Guest Blog: “My Daughter is Challenging Me: A Father’s Perspective”
By Charles G. Hanna
Challenges force us to correct, to improve, and to grow. More importantly, they are our Higher Power’s way of directing our attention to the areas that require immediate attention. It is like a self-monitoring system that tells when and where we need to change. No matter what that challenge or even devastation is, the outcome can and will always be better, provided we are in the best frame of mind to tackle it.
My daughter is turning 12 and she is starting to challenge me.
She finished grade 6 and will transition to a middle school. There are many options and of course I have a good idea of where I want her to go. She has other ideas. I am perfectly fine discussing them and even open to a different school based on her input. However, our conversation about it was not a logical exchange. She started with an absurd choice and defended it with outrageous assumptions. No matter how much I tried to listen and debunk her assumptions, she dismissed everything I said without listening and just volleyed back nonsensical arguments. I got upset because our discussion turned into a needless confrontation, and it kept getting worse until I had no choice but to end it on that sour note.
Struggle to Communicate: the Struggle is Real!
This was the first time that my little girl confronted me just for the sake of confrontation. Later that evening she started to follow me around as if looking for reconciliation, so we had a little talk. I told her that I was hurt because she did not trust my opinion and didn’t seem to listen when all I think about is her well-being. Anyway, we both apologized and hugged. I would love to say it was a happy ending, but the same thing happened the next day. Her back-handed remarks were more reflexive and without thought. I remember getting so upset that I accused her of not having any respect for me or my opinion.
This pattern of confrontation followed by making up continued and it became harder to dismiss it as a misunderstanding. I remember I felt very upset, like my world was shaken. My reality was being altered and my serenity threatened. I was visibly upset because my close relationship with her is one of the most cherished aspects of my life. I started to become overwhelmed with feelings of loss and thoughts that her childhood was coming to a quick end. Even so, I had hoped that as she grew up she would still recognize my unconditional love for her and trust me for guidance.
I was consumed by these thoughts over the following few days and became worried that I was losing my serenity and could not see an easy answer nor accept this friction. That is until I reflected on my writings about when bad things happen there is always a positive side.
Her Need to Grow
The only way forward is to accept the situation and look for a positive outcome. What became obvious to me was that our conflict was a result of her exploration of independence. She is growing and it’s healthy and necessary for her to start reasoning for herself with whatever experience and information she has available. Being right or wrong is secondary to her need to start breaking away if she is to become a strong adult. It is time for her to push and explore beyond her present limits. This has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with her natural and healthy need to grow. In short, I started to see the positive and it outweighed any negativity that I might have felt.
That evening, while the friction was still palpable between us, I told her that I wanted to say something. She listened apprehensively. I said that even though I was upset about our arguments, I was developing a genuine respect for her qualities. I told her that it is perfectly healthy to challenge my ideas because it is an important part of growing up. I added that I also admire her strength of character and that it is important for her to realize that she has a right to disagree and express her feelings regardless of whether she is right or wrong. However, I also told her that while I am completely OK with our arguments, the rules don’t change.
What happened next was wonderfully unexpected. She looked as if she could not believe what she was hearing and hugged me. Her feelings were validated and she knew I loved her more for sharing them. The period of confrontation passed and we seemed to enter a new chapter of our relationship. We got a lot closer and she seemed to feel comfortable knowing I wasn’t mad at her, or that her opinion didn’t count. She is becoming more independent and I feel that she includes me more than she would have otherwise. She trusts me more with her thoughts and where we differ, accepts my decisions more readily without feeling dismissed or defeated.
It is noteworthy to mention that a couple of months later I shared this experience with some friends. When she entered the room, she asked what we are talking about. I asked her, “Do remember the time when I told you that I did not mind our arguments and that I admired your need to disagree?” and she replied, “No.” I had to laugh because she had no recollection of what I thought was ground breaking for her.
This is what parenting is all about. This was just another brick in her development. It is a good brick, but it is just one brick, and as a parent I need to continue to add more and more of these positive and grounding experiences as she grows.
Charles G. Hanna is the author of “Higher: Awaken to a More Fulfilling Life” and a devoted father of three children. For more information, please visit www.charleshanna.com, and connect with him on Twitter, @hanna_higher.
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