Admit it: If you have a daughter, you’ve thought about the day she’ll start dating. Some of us start planning for it when our daughters are younger by taking them on dad dates. Others join the DADD movement (Dads Against Daughters Dating*). A friend of mine prepared for this time by collecting swords, mounting them in his living room, and sharpening a particularly intimidating one every time a boy came to take one of his daughters out.
This puts a humorous slant on the thing we all fear: the day our daughters actually do start to date. A small part of us also fears the day she finds a good one and marries him. But a much larger part of you is probably terrified a time will come when your daughter dates the wrong guy. Here are 5 ways to handle it when she does.
Note: All of these assume the relationship isn’t violent or abusive in any other way.
1. Calm down.
Your ability to respond to your daughter’s relationship status calmly can make a difference. When your daughter dates the wrong guy, you’re going to have strong feelings about it. Be aware of this and choose to respond rationally anyway. Threats and overreactions are likely only to push your daughter away from her family at a time when that’s the last thing you want.
2. Invite him over.
Have your daughter invite her boyfriend over to spend time with you. It’s always good when your kid is under your roof rather than somewhere else. But when he’s at your house, she’ll get to see how her boyfriend interacts with you and your family. She will notice how he responds to the adults and kids in the house, and this will help shape her impressions of him.
3. Talk to her.
Sitting down to have a conversation with your daughter about her boyfriend is important—whether he’s a good one or a dud. Go out, whether for a walk or a cup of coffee, to ensure that it doesn’t feel like an interrogation to her. Find out what she likes about him. If you have concerns your daughter is dating the wrong guy, tell her what you’re worried about.
4. Surround her with good examples.
When I started grocery shopping for myself, it didn’t take long to realize there are certain things you shouldn’t compromise on. Generic ketchup, generic toilet paper, and macaroni and “cheese product” are terrible substitutes for the real thing. When your daughter dates the wrong guy, his “love” will be a terrible substitute, too. So offer your daughter an example of what manhood and real love are supposed to look like. She sees it in how you treat her mom, in how you treat her, and in the other men you bring into her life. If she’s surrounded by quality men, then when your daughter dates the wrong guy, she’ll quickly see that he’s not the real thing.
5. Maintain a relationship with her.Our daughters need to know we love them, no matter what happens.
Regardless of who your daughter dates, it is very important to maintain a relationship with her. Hopefully, as she’s grown up, your discipline has been relationship-centered. All the points above are meant to reinforce your relationship, even as you deal with her dating-related challenges. Ultimately, our daughters need to know we love them, no matter what happens, even when we disapprove of the people they date, the places they go, and the choices they make.
Earn some points: Are you married? If so, share this iMOM article with your wife: 5 Rules for Dating My Daughter.
Sound off: How would you handle your daughter dating the wrong guy?
*Not sure if DADD is a real movement, but I really like the t-shirts.
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “In what ways do you think your friends influence you?”