One of the greatest influences and blessings in a child's life comes in the form of a father. And I am no exception!
From the time, he held my hand to take my first steps to walking me down the aisle to my beloved husband to being the most fun grandpa and every moment in between, much memories have been made to last a lifetime!
As a society, the spotlight has always been on the mothers and their undisputed supremacy in the area of parenting. And rightly so! But often unfairly at the critical cost of the father’s role in parenting.
There is a largely prevalent misconception that the role of a father is a non-issue and his absence from his children’s life is completely justified. Especially for daughters!
Fathers contribute way more than just giving our children their genetic and social identities and financial security.
At the same time, it is also true that today’s Dads are more ‘hands-on’ than ever before in their daughter’s lives. Be it changing her diapers, brushing her hair into pigtails, pushing her in the pram, teaching her to swim or playing sports!
However, once his daughter attains puberty, it is Mom’s territory now. Many fathers make the crucial mistake of backing off from their daughter´s life after puberty. Failing to realise that it is NOW that they are most needed in their teenage girl´s life than ever.
Why, you ask? Because scientific research studies have proven that
Fathers have the greatest impact on their teenage daughters’ self-esteem.
So, don´t stop being an active force in your daughter´s life ever. Whether she is a baby, a confused teenager or a self-assured woman, she always needs You!
The best gift any father can give his daughter is his time. So, start early and raise her when she is young. Even if you haven´t, better late than never! Parenting is not just Mommy´s job alone. It is equally Daddy´s job. And no, working and earning money doesn´t count as Parenthood.
Here are some perfectly ‘doable’ and fun action steps for fathers to bond and raise strong daughters.
I can only speak from my perspective on how crucial the father´s role is in the overall well-being of his daughter´s life as I share some personal experiences that are the closest to my heart.
1. Love her mother and model a loving relationship
The best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother.
The father is the alpha point when it comes to learning about love. It is through him, the daughter envisions her lifetime soul-mate and the son learns all the fine nuances of spearheading and managing family relationships and its roles and responsibilities. Like any daughter I guess, when I'd see Mum and Dad blissfully happy and contended in each other's company, I'd make a silent wish for a husband just like my Dad.
Also, show your daughter that equality between men and women in a relationship must be the norm and not the exception.
I had absolutely no clue what woman empowerment meant or even that women faced any discrimination at all in the first place. The atmosphere at home was such! Mom and Dad were equals in every sense. They make a wonderful team to this date and its a treat to watch them as couple in action - cooking together, both making a living outside and coming up with mature decisions right from the start. Mum continued studying till her M.Phil despite having me and my twin brothers right after. While I was sent away to a boarding for 2 years while my brothers were taken care of by a nanny, Mum continued to study and work simultaneously while Dad and I were in Kerala. And no matter what, Dad stood by my Mum in whatever career aspirations she had for herself. He is so proud of Mum and her personal accomplishments when it comes to her career. As his daughter, I can vouch for a fact that there was absolutely no discrimination of any sorts between my brothers and me in any manner. In fact, I was and still am the apple of his eyes. I lived a childhood as carefree as my brothers, never ever having to step into the kitchen or do any chore owing to my gender. It was only once I stepped into the big, bad world outside, that reality struck and I could see a stark difference in the way my female peers were brought up. I am so grateful for having being raised by such a good father.
So, model a loving, nurturing and respectful relationship with your wife as your daughter will expect nothing less than to be treated the same way in all her relationships.
2. Show Up
Yes, it is as simple as just showing up. Get involved in your daughter´s life right now. Don’t pass the buck to her Mom. Your daughter needs to see that you are there as a witness to all her little big achievements – school performances, sport matches, award ceremonies etc.
