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Father and daughter holding hands

12 Tips for Fathers Raising Daughters

On June 19th, we celebrate Father’s Day and the difference they make in the lives of their children. It’s important for fathers to have healthy relationships with both their sons and daughters. Dads make a difference! Here are some tips to help Dads raising daughters.

  1. PLANT THE SEED: Establish a strong relationship with your daughter in those early years. Develop a habit of always tucking your children in. Read to your daughter – it’s a great opportunity for closeness. Find opportunities to play something that you both enjoy.
  2. PARTICIPATE IN HER ACTIVITIES: Take an active role in her interests – volunteer to drive, coach, direct a play, attend her performances. Get involved in your daughter’s school – volunteer, read to her class or go on her class trip. Doing activities together, when it is just you and your daughter, adds to the richness of the relationship.
  3. INVOLVE HER IN YOUR LIFE AS WELL: While you’re taking an active interest in her life, let her know what’s happening in yours. Take her to work with you. Show her how you change the oil in the car. Take her to your basketball game.
  4. TALK, TALK, TALK…..LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN: Create opportunities for conversation with your daughter. Turn off the television. Try to have as many mealtimes together as possible – include her friends. Watch her TV programs and movies and discuss the issues that arise. Turn off the radio in the car on the way to soccer and talk. Take just your daughter out to dinner. Listen to her music and, without being judgmental, ask “what do you think about that?” Be available when she wants to talk to you. If you’re busy, you can say, “I’d like to talk to you, but can’t right at this moment, let me finish and we’ll talk,” or, depending on the subject, you can put down what you’re doing, and talk.
  5. DIG DEEPER: Teenage daughters can be short with their responses, avoiding a conversation with dad. To help keep the conversation going, ask more – “Well what do you think about that?… No kidding, tell me more.” You can also try  turning the conversation around to something that you need versus an interrogation. “This is important to me. I need to understand.”
  6. RESPECT HER DIFFERENCES AND DON’T BE TOO JUDGMENTAL: It is important for dads to listen to their daughters and appreciate their views, even if they don’t agree. Recognize that your teenage daughter will rebel against your ideas. She needs to take what she’s learned from you, chew it around and spit it out before she decides whether to buy into the value system you’ve presented her. If a father is fair and listens to his daughter’s thoughts, she will gain self-confidence and pride in her own opinion.
  7. APPLAUD HER STRENGTHS: Help her develop her strengths and achieve her goals even though they may be different from the desires you may have for her. Celebrate her style and abilities and support areas where she struggles. “You’re really good at French, but are having difficulty with math. It’s really hard isn’t it? How can I help you?”
  8. ENCOURAGE A HEALTHY BODY-TYPE AND HELP HER FEEL GOOD ABOUT HERSELF: It’s important for fathers to help their daughters feel good about their appearance and to encourage a healthy body type. Discourage dieting and promote a healthy, active family lifestyle of eating well, exercising and getting fresh air. Fathers can encourage this by being physically active with their daughter – play catch, jump rope, throw a Frisbee, bike, go for walks. Help her focus on who she is, not what she is physically. When you value her true self and focus on what is really important – what she thinks, feels and dreams – she will recognize her talents and her own true beauty.
  9. MODEL HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS: Daughters learn about relationships by watching their parents. Fathers teach their daughters what kinds of relationships are healthy, what traits to look for in a partner and what to expect in their future relationships.  They need to see their parents, while not necessarily agreeing, respecting each other’s differences and finding solutions to problems. They need to see affection between their parents. They need to see their parents working as a team, not undermining one another or putting each other down.
  10. ASK TOUGH QUESTIONS: Ask questions and talk about issues at an early age. Permission to talk about issues is different than giving them permission to drink alcohol, use drugs or have sex. You can still talk about the responsibility, safety issues and your values.
  11. ESTABLISH GROUND RULES: Daughters want rules to guide them in making their decisions, and often appreciate having the rule to fall back on when they are pressured into something they do not want to do. You can negotiate around the rules, ask what they think is reasonable, and come to a decision that considers their input. No matter what happens, it’s important that your daughters know that they can come home and be safe. “There will be discipline, but you can always come home.”
  12. SHOW AFFECTION: Daughters need lots of reassurance and words of encouragements from their fathers. They need Dad to hold their hands, give them hugs and tell them they are loved.

Fathers, like mothers, will make lots of mistakes. But, if fathers take the time to be with their daughters, to listen to them and value who they are, those mistakes won’t be earth shattering.  When dads are supportive and involved in their daughters’ lives, they foster their daughters’ self-worth and a relationship that will last a lifetime.