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Last week Dr. Ken Canfield wrote a piece on fathers and daughters. As I mentioned in the intro, my own father and Dr. Ken Canfield have been friends for over two decades. They support, sharpen and respect one another greatly. So when my father read Ken’s article last week, reporting the top ten questions women wanted to ask their dads, my father responded with ways he believes women could ask the questions and be more effective in communicating their hearts to the men in their life.
As Dr. Canfield pointed out, the questions he posted were raw, honest thoughts from daughters. Most of these daughters, he said, would never ask their Dads these questions, but what if they did?
What would happen?
So, my father and I hashed out what this would actually look like. How could daughters really take these questions of their heart and ask them in a way that doesn’t put their fathers on the defense. We believe that with a dose of respect and desire to understand their fathers, more women will be able to maximize the opportunity to engage their dads or other significant men in their lives in a more positive way.
I think reading this will help everyone, male and female, understand the power of effective versus ineffective questioning. Trust me and my experience when I say that the advice my father gives might not be the way you want to phrase your questions, but it will be far more empowering and engaging if you do.
The questions that Dr. Canfield recorded as being the top ten questions women want to know from their fathers, truly capture the hearts of daughters.
However, I recommend AGAINST asking these exact questions of dads.
A different tack must be taken in order to achieve the worthy goal of conversation with these fathers.
Below I have written the original question stated by the women, followed by one that I believe will be more effective.
1. Dad, why don’t you want to talk to me?
1. Dad, when we talk, do you feel honored or dishonored after our conversations? It often feels like you go quiet around me so I wanted to know if there is a way I can converse with you more effectively.
Reason for update: The original question is asked in a negative way and immediately puts a man on the defensive. When asking questions we can either begin with “me” or them. Start with the other person’s feelings, not your own.
2. Why do you watch so much TV?
2. When you watch TV, I notice you watch _________ and __________. Are these energizing to you or are you just watching to unwind from the pressures of your day? I would love to talk with you about the pressures you are feeling in life right now. It seems like you have a lot weighing on you right now, don’t you?
Reason for update: The original question indicts the dad and condemns him. He will most likely become defensive. Asking questions that seek to understand have a better chance of not putting someone on the defense.
3. What do you want in your relationship with mom in the next twenty years?
3. I want to be a good wife and support my husband in all the seasons of life. In a perfect world, if you had to envision how you and mom could best support each other over the next twenty years, what would that look like? How does that look different than the last twenty years?
Reason for update: Be careful with this one because if your parents have a rocky marriage, it may put your dad in a situation to reveal things about your mom (his wife) in a bad light.
Be very careful to lean on the side of you wanting to learn, not trying to analyze. That will feel suspicious to him.
It’s also important to note that while a man can talk about relationships and marriage, it may not be as energizing to him as it is to you because he feels like he might be a failure to you in this area. Men often feel that “questions,” no matter your motive, are calling them into question because they believe women want them to change, resulting in them feeling not liked by you.
4. How did you fall in love and how were you attracted to Mom?
4. How did you fall in love and what attracted you to Mom? What do you believe attracted mom to you, and why did she respect you so much?
Reason for update: Use language that would also awaken his fond feelings during the dating period. He proposed to your mother most likely because he felt she admired and respected him. Use those words and you might be surprised at how he starts to reminisce.
5. Why didn’t you teach me about your faith?
5. As you thought about teaching me about your faith in Christ, what ways did you go about this when I was younger? I’d love to keep learning from you.
Reason for update: This original question is negative. This question puts a dad on the defensive. Start with the positive things or your own failings. For example, if you think this might be the case for his quietness, you could ask, “When I was younger, did I resist your teachings about God?”
Begin with his good will and good intentions,
…even if he failed to follow through, or with your own lack of teachability. As for his failures, let him confess his failings on his own. Don’t corner him about his failings. Let’s put it on the other foot. What if the dad asked, “Why did you not learn from me the many positive things I taught you about the faith?” The question puts you on the defensive, and you are apt to blame him. This is human nature, and your dad will do the same.
6. Are you hiding anything?
Don’t ask this question. If he is hiding something, he won’t tell you. If he isn’t hiding anything, he will feel distrusted. Either way, he’ll get defensive. If you sense that your dad is doing things in secret, and I assume you mean sinful things in secret, you need to address this with a godly-wise counselor.
Hitting a dad head on with this question lacks wisdom.
Another question you could ask, which serves the same purpose of getting to know something about your Dad that you don’t know, might be this:
6. Dad, is there anything that I need to know about you, that I don’t know, that would help me understand you better, as well as other men?
Reason for update: This question doesn’t assume there is something negative or positive, but gives your Dad the freedom to share what he wants to. Perhaps there is a powerful story in his past that he has never talked about, that he would now feel is appropriate to share.
7. Why do you always have to be right?
7. In discussions or arguments, do you feel that I come at you to prove you wrong and to show you disrespect for your opinion? Over the years, I have felt like I must have put you in a position to feel this way since I don’t recall you saying too many times that I was wise or right for my opinion. I longed for your approval on many things but I felt like I was wrong on many occasions, so I must have been disrespectful to trigger this. Would you agree?
Reason for update: Ask this question differently in order to get at the deeper concern.
8. What can you tell me about having a good relationship with a guy?
8. Dad, I want to learn from you about how to treat men. What can you tell me about having a good relationship with a guy?
Reason for update: The original is a good question. However, at worse, if your dad is a surface person he may say little or say “don’t treat him like you treated me when you were a teenager” which can be very hurtful to you. But here is something to learn that will be very empowering for you.
