STRONG FATHERS, STRONG DAUGHTERS
10 Secrets Every Father Should Know
By: Meg Meeker, MD
Wash DC: Regnery Publishing:2006
Reviewed by: Lon Woodbury
Meg Meeker is a wife, mother and Medical Doctor. This book is her view of how important a father is in the development of young girls into confident, well-adjusted women. This book is based not only on her twenty years of counseling young girls and their families in her Pediatrician practice, but also her memory of how important her own father was to her in growing up, and the vital role her husband played in the growth of her daughters.
She explains that research confirms that a strong father "is the best protection against eating disorders, failure in school, STDs, unwed pregnancy, and drug or alcohol abuse-and the best predictor of academic achievement, successful marriage and a satisfying emotional life."
The author draws on both recent research and traditional values to describe how fathers play a vital role of being the "hero" early in life. For example, recent research has shown that the ability to make valid judgments comes from the part of the brain that develops last, and that part of the brain is not usually fully developed until about age 25. Meeker asserts that a father has the unique position in a girl's life to provide boundaries and guidance during the teen years "to protect her from herself" until her brain is capable of making sound decisions.
In explaining the dynamics of parent support for their children, Meeker observes that when a problem comes up, mothers tend to focus on "understanding and emphasizing." Although this is very important in its own right, she explains that fathers tend to do something that often drives females wild, that of doing something to solve the problem. It is this practical approach to problem solving that is the father's role, and this, more than any kind of sympathy, is what can provide the guidance that a girl needs to avert possibly tragic consequences.
Part of the book is devoted to a description of how much more dangerous the world is for young people than it was for previous generations. For example, while physicians in the 60s needed to treat only two varieties of STDs, now there are more than 25 commonly found, and the percentage of young people suffering from each is increasing at a rapid rate. Again, while dangerous aspects of society were more or less contained or isolated in the 60s, now, with a society more tolerant of all kinds of behaviors, temptations of drugs, sex, and much more, especially through the media and the Internet, girls are much more at risk of negative consequences. The author asserts that it is through the guidance, protection and active love of a father that a girl has a better chance of avoiding these dangers that are all around us.
The author reports that she has spent twenty years counseling young girls on problems with sex, eating, school failure and unwanted pregnancies. It is her observation that one of the most common factors with girls with these problems are either a lack of an active father in her life, or a father that has "given up" by being passive in his fathering.
This book can be read in two ways. One, it gives insight on the view of the author in what it is like to grow up female in this society, with tremendous pressures that are increasingly working to encourage her to conform to other's wishes, be popular, while trying to work through intense internal emotional storms, with all the dangers of making the wrong decisions.
But more importantly, it is written for fathers. It encourages them that despite what their daughter or society might say they have much more influence on their daughters than they might think. And also, that being a successful father is not complicated; it just requires mostly taking time with their daughter and to be himself. One part of her advice is to be the kind of man you would want your daughter to marry. This modeling in itself will carry a powerful influence on a daughter.