What more can I say about the bond fathers and daughters share! As far and long as I can remember, those days of pining and yearning to see my dad during my days in the boarding school are still afresh in my memory. My Dad came much like a colourful rainbow at the end of a spell of rain. Once or twice a month, he would make it a point to drop all his work and travel all the way to meet me. I would wait endlessly for weeks prior to his coming. And every time, the attendant would come in to announce his arrival, my heart would skip many a beat while I ran down the stairs to meet him. And Yes! I felt truly special. He truly did make me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world. Even today, as a grown up married woman, I missed and longed to see my Dad while my stay in the US. Those pangs of love and separation were and are just as real.
Make your daughter´s day special by just showing up for her. Your presence is all that it takes to light up her world.
3. Bring out the child in you
No matter how old we grow, the child in us never really dies. It might be latent and parenthood is the perfect opportunity to bring out our inner child. Both my father and husband can be quite a big kid and clown together, which makes them great dads automatically.
It is such a comic relief and stress buster when fathers intervene in a difficult parenting situation and defuse it entirely. Last night, I told my husband how my daughter was quite nervous for her speech today at school. I told him that she speaks so well in front of me but gets very self-conscious in front of others. And, the more I tell her, the more she clams up. Apart from her getting nervous, I was getting all stressed as well. This morning before going to school, my husband casually took our daughter aside and played his usual clown self and both of them were gurgling over some lame jokes as usual. After preparing her lunch, I got down to hearing her speech one last time before she headed for school. She amazed me with her natural ease and confidence which was back so quickly. The body language, the eye contact, the voice modulation, the delivery style - Everything was bang on! Just like that! That´s the kind of super-power effect that fathers have over their daughters and their self-esteem.
Similarly, with my Dad, he would always lighten things up with a spontaneous joke or two. He is the God of jokes in our family and that's why there is never ever a dull moment around him. He's also taught me to never take life or yourself too seriously...have a couple of laughs, both in the good and bad times, and tide along joyfully.
Let me share an amusing incident about my father on that note! He is eternally stuck at the 'I am 65 going on 16' age. I have two handsome brothers. And the following incident happened a couple of years ago when my brothers were in college. One of them had a couple of girls in his group of college friends. And they'd keep calling home to speak to him. Those were the days when cell phones had not yet come into the scene. Whenever my brother was away, my Dad would step in and do the honours. He'd play the the imposter, mimicking my brother´s voice with such finesse and perfection, that the phone conversations between my brother´s girlfriends and my dad would go endlessly for hours, with more than a couple of sheepish grins and chuckles along the way. So, that´s my extremely mischievous and funny father for you!
So Dads, let down your guard once in a while. You are not obliged to anyone to be oh-so-cool, composed and tough all the time.
4. Be the wise spiritual baba
A large part of one´s faith comes from our parents. My father is a man of immense faith and I could go to him at any point of time with any spiritual or religious doubts and he would try to give me the best answer he could possibly give.
One of my favourite advice (and there are many) from him is - 'You don't owe an explanation to anybody except God’.
It is also this same faith that gives him this monk like philosophical outlook towards life. That certainty that everything will fall into place at the right time and for the right reasons and with the right people. Despite his little fears and rationale outlook, he is an eternal optimist looking largely at the sunny side of life. His eternal advice related to faith and gratitude - 'Keep Praying when things go wrong. Keep praying when they go right’.
5. Being human
Fathers are a great role model for their daughters.
My father is the proverbial 'a friend in need is a friend indeed' man. He would do anything for his friends. It doesn't matter which economical class they hail from, he is always there like a knight in shining armour when the need arises. Little wonder, that he has a close-knit of true, genuine and fun-loving pals from all age groups, ethnicity, social class and faith. And their bond only grows stronger and thicker with time.
I have learnt from him how to treat people with love, respect and empathy irrespective of their social and economic standing. And, that kindness is not a sign of weakness but in fact, strength.
6. Two to Tango
Fathers, you don´t have to be all goody-goody. Be your daughter´s sinister 'partner-in-crime'.