Most men change for the better after a discussion that empathizes with their need for respect.
So if he says something immature like that, instead of that painful remark being the cause for you to shut down, maybe ask, “So how did I mistreat you as a teen and what can I learn from that?” Ultimately a mature man would respond and then volley back, “How did I mistreat you growing up?” but he probably won’t.
However your desire to understand how you treated him will most likely cause him to be more sensitive and loving later on as long as you do not let yourself be insulted by your dad’s unwillingness to get meek and transparent.
If he hasn’t been humble and confessional for years, this conversation will not transform him. However, this conversation can soften his spirit and the nature of the relationship long term can shift and be a bit more adult.
9. How deeply do men struggle with sexuality and pornography?
9. In your opinion, what temptations come at men that women don’t understand, and how can a woman respond to a man feeling vulnerable to such temptations? I need your insight.
Reason for update: He won’t feel like you are questioning him, and may ultimately get more vulnerable if he feels like you have empathy and want to learn.
10. Why do guys have selective hearing?
10. Dad, in your opinion, what conversations arise between husbands and wives (boyfriends and girlfriends) that shut men down and cause them to no longer want to listen? What counsel can you give to me to avoid those triggers that cause men to tune out a woman?
Reason for update: The updated question affirms the dad instead of hints that he doesn’t listen because he doesn’t care.
I desire fathers and daughters to have restored and healthy relationships. I know there are many deep wounds we suffer from the choices of our fathers. I wrote my PhD on fathering and am currently writing a book on parenting because I care so deeply about the healthy relationships of parents and their children. When children grow up though, they need to remember that as adults,
…their words can now wound as deeply as they feel they have been wounded.
My encouragement with these questions is to remind people that negative questions cause two people to do verbal combat. We are smarter than this. The questions that linger in the hearts of daughters, as powerful and real and common as they are, show that we all need assistance in verbally reframing our concerns.
To be extreme, couldn’t I ask, “Why in the world did you never figure out how to ask questions of your father that would draw him to you instead of put him on the defensive?”
How would you feel about this question? It is less than positive and guilt trips you or angers you, right? Wisely I should ask, “How best can we ask your dad questions that enable him to hear your heart and hurts?”
As I say, “We are not wrong, just different.”
Let’s try to understand each other’s areas of vulnerability and seek to communicate in ways that will draw each other out, not put one another on the defensive. Daughters, I hope as a man and a father, you trust my heart in this is to serve you.
In what ways have you experienced asking questions effectively? Ineffectively?
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Love and Respect (Now) is a division of Love and Respect. Please be considerate.
This is great, except I’d never be able to ask my dad any of these questions, updated or original version. He’d just shrug and turn away.
You may be right about your dad, especially in the moment. But I believe if you ask him things in a way that he knows you are honestly trying to seek his insight, over time, he will soften. He may never soften in a way that is transparent to you, but your maturity and desire to speak his language will impact his soul.
If you feel you have the strength or desire, you might even want to try a letter. I talk about that HERE.
Thanks, Joy 🙂
Love the updates! I think that Men naturally want to lead and teach. We all want to be heard. Even though these questions sound difficult with my dad, I bet I will be pleasently surprised.
I think it is important to have time and space for this where he and I would be comfortable and relaxed.
Thanks Joy for this post — good to be reminded of the Love and Respect Prinicples outside of just dating relationships!
You are welcome! I think time and space are really important. Like you said, it’s best to have conversations that might be less than natural for us when both parties are comfortable and relaxed. And just asking one question at a time is probably key too!
Would love a report back from anyone who gives one of these questions a shot!
Okay, so as a father of 4, and with a 15 yr old daughter who is unashamed to ask the first version of all these questions, here is a little levity as I would respond to her in the most sarcastic, head pulled back and cocked to the side, manner I could muster.
1. I am dear, it’s just difficult to speak past the iPod headphones, Skype calls and non-stop texting.
2. Well after I get home from earning just enough income to support your eating and sleeping habits, I like to numb my brain with useless drivel. Besides, it’s nice to know that Bruce Jenner has it wayyyyy worse than I do.
3. Is there a check box for “N/A” on this one?
4. She lost a bet and I was seduced by the magical potions and Unicorn dreams. (That was for you Joy)
5. Because when you were younger, Faith was just a George Michael song.
7. Honey, this is a complicated two part question. Why? is a question philosophers have been trying to answer for centuries. Do I always have to be right? No sweetie, I don’t always HAVE to be right, but until you’re 18, I just am.
8. Ask me again when your old enough to date; in 10 years…..
9. I have no idea what you’re talking about… (fingers in ears and shaking head) *lalalalalalalalala*
10. Sorry sweetie, did you say something?
On the serious side, great article and even as awkward as some of the phrasing is, If my kids approached me using language respectfully and considerately like this, I would probably drop whatever I was holding, sit down at the table and say, “Say that one more time please.” They would have my rapt attention for the effort they put into crafting their question. Be bold with your Dad, and come at him with the kind of respect a lion cub has walking up to the head of the pride. He will see the effort whether you see it in his response or not. Remarkably, in most cases, you will gain the equal amount of respect you contribute to the relationship.
Have a blessed day
Joy, this is honestly SUCH a great and needed article on fathers/daughters. I’m really fortunate to have a close relationship with my dad and we can talk about most things, but in that sometimes I take for granted how I approach communication. This reminds me of better ways of talking and not being so blunt sometimes..it’s helpful to be considerate and thoughtful with communicating.