I recently finished Dr. Meg Meeker's book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. It is an enlightening book for anyone who is a father to a daughter. The large take away is that fathers relationships with daughters have huge impact on the choices daughters make (that part isn’t surprising). Fathers, Dr. Meeker argues, are the “gold standard” that daughters will use to measure the men that they date. Fathers, especially in this age, need to protect their daughters from the messages that society would plant in their young minds. Girls are more prone to self esteem issues than boys are, and girls have higher incidents of eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Parents are the front line to control messages coming into the home, and should convey positive healthy messages to their daughter. Fathers need to tell their daughters they love them. They need to let them know how special and how precious they are, and they need to emphasize that a person’s worth is not determined by superficial things like appearance or wealth. Fathers need to tell their daughters that they are God's handiwork and they are beautiful for reasons that transcend the physical.
Dr. Meeker spends many pages talking about the rising cases of sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV, HPV, Herpes and AIDS. She mentions that most sexual education classes teach things that are incorrect, and even dangerous. She urges parents to take the matter into their own hands, and children need to know what their parent’s stance on sex is. The most important message for the sections on sex is the less sexual partners your daughter has, the lower the chances your daughter will get a sexually transmitted disease. Daughters who are taught their parents want them to abstain from sex, until marriage, have a significantly lower incidences of teenage pregnancy, STDs and depression. Parents, she argues, need to send a clear and concise message , set clear rules and enforce those rules consistently. Fathers need to meet the boys who seek to meet their daughter, communicate those expectation to these young suitors, know where their daughter is going and enforce a curfew. After all, it is a father’s duty to protect their daughters.
Her book also talks about letting your daughter know who you are, leading by example, teaching your daughter to be humble and telling your daughter who God is. Showing your daughter that you live by the principles you are teaching her is important. Most of what she learns from you, she’ll learn by watching you, not by the words you say. If you teach her about God, then show her in your walk with God – let her see your prayer life, your charity, your grace and your love for God. Teaching her to have self confidence and humility can be difficult, but the rewards in her life for learning those things will be many. It may sound contradictory, but I think Dr. Meeker is right. Lacking confidence can lead a teenage girl to do things she doesn’t want to do, just to fit in with the crowd, but an arrogant teen won’t take correction. Teen might sometimes seem mature, but we need to remember that they are still children and still need oversight.
The book made me shed tears -- of both joy and sorrow -- at different points. The stories of real patients interspersed with the narrative have huge emotional impact. I will personally be applying a lot of Dr. Meeker’s ideas in my own life. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is a father (or mother) of a girl.