Every girl needs a father figure in her life, according to Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D., in a Psych Central article entitled, “Daughters Need Fathers, Too.” As she grows from a baby to an adult, her father and other father figures in her life will help her learn what she needs to know about how to relate to men and what men expect from her. Take note, dads. Your role in her life is crucial.
Girls base a significant part of their identity on how they relate to dad or other father figures. Be careful about the messages you send to her because they leave a lasting impression, according to Hartwell-Walker. If you tell her she is beautiful, worthy, smart, lovable and precious, she believes you. If you tell her the opposite, she will also believe that. Tell her how beautiful she is, inside and out, so she learns to treat and relate to her body in healthy and affirming ways. Show her how you see her through your unconditional love so she is less likely to adopt the skewed social message that tells her she must look or dress a certain way in order to be accepted.
Your daughter looks at how you relate to her and other women in her life and learns how to relate to men, writes Hartwell-Walker. She believes your example is how men are supposed to relate to women. Hold the door open for her, pull her chair out and treat her like she is precious and valuable, and she will hold the boys she dates to that standard. Treat her mother with care and respect, working problems out together in a peaceful and honest manner, and she will learn that a man and woman can negotiate honorably and live in harmony. When you are there for her on a regular basis, you teach her that dads and other father figures should be there for their kids, actively parenting, according to psychiatrist Mark Banschick, M.D., in the Psychology Today article, “Four Great Things Dads Do.”
Loving the girl unconditionally can make her less vulnerable to falling for the wrong guy or mistaking lust for love, according to psychologist Dan Collins. Love her and use appropriate affection, and she will learn that physical affection doesn’t have to lead to sex. Affirm that she has control over who touches her and how, teaching her to stand up for herself against physical abuse or manipulation.
As a dad or father figure, have fun with your girl in physical ways, such as jumping, running and giggling on the floor, suggests Banschick. Celebrate her mind, her abilities and her personality. Let her know that she can do anything she sets her mind to do, advises Collins. Help support her by cheering her on and being there to celebrate her accomplishments on the sports field, academic stage or among her peers. Talk to her, not at her, and listen when she wants to talk -- she learns what she thinks and says has value. Your belief in her will increase her ability to believe in herself.