In 2013, Robert Hall brought his daughter, Alexandra, 16, home to St. Augustine, Fla., from Santa Fe, N.M., after a period of failing grades and behavioral issues.
“It was a shock. She was sad,” Mr. Hall told The Independent. “There was a fear she wouldn’t learn.”
His approach was to withhold food: Alexandra said she spent one day on lockdown in their home, restrained with a belt, because her father didn’t want her eating. When she was allowed to eat, she refused.
“Things like that don’t really strike fear,” she told the U.K. publication. “I said ‘If you pull it off me, I don’t want to eat.’”
Though the involvement of fathers in their daughters’ day-to-day lives has become increasingly common, neither Mr. Hall nor his wife, Josie, seemed to think to themselves that interventions for their daughter would be effective. That’s because Alexandra’s mother’s suggestions for behavior and school management “were dangerous,” Mr. Hall said. She was herself a student who was given the discipline option.
[The father-daughter relationship] used to be about the parent being the expert, but with their culture of discipline and learning, that’s over. They know everything, and they can tell their kids what they need to do to help them get through, which is what we should be doing.
When Alexandra broke curfew, her father left her alone for a night. “She wouldn’t answer the phone, or call back,” she said. “The lack of a call showed she hadn’t heard.”
Eventually, Alexandra began to learn to “set limits,” Mr. Hall said. When Alexandra started to masturbate, her father did not threaten or punish her; instead, he told her he was looking at her breast tissue. Alexandra started to see the decision that led to her masturbation as a point of negotiation, and the other people around her. She changed her behavior.
Eventually, Mr. Hall bought her a new phone, he told The Independent. Alexandra applied herself again in class, and she even got a plus-one to high school for the first time. “She’s a completely different person now,” he said.
Though the decision of whether or not to engage in psychological interventions in a parent-child relationship is largely subjective, experts are now asserting that parents who are involved and competent to their children’s emotional and behavioral needs are more likely to see positive outcomes than parents who do not provide supportive services and are not given the option.
“It can be a life-altering act to engage on a very emotional level in a relationship with your child,” Timothy Moelter, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told The Independent.
As Mr. Moelter said, “I think that if a father feels like he and his daughter are working together in that way, that’s the kind of relationship I think is the best for him and his daughter.”