A father’s influence lasts a lifetime, and it is an important compliment to the mothering role. More and more research is confirming that a female’s sense of worth as a woman, is commonly rooted in her experience with her father.
Fathers affect the lives of their daughters in intriguing ways. Including her academic and vocational path, her career success and financial well-being. The well-fathered daughter is also the most likely to have relationships with men that are emotionally intimate and fulfilling, and have better emotional and mental health.
Here are five tips to help you be a great father to your daughter.
- Make the connection
One of the most natural ways a father can make a connection with his daughter is through purposeful physical affection. A hug, shoulder squeeze or a kiss on the cheek helps to create an emotional bond with daughters who desperately crave these displays of affection. This is great news for fathers, because if you can’t find the words to say it then you have a second opportunity to show it through physical gestures.
Studies have proven that physical touch makes us feel better both physiologically and psychologically. But children — especially daughters — need more than just everyday gestures given in passing. When a girl’s need for affection is met by her father it has a protective measure on her future sexual relationships.
- Invest in her
As a father, you can appreciate your daughter for who she truly is. Help her to identify her unique qualities and value them.
Avoid investing in who you think she should be. This can happen when fathers feel like they don’t understand their daughters. Remember, this can happen easily as girls tend to morph into what is expected of them rather than excel towards who they truly are. Spend time together, share stories and experiences. Give her opportunities to show her true self, and this will strengthen the relationship.
- Listen without fixing
Dads wishing to fix things can make us lousy listeners. Your important job is to listen out for the feelings and the emotions; your daughter just wants to be heard. Listening is essential for every father, even though it sometimes goes against their instincts.
You do not need to agree with everything she says or does, but when you listen, you build the emotional connection that will help her listen to you when it really counts.
- Watch your language
The language you use when talking to girls matters. Everything that is said can be taken very seriously and to heart by your daughter. Thoughts and comments are easily internalised, amplified and exaggerated. Differentiate being pretty from being beautiful. Praise her for the values and characteristics she has which make her beautiful.
- Provide warmth
Fathers need to find their softer side when dealing with their daughters, to help them open up and share and provide an emotionally safe place for them. When fathers are called upon to give corrections or direction, they can do this in a warm and loving manner that she will positively respond to. Offer your strength to your daughter in a different way than you would to a son.
- Be a positive male role model
As a girl tries to figure out what men are like, the first one she watches is her father. He can be one very significant example of a man who is consistent, trustworthy, and sensitive to feelings, who places his family at a high priority in his schedule, who keeps his promises, and who invests his energies in the lives of those around him. As her father, you play a large role in showing your daughter what a proper, respectful male response sounds and feels like.
One of the most important factors that determines a woman’s confidence in life is the relationship she had with her father. You are in a privileged position to make a remarkable difference to a future woman’s life.
If you are sole mother then don’t despair. Girls can have exposure to positive male roles through contact with family relatives, male teachers and sporting coaches. The notion of sparenting is an important one for us as a community to embrace, so that kids get exposure to a wide variety of gender models.
For more on Parenting Girls and how to be a great Dad (or Mum) to your daughter, join us for our Parenting Girls course.