For dads, raising daughters can sometimes be mystifying. The same could be said for mothers raising sons or really any parent raising a kid who isn’t like they were growing up.
But dads do some great things for daughters, including setting the example of how men should treat women, which feels especially important in this year of #MeToo.
Sheri D. Engler, psychologist and author of “The Pearls of Wisdom: A Fairy Tale Guide to Life’s Magic Secrets for All Ages,” offers these tips for dads raising daughters:
- Treat women with respect. Your daughter is watching how you treat women, and it will have a lifelong impact on her in ways you can’t imagine. You must be cognizant of your attitude and behavior around women at all times. This includes not saying negative things about her mother if you are divorced. See yourself as a role model of the kind of man you would want your daughter to marry one day, because that frequently influences how women choose their partners.
- Give her compliments about things other than her beauty. It is OK to tell your daughter she’s pretty, but that should not be the only compliment you give her. Compliment her intelligence, her resourcefulness, her imagination, her many skills, her hard work, and her strength. Honestly tell her the unique things you love about her, the things that make her a good and special person.
- Teach her the magic of self confidence. Teach her about the power that comes from believing in herself and believing she can achieve greatness in the world, while understanding that there are many girls who simply want to be a “mommy” like their , which is the most important job in the world. In this case, they may fear failing their father’s expectations of greatness. There is a critical difference between encouragement to be who they are and pressure to be who they aren’t.
- Teach her about what has traditionally been “guy stuff.” Teach her self-reliance, such as routine car maintenance, or mechanics in general. Teach her how to use tools while building a treehouse. Go fishing together. Take her to see planes at air shows, teach her photography and go birdwatching with her. It matters to spend quality time with her because it makes her feel she is worth her dad’s time. And it doesn’t have to stop in childhood. What could you be teaching your adult daughter?
- Let her get gritty like the boys. Teach her how to play sports from early on. This fosters tremendous social confidence as well as body confidence. Or just let her play in the mud and get dirty if that is what she wants to do. Girls don’t always have to be clean and pretty.
- Introduce her to books with girl heroes. There are plenty of books to choose from, so when reading to her let her enjoy a variety of adventures including books with strong female leaders. This will send the message that you believe in her. Or perhaps help her write a story of her own imagining herself as the hero or lead character. If nothing else, this will give you a valuable view of how she sees herself so you know what’s going on with her.
- Share music with her. Play your favorite music and tell her why you like it and let her do the same. Take her to concerts. If she wants to play an instrument, help her learn how. Music, and the arts in general, can be very bonding experiences.