Hi, and welcome to another January post where the Guide has partnered with Brandi Kennedy of Brandi Kennedy: Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman. Throughout the month we have been doing posts told from a single mother and a single father’s perspective. With a week and a half left, we want to finish up strong. So this week we begin with raising children. And while I thought about doing a talk of raising boys today, and how to make them strong and healthy, given the fact I only had a girl, it didn’t feel like an honest post. I may have opinions about raising boys, but I don’t have the requisite experience to do a real post. What I do have is a girl. And as Brandi has girls, we will both be focusing on raising strong women in today’s society.
Of course, doing a “Perspectives Series”, we have different viewpoints. Obviously, I am not a woman, and cannot fully understand many of the things my daughter goes through. I did not have to face the kind of sexism she may face. And I certainly didn’t have to deal with sexually aggressive men trading promotions for “intimacy.” Although, given I understand some of the male psyche, I have, in the past, warned my daughter about how to handle men who would act in such a reprehensible behavior.
I do have a challenge when it comes to getting into the shoes of women. And the challenge becomes larger when you are divorced and have to deal with an ex-wife who sees the world very differently than you do. It becomes harder to challenge the way another woman sees things because she is a woman, and I am not. And so my ex-wife faced horrors I cannot even begin to express. And what’s worse, she had parents who wouldn’t always believe her. What ends up happening, as a male, is I begin to walk a tightrope. Trying to challenge things I disagree with without downplaying my ex-wife’s experiences.
So what does a single father try to do in those circumstances? How does a single father focus on raising strong women in today’s society? And beyond that, how do I deal with raising one strong woman? I don’t know that I have the best answers in the world. Honestly, sometimes I feel like no answer I have would be good enough. But I do have five things I focus on when trying to raise my daughter into being a strong woman, as a single father.
Five Things I Do To Help Raising Strong Women In Society Today (As A Single Father)
1) Make Sure To Have Strong Female Role Models Around My Daughter As Much As Possible
I wish I could teach my daughter everything she would need to know with regards to being a strong woman. And as much as I try to put myself in her shoes, I know I would be a poor facsimile. I do not know what going through a cycle is like. While I can tell her about sexist attitudes in the workplace, sometimes going in both directions, I cannot tell her about the fear of being overpowered by a member of the opposite sex and placed in positions of submission. (You have no clue how often I have been given jobs because of my being a male or because of my height. And you also have no clue how many jobs I haven’t been offered because they assumed bad things about a male working with younger children.)
So what I can do is make sure my daughter has plenty of female role models around her which can let her know what goes on in the world. They can tell her how to handle various different situations. And they can sympathize with her pain in a way I want to but cannot. As I guy, I think in terms of the violent response I would have towards anyone doing anything to my daughter. It’s hard to set my feelings aside and say to my daughter that sucks. I understand how bad men can be. Especially when all I can think of is how good it would feel to peel off all of the man’s fingernails who would dare to hurt her. My daughter might love me for wanting to protect her. But sometimes she needs something else. And having some amazingly strong women around is an invaluable resource.
2) Try To Become A Better Listener
I admit, as a man, far too often I want to fix things. I think sometimes men fail in relationships when we focus on fixing our significant other’s problems instead of just listening to them. At times, I have been the fixer, and it doesn’t work. My daughter needs someone who can listen to her more than anything. And I need to be that for her. If raising strong women is important to me, it begins with listening.
I have to admit as a single parent, listening becomes an even greater challenge. As a single parent, we are going through a lot of pain. We wish we weren’t. Sometimes we like to pretend we are not. And we fill up our schedules sometimes to mask the pain. Or we are so busy, we don’t even have time to deal with our pain. And when we are in pain, it becomes more difficult to hear anything else.
Our kids scream in pain. We don’t always see it. And when we do, we ache for them but do not always know how to handle it. If we want our women to be strong, single dad’s need to give them the support they need by being able to listen to our children. And when our children talk, we need to be ready to hear the non-verbal clues which show something else going on underneath the surface.
3) Encouraging My Daughter To Live Out Her Dreams
I think as parents we put our dreams onto our children. And sometimes our children take up those dreams and make them a reality. But sometimes they feel like their parent’s dreams crush them. Instead of worrying about the dreams I have for my child, I want to encourage her to live out her dreams. And what’s more important is to teach her she can make any of her dreams a reality. Whether she wants to be a world-famous actress, the President of the United States, or discover the serum which will end the AIDS virus once and for all, I want my daughter to know all of her dreams are possible.
And whatever dreams she may have, I will support. Far too often we tell our kids all of the things they cannot accomplish. Spend time supporting the dreams they can accomplish. And explain the difference between headwinds and barriers. Some things will stop you from accomplishing your dreams. Sometimes you can work around them. Sometimes you cannot. A headwind may feel like a barrier. But you as you face them, you can see paths around or through them. She can overcome them. And she can thrive.
4) Tell My Daughter Every Day How Beautiful She Is And How Much I Love Her
Women struggle so much with body image and they end up fighting how they feel about themselves for years, never feeling like they are enough. I believe the father more than anyone else sets the tone for this feeling. Because your father will be the first male figure who will love you and should show you how men should behave. And they also tell the daughter’s in their lives how valuable they are. This value and beauty come from who they are, not how they look. When the dad reinforces this, the daughter comes to understand where her true value lies. She also begins to understand what she is worth and how someone who recognizes her worth should treat her. If you are interested in raising strong women as a single dad, telling your daughter how beautiful they are every day makes all the difference.
It reinforces her place and value in the world. And by doing it daily, you fight the daily battle of people trying to tear down your child’s self-worth. They can do this for a myriad of reasons. They do it because they feel insecure themselves. Or they do it in order to control people. But whatever the reasons, by speaking daily into your daughter’s life about how valuable she is will reinforce to her the value she holds in the world. And you can counteract the ugly viciousness of people out there by speaking this truth in love.
5) Lead By Example, Displaying The Courage Of Your Own Convictions
Far too often we speak truths to our children, and then live our lives as if we have entered some alternate dimension. We can tell our kids not to say bad words, but when we cuss out other people on the road every morning to and from school, the kids will see it differently. When we behave this way, we exemplify hypocrisy. We show them we don’t really believe what we say. Or we teach them every rule has an exception you can drive a locomotive through. And believe me, your children will see this and take notes. If we are about raising strong women, we need to live out our convictions.
But as a single father, this goes quite a bit deeper. You have already screwed up in some way, or you have failed at maintaining a stable relationship with the other parent for the sake of your child. It may not have been your fault. But it happened and your child feels the effects. Now you are alone and possibly lonely, outside of the times your daughter stays with you. And you want companionship. It’s important to recognize how you treat every woman around.
This can be with any possible relationship. Show your daughter how a woman should be treated. It can be your mother, who your daughter will view how you treat her and it will make an impact. Don’t treat the women who come around you as objects. Whether in your daughter’s presence or not. Because you will not be able to turn off how you treat women when in your daughter’s presence. Ultimately, if you tell your daughter women should be treated one way, and you treat them in another way, it will have a lifelong impact on your daughter. And she will feel devalued because you have by your actions devalued women. Live up to the words you speak and your daughter will carry your ideals with her throughout her life, knowing how a woman should be treated, as strong, independent, and capable of doing anything.
Continue The Conversation
What thing meant the most to you in your upbringing with your parents? Which ideals have you carried with you? And how would you show a girl how to become a strong and capable woman? Raising Strong Women may not be easy, but I believe it’s so important. I would love to hear your thoughts.
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Until next time, this is me signing off.
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life