Raising kids is difficult. You want to be protect them, but you also want your children to grow into their own person who can make good choices independent of your influence.
For Jeff Welch, the decision to let his daughter be her own person started long before she started dating.
Welch frequently talked to his daughter about what she was thinking and feeling. He taught her that she is an important person who should be respected and listened to. These discussions made it easy for Welch to help his daughter know how to navigate the complicated world of dating.
So when a young man comes over to take Welch's daughter out for the evening, instead of sitting on the front porch polishing his gun, he will simply and unapologetically share with this young man the rulesfor dating his daughter.
"You'll have to ask them what their rules are. I am not raising my little girls to be the kind of women who need their daddy ... to be treated with respect. You will respect them, and if you don't, I promise they won't need my help putting you back in your place."
These rules came as a surprise to many dads who want to be there to "protect" their daughters. In an email to Upworthy, Welch responded to this attitude. He said, "I think [the stereotype of the overprotective dad] really is rooted in a genuine protective instinct that any good father should feel toward their daughters, but it can also plant a mindset in our daughters that they need a man's stamp of approval on major decisions they have to make."
Welch built a relationship with his daughters through many conversations, so he knew that his daughters would come to him if anything went wrong. He taught his daughter to think for herself and that the most important thing was for them to feel comfortable in every situation.
We need to be teaching our daughters about respect, and not just the respect that comes from others. The best way to teach our daughters these life lessons is by sitting down and talking with them. By having frequent conversations with our daughters, parents open the door to solid communication, giving our little girls the comfort of knowing they always have someone to talk to. Feel free to introduce family rules and guidelines during these chats, but make sure that these are discussions that your daughter always feels like she can contribute to.
Having these conversations also teaches your children they they are intelligent human beings who can make intelligent decisions — a mindset that isn't seen nearly enough.
Ultimately, through these discussions you are showing your daughters that you trust their choices and they have the power to draw lines of where they feel comfortable or uncomfortable with others. We can teach them in those moments that if they don't feel comfortable there are people they can talk to that will help them (whether that is you, another parent, teacher, administrator or some other important figure in their life).
We need to raise daughters to think for themselves and know that they don't need a man's approval to make decisions for their life.