Q: I'm the proud father of a beautiful 16-year-old daughter. However, I'm not the only one who's noticed how she has blossomed. She's getting more and more attention from boys her age, and I expect The Dating Question is right around the corner. How should I approach the issue of interacting with and vetting any potential boyfriends?
Jim: I "only" raised two sons, so I feel for guys who have daughters -- and the concerns that go along with that. While you don't necessarily want to fit the classic stereotype of the intimidating dad who threatens your daughter's dates, you also shouldn't disappear into the shadows when young men start showing up at your doorstep.
One of your chief responsibilities as a father is to protect your daughter. That's especially important when she's beginning to date. I'd suggest following the approach recommended by author Dennis Rainey: interview the boys who want to date your daughter, just like you would interview a prospective employee.
Before any dates are scheduled, meet with the boys who are interested in your daughter and ask them some serious questions to determine if they're mature and responsible young men of good character. You don't have to be combative or heavy-handed -- but be clear about how you expect them to treat and behave toward your daughter. This isn't about intimidating the boy as much as it is promoting a sense of strong respect for your precious girl.
An added benefit to this exercise is that your daughter will learn how to evaluate potential suitors on her own. And that's really the main point. Whether it's a high school boy or her future husband, the goal is for your daughter to understand -- and expect -- that she be treated with the respect and dignity she truly deserves.
Q: My husband has plenty to say around his friends, but I feel like I can't get more than seven words out of him. How can I get him to talk with me?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: The mystery of male-female communication is an age-old challenge. While not every guy fits the stereotype, some general tips can help you unlock your hubby's communication code and encourage him to open up:
Evaluate your expectations: Women usually communicate to connect relationally, while guys lean toward giving advice and troubleshooting. Understanding these different styles can defuse conflict and enhance communication.
Learn his communication pattern: How does he engage others and what things are discussed? When is he most attentive and receptive to conversation?
Work up to conversation: Women can usually share their feelings more quickly than men. If you're wanting a deep interaction, ask some "warmup" questions first.
Timing: Most guys don't want to discuss our day right after work -- when we're tired and hungry -- or if we're watching a game. We're sometimes more receptive to conversation when tied to an activity like walking or driving.
Don't multitask: Keep it simple -- one thing and topic at a time.
Offer the "condensed story." Men process information differently than ladies. Trimming away details or words keeps us engaged.
Soften your approach: Guys are highly sensitive to criticism, disrespect or failure -- so a harsh start-up shuts us down emotionally. A gentle voice, relaxed body language, and kind words and facial expressions will help keep us in the game.
Accept "fine" as a reasonable answer: I know, most women have a universal distaste for this word. But men communicate factually with less emotion and description. So, for us, "fine" means -- perfectly fine.
Be direct in asking for what you want: Women can usually pick up subtle messages, but hints don't work well for us.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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