Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson
QUESTION: Is there a way I as a father can influence my daughter’s attitude toward boys? If she chooses to marry, she will need to understand men and know how to relate to them. Is that something I should be thinking about?
DR. DOBSON: You bet it is. Long before a girl finds her first real boyfriend or falls in love, her attitude toward men has been shaped quietly by her father. Why? Because the fatherdaughter relationship sets the stage for all future romantic involvements.
If a young woman’s father rejects her, she’ll spend her life trying to find a man who can meet the needs he never fulfilled in her heart. If he’s warm and nurturing, she’ll look for a lover to equal him. If he thinks she’s beautiful and feminine, she’ll be inclined to see herself that way. But, if he rejects her as unattractive and uninteresting, she’s likely to carry self-image problems into her adult years.
It’s also true that a woman’s relationship with her husband is significantly influenced by the way she perceived her father’s authority. If he was overbearing or capricious during her earlier years, she may precipitate power struggles with her husband throughout married life. But, if Dad blended love and discipline in a way that conveyed strength, she may be more comfortable with a give-and-take marriage characterized by mutual respect.
So much of what goes into marriage starts with the bride’s father. That’s why it behooves those of us with daughters to give our best effort to raising them properly. You are right to be thinking about that vital relationship.
QUESTION: As a father, what should I be trying to accomplish with my son in these teen years?
DR. DOBSON: Someone has said, “Link a boy to the right man and he seldom goes wrong.” I believe that is true. If a dad and his son can develop hobbies together or other common interests, the rebellious years can pass in relative tranquility. What they experience may be remembered for a lifetime.
I recall a song, written by Dan Fogelberg, which told about a man who shared his love of music with his elderly father. It is called “Leader of the Band,” and its message touches something deep within me. The son talks of a father who “earned his love through discipline, a thundering, velvet hand.” The father’s “song is in my soul.” The son himself has become a “living legacy to the leader of the band.”
Can’t you see this man going to visit his aged father today, with a lifetime of love passing between them? That must have been what God had in mind when he gave dads to boys.
Let me address your question directly: What common ground are you cultivating with your impressionable son? Some fathers build or repair cars with them; some construct small models or make things in a woodshop. My dad and I hunted and fished together. There is no way to describe what those days meant to me as we entered the woods in the early hours of the morning. How could I get angry at this man who took time to be with me? We had wonderful talks while coming home from a day of laughter and fun in the country. I tried to maintain that kind of contact with my son.
Opportunities to communicate openly and build the father-son relationship have to be created. It’s a goal that’s worth whatever it takes to achieve.
Dr. Dobson is founder and Chairman Emeritus of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80995 (www.focusonthefamily.org).