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9 Ways Dads Can Help Their Daughter's Self-Esteem

9 Ways Dads Can Help Their Daughter's Self-Esteem

Teach your daughter a skill.

Anea Bogue | Tonic

June 18, 2010

Although much of my work is centered on the mother-daughter relationship, I am frequently asked what role dad can play in building and protecting his daughter’s self-esteem. Some dads are less involved than they could be because they underestimate the important influence they have on their daughter’s development. Others really want to be involved, but feel unclear about how to be an effective parent to a girl, especially when she moves beyond the age of 9 or 10.

Unlike moms, fathers don’t have their own first-hand experience of the complexities and intensities of girlhood (especially teen girlhood) to fall back on. Consequently, many fathers find themselves somewhere between flailing and paralyzed in spite of having the best intentions and a genuine desire to participate in raising a daughter who is strong, confident and able to do anything that she sets her mind. The fact is, a father plays a fundamentally important role in shaping his daughter’s sense of self-value, so it is important that he know just what to do from her first breath right on through the challenging teen years.

Let her know she is unconditionally loved. Studies confirm that a girl’s self-esteem is directly impacted by her experience of unconditional love and affirmation from her father. Not a day should pass without her knowing, through word or action, that you love and appreciate her. Acknowledge her accomplishments and express your confidence in her ability to do better when she falls short of her best.

Break gender stereotypes. Gender stereotypes can limit the breadth of your daughter’s dreams and development. If you want her to believe she can be anything she desires to be, from professional athlete to astronaut, stay-at-home mom to scientist, she must know the power of choice and be able to recognize the unnecessary limitations of socialized gender roles. Whether you take her to work with you, teach her how to cut the grass or make sure you lend a hand with housework, these small steps will translate to huge potential in her future endeavors.

Model respect for women. The way you speak about and to women, and particularly the way she sees you interact with her mother, will directly impact your daughter’s sense of herself as a woman and how she should expect to be treated by men.

Dedicate quality time. Consistently creating time for you and your daughter to cook a meal together, work on her homework or sit and watch a favorite television show will go a long way in building a strong relationship. The most meaningful conversations often happen in the midst of the most mundane tasks.

Cultivate open lines of communication. You may have to work a little harder at this one as she enters adolescence but your ability to communicate with your daughter is essential. From simply asking about her day or actively lending an ear, to helping her understand the ‘male perspective’ as the role of boys in her life becomes more prominent, communication is a core piece of a healthy relationship with your daughter.

Teach her a skill. Whatever you’re good at, whether it’s throwing a football, playing the guitar or working with numbers, your daughter will benefit from having another skill in her repertoire.

Set the bar high. We all tend to find comfort in familiarity. If what she knows is a man with integrity, warmth, courage and humility, this is what she will tend to seek in a mate when the time comes. Be the man you want her to find in a future partner.

Encourage her to be physically strong. It does not serve your daughter to treat her like a delicate flower. Instead, guide your daughter to see the benefits of a strong body. Express your appreciation of women being physically fit and healthy rather than model-thin, encourage her to be physically aggressive in sports when necessary and be honest with her about the dangers of the real world from which a strong body can help to protect her.

Remain consistently enrolled in Women 101. From the moment you hear, “It’s a girl!” start learning everything you can about the female mind, body and spirit. I highly recommend The Seven Sacred Rites of Menarche: The Spiritual Journey of the Adolescent Girl by Kristi Meisenbach Boylan. Your understanding of the wonderful and challenging complexities of being female will be your most important guide in becoming an exceptional father to your daughter.

This article was originally published on Tonic

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