When it comes to children’s prospects, the real dividing line between the haves and the have-nots isn’t money– it’s parents. Children raised by a single parent are more likely than their peers raised by married parents to drop out of school, abuse drugs, get drunk, smoke, have sex, get pregnant, commit a crime, attempt suicide–the list could go on and on.

Simply put, children need their fathers as well as their mothers. This may sound like common sense, but it’s common sense that’s increasingly ignored. Today, more than one-third of American children are born out of wedlock. More than half of teenagers live in homes without married biological parents. Reversing this trend is critical to our society’s long-term health. Policymakers have taken notice, as they grapple with proposals and initiatives aimed at encouraging men to become more actively involved in their children’s lives.

But what about dads who are already committed to fatherhood? With pop culture sending mixed messages about what’s expected of fathers, many men are understandably confused about how to be a good father to their children.

In her new book, Strong Father, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know, Dr. Meg Meeker provides a helpful road map for concerned fathers. She focuses on the father-daughter relationship and tackles difficult issues, from teaching your children about God to strategies for discussing (and preventing) sexual experimentation.

Dr. Meeker’s advice to fathers is both reassuring and challenging. She urges men to spend time with their daughters, to listen intently to them, and to realize that they will set their daughters’ expectations for future relationships with men. It’s up to dad to show his daughter what a responsible, humble, courageous, and good man really is.

Dr. Meeker emphasizes that dads don’t have to give up being men to nurture their daughters– in fact, their maleness is their strength:

Most of you out there are good men as well, but you are good men who have been derided by a culture that does not care for you, that, in terms of the family, has ridiculed your authority, denied your importance, and tried to fill you with confusion about your role. But I can tell you that fathers change lives’ You are natural leaders, and your family looks to you for qualities that only fathers have. You were made a man for a reason, and your daughter is looking to you for guidance than she cannot get from her mother.

Yet she also paints a bleak picture of the difficult road facing fathers of daughters. Fathers will confront a culture hostile to many of the values they want to impart. This is particularly true in the sexual arena: girls still in elementary school are regularly confronted with messages from magazines, television, and music preaching the importance of being sexy. Dr. Meeker presents the disturbing facts about how sexually transmitted diseases ravage America’s youth– one in five Americans over age twelve tests positive for genital herpes; nearly one in four sexually active teens is currently living with an STD; nearly half of high school students become sexually active before they graduate.

At the same time as our culture has become more tolerate of sexually activity among teens, it has conspired to make parents less comfortable with setting boundaries and enforcing rules. Dr. Meeker insists that parents are the best defense against these forces:

Many parents make the mistake of trying to stay in the background. Parents fear being too controlling or overprotective. We don’t want to embarrass our daughters. Every model for Playboy is someone’s daughter. Don’t let it be yours. Protect her beautiful body as only you can. She may hate it in the short term, but when she is an adult she will thank you.  Stay in the battle.

If you’re hoping to become a grandparent anytime soon, this isn’t a book to give your son– it’s scary stuff. If you’re a man who loves the daughter in your charge, this book will remind you of the importance of your relationship with her and help you realize that you already have the tools to be a great father. You just have to use them.

To purchase a copy of the book, visit IWF’s bookstore.