I have three daughters and as soon as I had the first one, I knew one day that they would come home with some guy that they would love. I knew that as time went on, their love for me would become less as their love for another man grew. And this is the way it is supposed to be. But, there are things that parents – especially fathers who are raising daughters – must do!
So, here is my strategy. You see, a father must be the gate keeper for their girls. A father can’t be that un-involved guy who the boy friend’s hide from, who they stay a distance and sneak around. No! A father must ensure that there are certain things happening and certain things not happening. I am saying that the father must get involved! At some point our children decide for themselves what to do – and we don’t have control over that last line of defense, as it is our children who are their last line of defense. But, parents, we can be the first 100 lines of defense!
What is your plan? I will share mine. I have this series of circles – or stages. I describe this as the MENTOR CIRCLES. Let’s just jump in to this.
Manage: The outer most concentric circle simply is the trigger for me to manage – to get involved – when one of my girls is interested in a guy or vice versa. Here we bring the boy into our family via dinners, sports, games, picnics, birthdays, church, events, etc. Here I get their facebook, twitter, cell number… Here is where the relationship begins . Before this, they are off my radar – oh, I may get a hint of one or two circling around, but when there is an expressed interest, then my radar picks them up and tracks them! The relationship between the guy and each member of our family is important – it’s not just the guy and girl, but it’s a full on relationship with the guy and daughter 1, the guy and daughter 2, the guy and my wife, the guy and me… Here I ensure that they want me to be involved in their relationship and also hold them accountable. If they don’t want this, then there is something to hide. I start lightly – coming along side with gentleness, with firmness, genuine concern, initial trust, humor and energy. I truly want God’s best plan for the boy and for my daughter. I want them to know that I have their best interests in mind – but I am also the gate keeper (since I am the oldest, the wisest and it is my responsibility).
Educate: I continue to ‘manage’ but also…here is where I continue our relationship. This circle is the point in the relationship where I start to talk about our make-up, who we are (as in us, in our humanity, us in our culture, us in our strengths and weaknesses). For example, we are made in three parts; Spiritual (Spirit), Physical (Body) and Soul (Mind). Post coming soon on these – look for it! Here is where I talk about the difference between dating and courting. Post coming soon on this as well! When we have a relationship with someone and prior to marriage, we have a mind to mind relationship. This is shown as conversations (texting, face to face). We get to know each other. Trade stories and such. A couple spends a lot of time exploring who each other is (and is not). With courting we introduce a spiritual to spiritual relationship. We can’t ignore our spiritual dimension. We are called to something greater than we are. However, the physical to physical relationship is reserved for marriage – and there are some guidelines here. At this point, I am meeting with these guys are a fairly regular basis. We go through materials such as the Gary Smalley Series (hidden keys to a loving relationship) or some key books such as “Men are waffles, Women are spaghetti”, “Love Languages”, “Love Busters”, “Wild at Heart”, “The Way of the Wild Heart”, etc…
Narrow: Here I look to spend lots of time with the guy…in a strategic nature. By working together, by playing together, by spending time together, I look for gaps in character (arrogance, anger, selfishness, bitterness, sarcasm, laziness, etc…) and look for and steer into teachable moments. I am like the sand paper – it’s a rough process for the furniture, but at the end, look at how smooth it is! Sometimes I do it stealthy and sometimes I am very direct. Sometimes my girls ask me to help the guy in a certain area. Of course, let’s not be negative. Find them doing something right and lift them up. When you have to deliver them some correction – start with praise, add the correction and then end with praise. Everyone has strengths – draw them out, build on them and build off them!
Teach: This is where we really get serious and we meet weekly in a full discipleship program. As with the circles, they are concentric and more fluid than legalistic. So, at times, I’ll enter here for a period of time and meander around a bit with them and then move on.
Orient: This is where I help them embrace the future. Parenting, relationship strategies, work and career related and ministry opportunities. I find that young men are not sure of the future, of what they want to do and of what there is out there. Well, it seems that not much has changed. This is the landscape that was there when I was that age. Since I have been around life for awhile, I have much to offer. And you do as well. This is the time when the relationship is pretty serious and they need a good trajectory! They need someone to keep investing in them here as they launch themselves into the world. They need a cheerleader, a coach, a friend and a wise old sage!
Replication: I anticipate that this circle is the time when I help them “MENTOR” the guys in their girl’s lives and/or the girl’s in their guys lives. So, with one grandchild on the way, I look to start this last circle and build it out. What does it look like for a father to teach another father how to raise their kids smart! That adventure is unfolding for me.
About all the above; do this in the spirit of a mentor. The goal is not to set up external motivation; don’t push them. Rather, take the time to have them own it, have them build these steps. Pull them gently – offer suggestions. If they take them, then you are on your way. If they don’t, then you must evaluate your relationship with them and how you respond/react. But this is really the material of another post.
You are the parent – with great rewards comes great responsibility!