“Hey, are you ready to do our training?” I hollered to my daughter. For 5 years we had been developing a self-protection system for teen-aged girls and their dads. More than just a way for girls to protect themselves from threats, it is a way to connect dads and daughters in this typically awkward time. “Almost!” she hollered back in our usual exchange.
Traditional roles between dads and daughters seem tough these days. Cultural norms create distance and opposition between dads and daughters creating fear for and in our daughters. We don’t’ generally give our daughters the physical contact or the space they need that help them develop healthy relationships with boys. We know we need to send them out into the world, but fear they might get hurt.
My relationship with my daughter began when she was 3 months old in a town just north of Hanoi, Viet Nam. The adoption took about a year and the strong bond between us took about an instant. I stayed home and took care of her for the first two years of her life because it was what she needed. I stepped outside of the traditional male role for her. That’s pretty much how our relationship continued for the next 13 years. Certainly I am her protector, but more, I am her teacher so that she can protect herself. The result? I am excited for her to start dating and she remains connected to me.
From one father to another, I strongly encourage you to not be afraid to step out of traditional roles. Be the type of man that you would want your daughter to date; calm and loving as opposed to violent or controlling. Watch your language about women and girls, and demand that society treat your daughter with respect.
“So, what do you want to practice today?” I asked carefully waiting for the usual "I don’t care” or “Whatever dad”. Instead she said, “Can we go over the escape from the bear hug? That one is fun to practice.” For years I have been waiting for her to have fun with this training; to really connect with me and my passion for this training. “Sure. Remember, first to stay calm and breathe, and wait for the right moment to respond…”
Jim Doyle – Founder, Self-Protection.org