One of the handicaps we fathers bear is that most of us were not raised to be conscious of all the emotions percolating just beneath our surfaces. This can result in some mighty unfortunate episodes that, with just a bit more awareness, could be avoided.
High on the list of those percolating emotions is the anger we can build up over the stunning lack of gratitude exhibited by our teenage daughters. Unfortunately, our anger over this frequently emerges at exactly the wrong moment and in a volcano of hurt and rage that does nothing but damage to all involved.
First, a defense: It’s an objective fact that most teenage girls are astonishingly insensitive to the many things their fathers do out of love for them. This is easy to tolerate when our daughters are young, adoring, and convinced of our perfection. But it isn’t quite so easy to take as they emerge into their “Dad’s-a-geek-and-irrelevant-to-my-life” teen years.
The truth is, it already hurts when our precious daughters suddenly want nothing to do with us and are embarrassed to even have us around when they’re “hanging” with their friends. From there, it’s a short distance to unleashing our resentment and anger when they complain of being “forced” to go on family outings when they have more important things to do.
That said, as fathers we must remember that anger is almost never an effective way to communicate. We also need to take the long view. In other words, get over wishing for more gratitude now; it probably won’t happen for another 15 years. Teenage girls have a lot to deal with, and being thankful for all that their fathers have made possible isn’t even on the radar.
And, thank God for that. The last thing we want for her, just as she’s blossoming into the fullness of her life, is to take on the adult burdens that we carry daily. Remember, too, that our pain is largely self-inflicted. We get all worked up feeling unappreciated when most of us know with absolute certainty that our girls do love and appreciate us. It’s just that expressing that love—even thinking about it—is not her top priority.
So instead of being angry at her, model what you’d like to see. Say, ‘Thank you, sweetheart, for being so wonderfully (even if reluctantly) in my life.” In that expression we plant the seed for helping her someday understand the real importance of gratitude.
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