Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters

10 Secrets Every Father Should Know

If you have a daughter, this is a book for you. I found it both encouraging and challenging.

It seems it’s a battle these days for parents to stay involved in their children’s lives. There are so many things that compete for time and other things that create distance with our kids. Friends, media and cell phones are just a few of the things that separate us from our teens. Then there are the messages that we need to back off and let them grow up. It’s hard being a good parent. The world wants to send the message that it takes a village to raise a child but that parents, especially dads are not necessary.

This book focuses on fathers and daughters. I’m sure every father would concentrate on different areas of the book. All of it was good but several areas impressed me stronger than others.

“We want to believe our kids are stronger, more mature, and better capable of handling situations than other kids. And that’s when mistakes happen.”

Some of the other messages I zeroed in on are that a daughter needs leadership, she needs to be taught to persevere – not to give in and she needs time with her father that results with her feeling better about who she is.

The book pointed out some of the false messages that daughters have to deal with. Here are several: I need to be beautiful, I need to be sexy and I need to be independent. A daughter needs to understand what true beauty is. It’s not clothes, appearance, what she reads in fashion magazines, or what she sees on TV.

Sexy is everywhere. A daughter will face the pressure to look sexy. She will see this as necessary for approval from friends and guys. She needs to understand that modesty is attractive as well and she gets to keep her self-respect.

While we want our daughters to be strong and independent, they also need to understand that all of us need to be interdependent. There should never be a time in our lives where we don’t have others speaking into our lives.

A daughter also needs to be taught to say no. Nice girls want to please people. She needs to be nice but she also needs to be able to say no and mean it. She needs to learn to stand up for her own standards – the ones we have taught her.

The last thing from the book I want to focus on is the one I learned the most from. It is about teenage brain development – and no, that is not a joke.

Let me quote from a study referred to in the book:

Dr. Jay Giedd, chief of brain imaging in the child psychiatry branch at the National Institute of Mental Health, has spent more than 13 years performing MRIs and studying the brains of more than 1,800 kids. Through high-powered MRI technology, he has discovered that the adolescent brain, while fully grown in size, is still a long way from maturity.

Long after the size of the brain is established, it continues to undergo major stages of development. One of the last regions of the brain to mature is the pre-frontal cortex—home of the so-called "executive" functions—planning, setting priorities, organizing thoughts, suppressing impulses and weighing the consequences of one's actions. This means the part of the brain young people need the most to develop good judgment and decision-making develops last!

This "under construction" nature of the adolescent brain helps explain why teenagers act the way they do, and why their behavior can be idealistic, energetic or enthusiastic at one moment, and cynical, lethargic and bored the next. At age 16, their bodies may look fully developed, but the minds are very much still in the development phase.

According to new studies, the pre-frontal cortex usually does not reach a level of genuine maturity until someone reaches their mid-twenties! "It's sort of unfair to expect [teens] to have adult levels of organizational skills or decision-making before their brains are finished being built," says Giedd.

Knowing the limitations of the adolescent brain does not excuse bad behavior. It does, however, reinforce the need for parents to provide persistent support and guidance. More than ever, adolescents need their parents to be an integral part of their lives. It's not butting in, it's pouring in your love and guidance to protect their future hope, health and happiness.
After reading the above quote, my first impression was that we need more control in our teen’s lives rather than less; we need to protect them from themselves. After thinking about it for a few weeks, I think I understand it better. For one, it helps explain teen behavior. It also shows me the importance of a good relationship with my daughter. She needs to understand that she needs her parents input. I need to help make it easy for her to learn and accept that. Of course, the same is true for sons.

So now, something we probably felt in our “gut” has been backed up by research. Our kids need us long after we they think they do. Even good, well intentioned kids need a lot of input in their lives.

May God give us wisdom sufficient for the task!


To read the complete report on Maturation of the Teen Brain, click here.

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