Every few months, we see a viral Facebook post like this: A picture of an overprotective dad with rules or warnings for dating his daughter. Everyone pats this dad on the back. The picture is shared thousands of times.
The latest edition was shared by Kit Dale, two-time World Pro Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion, to his more than 90,000 followers via #thefatjewish. The photo depicts a very physically fit dad and a very disgruntled teen daughter. On the front of the young girl’s shirt is a picture of her dad, ripped and flexing. The homemade shirt reads: “Stay Clear Boys, this is my dad!”
Dale apparently liked the photo because he posted, “Hahahha smart dad,” along with the pic. The photo got more than 40,000 shares in just a few days. So what appears to be the problem? What is wrong with a dad who cares enough about his daughter to protect her?
The dad is close, but no cigar. He’s missing the point.
I can see why people are applauding, liking and sharing this post at first glance. When you consider that many dads aren’t there at all, this dad is actually showing up and putting in the effort to care about his daughter. I have no doubt this dad loves his daughter very, very much, so much that he took the time to print a kitschy shirt to prove how special she is to him.
But the whole point of being a parent in a new generation is that I think we can do better. This isn’t the 1950s where a girl waits quietly upstairs for a date to arrive, and Dad sits on the front porch cleaning his shotgun. Today’s parents have the opportunity not to scare their kids into obedience but to teach them self-respect and how to navigate dangerous situations on their own.
This is empowering your kids, not controlling them.
I don’t think that this dad means to be controlling. His goal was to be loving and funny, but it was misguided. I can only speak from my personal experience, but I was raised in a home with an authoritarian parent who enforced the rules but never taught me to value myself. As a result, here I am, almost 15 years since I’ve left my parents’ house, and I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m parenting my kids, and I’m parenting myself.
This dad means well, but I think we can do better. As one wise commenter pointed out, a better shirt to empower this young girl and teach her her worth would have read: “Attention boys, this is my body, and I do what I want with it. Neither you nor my dad makes any of the rules. And P.S. I may not even be into boys.”