For centuries it was thought that the mother was the most important factor in bringing up children. Today, with women going back to work full-time and kids at home or in school, this has been challenged. What has been found is that the father plays just as important a role in the socialization of children, and a very special role when it comes to girls.
A poll called “Fathers in America” conducted by the Gallup Organization in 1994 found that 79.1% of the fathers polled felt that one of the major social problems facing America today was the absence of the father in the home. Although the importance of the father in the socialization of his children is becoming more accepted, there is still not enough written on the importance of the father in the socialization of their daughters.
While our society stresses the mother-daughter relationship, research shows that a father has a more profound effect on a daughter’s sense of well being and self-confidence. The strength of a father-daughter relationship is also a good predictor of how academically successful girls are in areas such as math and science. Daughters who have a close relationship with their fathers are also better able to be assertive without being aggressive, are more willing to try new things, are better able to deal with men in general (i.e. form lasting loving relationships with them), are more likely to go to graduate school, and are less likely to suffer mental disorders such as depression and eating disorders. So what can fathers do to foster a closer relationship with their daughters?
Respect her mom. Because your daughter’s most salient role model is her mom, it is important that you do not bad mouth her or disrespect her. You daughter needs to see that you think as much of her mom as she does. To do otherwise only creates a sense of cognitive dissonance in your daughter and will end up with your daughter not liking you.
Read to her. Reading to your daughter is something you can do from day one with your daughter. It is not only time to bond with her but it engenders a thirst for knowledge while each book introduces her to something new in life. Reading at an early age also gives you topics to refer back to when you are talking about the dos and don’ts in life.
Get Physical. A lot of men have not learned how important it is to be physical when showing one’s love. Don’t forget to give hugs and kisses to your daughter. It is important that they just don’t hear your love but that they feel too. Touch is a powerful tool.
Teach her New Things. While anyone can teach her how to ride a bike or how to do her homework, why not teach her some “man” things like fishing, home repairs or how to fix a car? These skills are just as important to girls but are seldom taught. When she is out on her own and much more independent because of what you taught her, she will be thanking you over and over.
Listen to her. You will need to work hard at this because, as you will learn, girls need more of this than your boys. It is more important that you listen rather than talk all the time because they need to feel like you understand them. Try to just listen and not lecture or pass judgment. By listening you will learn what she thinks, feels and dreams.
Help her with her Homework. Sitting at the table with her for two hours trying to figure out those chemistry questions might not seem like much fun but it will not only strengthen your bond, it will instill in her the idea that knowledge is valued by you. In an unconscious effort to please you, she, too, will soon value these things.
Know her Friends. The older your daughter gets the more important her friends become to her. She will tell them things that she won’t tell you or her mom. This is why it is important to know who they are and what they are about. It would be a good idea to have them over for a sleep over, take one or two of them out for an ice cream with your daughter or have a movie party. You know what they say, bad friends cause bad decisions. You daughter will appreciate you getting to know them too.
Take her on Dates. There is nothing like one on one time with your daughter where you take her out for lunch, a movie or perhaps shopping. This will make her feel special and she will learn to look forward to this special time you spend together.
Be Interested. Become interested in what she is doing so that you can serve as a supporter for her. This will also serve to keep her interested as well as make her feel more confident in herself and what she is doing. Give her feedback and tell her what she is doing well with. Give praise when it is due. “I am so proud of how hard you have been practicing for the big game Saturday.” It doesn’t matter if they win or lose, what is important is that she put all of her heart into it. If she is in a sport go to her games; in a band go to her concerts.