Look at it from her perspective – she is surrounded by messages that tell her she is not good enough or not beautiful enough.
But the mixed message she gets is that face-to-face, close up, when someone really knows her – she is too much. She just explodes all over them with beauty, brains, emotions, or hormones, or combinations of these.
These days, being a young woman means constantly measuring yourself – striving to be more while continually keeping yourself in check that you are never too much.
Communicate Two Critical Messages
You are her father. Your daughter was designed, created and brought into this world and entrusted to your care. How you speak to your teenage daughter plants into her heart two critical messages:
- What God thinks of her is the only opinion that matters – and he loves her. She is loveable and beautiful. She is not loveable because she is beautiful, nor is she beautiful just when she is loveable.
She just is. Beautiful.
She just is. Loveable.
- She was created to love and be loved by three men – God, you (her earthly father) and a husband. While God’s opinion is the only one that matters, she will learn of his opinion from you, and her husband will embody it.
It is the mystery of womanhood that is so alluring to us men – all the ways in which she exceeds us and needs us. She will learn how to value and cherish who God created her to be when you, her father, speaks into her heart. Not with words – by action.