Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Book Notes - Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker, M.D.

I picked up this book after seeing it on the recommended list of Jeff Henderson. I expected it was going to be good but I was completely blown away right from the introduction. Here is a snippet:
What you say in a sentence, communicate with a smile, or do with regard to family rules has infinite importance for your daughter...
I want you to see yourself through her eyes. And I don't want this just for her sake, but for yours, because if you could see yourself as she sees you, even for ten minutes, your life would never be the same. When you are a child, your parents are the center of your world. If your mother is happy, your day is good. If your father is stressed, your stomach is knotted all day long at school...
Your daughter gets up in the morning because you exist. You were here first and she came into being because of you. The epicenter of her tiny world is you. Friends, family members, teachers, professors, or coaches will influence her to varying degrees, but they won't knead her character. You will. Because you are her dad...
I have watched and listened to your daughters for many years and have heard what they say about you. I have talked to countless fathers. I have treated daughters and counseled families. I have read psychiatry texts, research papers, psychology journals, religious studies, and pediatric journals. Doing this has been my job. But I will tell you that no research paper, no textbook diagnosis, no instructions can begin to change a young girls life as dramatically as even a handful of interactions with her father. Nothing.
The rest of the book is just as good. Not only does she have great tangible suggestions about the roles of fathers, like in the areas of being a hero, teaching her humility and defending your daughter, she frames it in the context of a culture that is toxic to our daughters. I agree with her observation and if you've read this blog for a while, you know what I think about 'culture' - we must understand how to 'see' culture. This book is a fabulous resource for engaging life with our daughters. Some of this book - like very sobering statistics and the all-too-real journal of an eating disorder - will scare the crap out of you - and it should. For as scared as you get, you'll also be just as inspired.

Here is some more:
+ 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... But the greatest danger comes from fathers who surrender leadership, particular 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 daughters, and what will make her respect you more.
+ One of the best things fathers can do is raise their daughter's expectations of life. That will directly affect how your daughter talks, how she dresses, how well she does in school, even what sports or musical instruments she chooses to play. You can help her se goals, help her define a higher purpose for her in life, and as a result, her self-esteem will skyrocket. And it will bring you closer, because she'll recognize you as a leader and an ally, helping her to chart a better course.
+ One of the primary treatments for girls with eating disorders is to spend time like this [one on one] with their dads. These fathers learn not to harp on problems, but to focus on having fun together, which helps daughters center themselves on this healthy relationship and disassociate their illness from who they are.
+ Kids get depressed when they experience a loss for which they cannot express a healthy emotion. This is very common with sexual activity.
+ When she dates, sweep the garage. Every boy who dates your daughter needs to know he is accountable to you.... And when he brings her home, be sure he sees you.
Got daughters? Read this book.

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