It is almost impossible to understate a defining impact a father has on his daughter. We already talked about how fathers influence their sons into adulthood, but the magnitude of the effect they have on their girls is equally great.
The fathers are the ones who define not only their daughters’ future romantic relationships, but they also strongly influence the daughters’ academic achievements and career paths, their resilience to stress, and so many other crucial aspects of their lives. It may sound frightening, but fathering a daughter truly is a time when a modern man becomes a knight.
What a Daughter Learns from her Father
One rarely stops and thinks about the fact that, apart from some inherited predispositions (which are our own doing as well), our children actually “learn” their personalities! They learn the right ways to reach a goal (truly adaptive ways, or simply screaming one’s lungs out until the other side succumbs), they learn how to react when stressed, how to express their emotions, they learn their future social roles, their worldviews…
And girls tend to linger more around their parents. They are also more receptive and more engaging in family interactions than boys, so their young minds truly act like sponges. Numerous psychological studies agree that, without a doubt, fathers are indispensable factors in a healthy development of a future satisfied and successful woman. And it seems that the most important period of father’s influence is between the child’s ages of 2 and 5. These are the years in which every child discovers his or her autonomy, and begins to realize that they are individuals with distinct needs and wants; and precisely here a father is the one who will teach his daughter that she is strong enough to explore the world on her own.
Mothers do tend to over-shield their daughters, and try to protect them from the world as much as possible. This is, of course, done with the noblest intentions, but that is why the role of a father (or a father figure) is essential to provide a healthy balance – fathers love in a different way. Fathers allow and encourage self-sufficiency of their daughters, while providing a safe base where a daughter can always return to for encouragement – and be sent back to fight her insecurity.
You surely know this scene – a little girl gets scared of getting on a climber, and runs back to her parents. A mother will, almost certainly, comfort the daughter gently and tell her that it’s ok, they can go and try the slide, throw a ball or pick flowers. A father, on the other hand, will probably tell her that it is ok, but she’s got nothing to be scared of, and go right back to the climber with her.
Aside from learning self-esteem and resilience in general from her father’s behavior towards her, a daughter will be very impressionable (due to her natural ability to perceive non- verbal clues and social signs much more precisely than boys) to the clues about the rules of relationship between men and women. This is why each father inevitably teaches his daughter how the men in her life are going to behave towards her. More precisely, he teaches her what she can expect from men, and what is acceptable in that regard. How? With every word about and action towards her mother, grandmother, teacher, and all female figures the girl knows or hears about. In essence, how a father treats women is how a daughter will be treated by men.
What Does a Father Have to Do?
Regardless of how prepared you felt for that position, you now have a responsibility for yourself, your wife and your daughter – your actions will transfer through generations to come, as you are teaching your daughter how to see the world, herself and men, and she will teach her children the same. Therefore, you should try to do well in this role, and here is how:
– Always treat women with respect and tact
– your daughter will learn that no matter how annoyed her boyfriend of husband may be, she has the right to be treated with dignity
– Connect with your daughter – don’t hesitate to take her on a field trip, play ball with her, and show her what is interesting for you – rest assured that she will enjoy every minute of your time together, and learn that she is an interesting and versatile person herself
– Celebrate your daughter’s cleverness, beauty and spirit – your daughter will receive the ultimate confirmation that she has a reason to feel confident and to love herself, if her father is the one who is proud of her achievements
– Consult with an expert – Parenting is a scary role, and you should always turn to a psychotherapist whenever you feel overwhelmed, or simply in doubt what to do. A psychotherapist will help you tell the normal developmental phases from signals that something should be done in a different way. He will also show you how to communicate your emotions in a manner that will benefit your girl, including your disagreement. Childhood is a fragile time for your daughter’s young mind, and your actions can result in her becoming a healthy confident woman, or a distressed and insecure one; therefore, whatever you feel uncertain about, don’t hesitate to contact a psychotherapist.
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