Fathers have been given a tremendous ability to influence the lives of their daughters – either positively or negatively. How a father treats his daughter will shape how she views herself and how she expects to be treated by other men for the rest of her life. Girls need the following intangibles from their fathers. Be aware of these needs and focus on discovering ways to fulfill them in your daughter’s life even from an early age.
1. Practice Consistency
Perhaps the most important principle a girl needs her father to practice is consistency. Her world, especially during adolescence, will be one of mercurial ups and downs. She needs her dad’s steady guidance and calm, objective presence. She needs a father who is balanced: strict but kind, loving, and forgiving. She needs a rock that she can depend on when all else is falling down around her.
Consistency is important when raising all children but especially with girls. Daughters thrive on knowing they can depend on their fathers to always be there for them. When she is little this might mean pushing her on the swings or tucking her in at night. But as she gets older she needs your consistent presence and level demeanor.
2. Give Unconditional Love
Maybe more than anything else, a daughter needs her father’s unconditional love. Love covers a multitude of sins and mistakes. I asked a good friend of mine how her father influenced her regarding dating and boys. She told me she never really had a very strong desire to date all that much. She said, “I was celebrated as a child and showered with unconditional love by my father. Consequently, I wasn’t hungry for male love because I had it growing up. “Our daughters need to know that we would literally give our lives for them if necessary. We express our love to them in two ways: telling them and then showing them by our actions. If you haven’t already told your daughter that you love her so much you would be willing to die for her, I would encourage you to do so. That is an important thing to know, and you (and her mother) might be the only people in the world who would be willing to make that sacrifice for her.
3. Offer Encouragement
A father plays a big role in how a girl feels about herself. His encouragement and approval help her develop confidence and a feeling of adequacy. While males usually compete and judge each other by performance, females often judge each other based upon physical beauty and the qualities of their relationships. A father who recognizes and comments upon his daughter’s internal qualities, and not just her physical appearance, gives her a healthy self-image. When a father encourages his daughter’s involvement in various activities, she has something that provides her with a source of self-esteem other than just her physical appearance, which she has little control over. Also, she is less likely to depend upon a male’s sexual desire for her as the determining factor for her esteem and self-image. Fathers who encourage their daughters give them a huge step up in life. Without that encouragement, too many women go through life with feelings of worthlessness and despair.
4. Gain Respect
One of the most important attributes a girl needs to have is respect for her father. It may even be more important that she respects him than that she loves him. That’s not just because men require respect more than they do love but because it is healthy for her in all areas of life. Without that respect, she will founder in the rugged seas of adolescence. Your daughter will only follow your rules and abide by your boundaries if she respects you. When she is young she may follow them because she fears you and you are a natural authority figure, but as she gets older she learns that there is really nothing forcing her to follow your rules and guidelines. Our culture teaches her a disdain for authority, and she learns she is not bound by any laws to follow parental desires once she reaches a certain age. As a teenager she will only obey your rules for one of two reasons: because she loves you or because she respects you (hopefully both). If you try to force her through fear or intimidation, she will eventually rebel and you will lose influence in her life. But if your daughter respects you, she will willingly follow your wishes as she knows they are in her best interest.
5. Speak the Truth
Girls need their fathers to speak truth into their lives. We live in a world where evil is considered good and good is considered evil. Our culture will tell your daughter many lies. Advertisers want her to buy things she does not need, greedy corporations want her to believe lies about herself so they can sell her “cures,” and various political and cultural ideologies want her to believe their worldview regardless of whether it is true or even healthy for her. Politicians and special interest groups make up outrageous statistics and promote them as the truth; the media quotes them without even confirming their validity.
Teach your daughter the absolute truth that she can be anything she wants in life, whether she chooses to be a veterinarian, a lawyer, a doctor, an astronaut, a writer, or maybe even president of the United States. Teach her to be free, strong, and independent.
6. Share Physical Activity
Males are generally more physical than females. Boys and men naturally process information and emotions better when we are physically active. We verbally communicate better when we are able to move around. We also reduce stress levels through physical activities. Reportedly, about 60 percent of the US population is overweight, and since mentioning your daughter’s weight or body shape is destructive to her self-esteem, a good way to help her stay mentally and physically healthy is to include her in your physical activities. Females place more emphasis than is healthy for them on their physical appearance. Additionally, eating disorders and negative body image are rampant among young women. One of the more effective ways researchers are finding to treat and even prevent eating disorders is to have daughters spend more time with their fathers.
7. Be Transparent
Fathers who are transparent enough to admit when they make mistakes are a blessing to their children, especially their daughters. When a dad can confess that he has made a mistake or that he does not know something, it teaches his daughter to trust and respect him and, by extension, men in general. I can remember past bosses at work or superior officers in the service who thought they knew everything and never admitted they were wrong. If you’ve ever served under those types of men, you probably felt as disgusted and disrespectful toward them as I did. We shouldn’t expect our children to feel any differently about us when we behave that shamefully. Frankly, I don’t want my daughter to end up marrying some blowhard know-it-all just because I modeled that behavior for her. I want her to marry a guy who is honest, forthright, and brave enough to admit when he is wrong. That’s the kind of man I want loving my daughter and raising my grandchildren.
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