My father introduced me to all the vices in my life. He encouraged me to take that first sip of wine, gin, whisky rum and vodka etc. And when I did, he smiled in mischievous delight. He bought me my very first itsy bitsy teeny weeny red and white striped bikini at the age of 3. He bought me my own 2 wheeler vehicle much to my Mum's fears. And, I had the best days of my life, feeling so independent and free, whizzing around the streets of Hyderabad on my very own Scooty. I literally felt like Super Woman maneuvering through those chaotic roads zipping adeptly and finding my own way thorough. His heart swelled with pride when he saw me dancing to Zeenat Aman's iconic 'Dum Maro Dum' song on stage, huffing and puffing on an imaginary cigar. Zeenat Aman has always been Dad's hot favourite by the way. His heart couldn´t swell more prouder, I remember!
My husband and daughter are forever conspiring notoriously evil pranks to try on their enemy No.1 and poor, hapless victim, Me!
Dads, find our own special crime activities where your daughter and you can be super fun ´partners-in-crime.´ A la Crime Master Go-Go! Heee-Haww-Haww-Haww!
7. Create special Dad-Daughter traditions
Men usually like to interact by doing things together. This comes in handy when it comes to spending some quality shared time with your daughter. Listen to music and dance together, go on a fun date, hike, swim, cook etc.
This was our magical tradition. My husband is an adventurous man and he loves to take our daughter out for vacations, sight seeings, musuems, parks, fairs, movies, restaurant dates, play video games and swimming. This is their special tradition where I am not welcome. My daughter eagerly looks forward to these exclusive father-daughter dates as she keeps pestering me to call up Daddy to know when he going to come home and sweep her off her feet outdoors all over again.
Create your own special father-daughter tradition.
8. Papa don´t preach
It is very important to practise the art of active listening without voicing out your opinions and judgements. Your daughter needs to feel that she can trust you with her problems and you will understand and empathise with her.
My father still listens to me, a grown up adult, with the most empathetic ear. He never jumps the gun and makes a stark judgement about me. Ever! Because that´s the kind of trust he has in me and I have tried my best to live up to his trust and confidence. Your daughter will too when you believe in her.
Dads, be patient with your little flawsome angels. They will turn out perfectly fine....just lend them a patient ear for now.
9. Word power
Words have power and energy. The words you speak to your daughters have a lasting and powerful impact on them. Use it to make them, not break them. Your words are a reflection of your beliefs about them. What you believe about your daughter shows up in what you say to them and about them. Your daughter internalises everything that you say and starts to believe it.
My husband is always so mindful of his words around my daughter. He is a man of few words but positive, loving and powerful nonetheless. They are like a soothing balm to all my daugter´s fears and apprehensions that she has about herself.
So, always use positive words of love, encouragement and inspiration. Make sure you look into her eyes and mean all those wonderful things you say to her. Remember, your daughter sees her self-worth in your eyes.
10. Find her natural spark
Let your child explore, experiment and enjoy what she naturally gravitates towards.
So,what is your daughter naturally drawn towards? What is her mojo that keeps her truly happy, passionate and satisfied?
My father saw how magnetically drawn I was to books, like bees to its nectar. He never restricted me from reading any of the taboo books for my age. For that matter, even movies. And so, I read Archie comics at the age of 6 that was filled all the evils of Western culture or watched Sholay that had such blood and gory violence written all over it. And I turned up alright, I guess. He bought me lots and lots of books, of all genres to read and rented all the great and mindless movies alike possible. We read, watched and had our own discussion around them. Books and movies still remain my entertainment. So, today I can write, dance and emote well. That´s my spark, my Mojo! The gift of expression and communication!
Explore avenues to help your daughter utilise her natural gifts. This will tremendously boost her self-esteem and confidence. It is crucial to her that her father acknowledges and supports her natural passion. Else, she might start to doubt her own abilities and strengths.
Let her sparkle like the most twinkling star there ever is!
11. Celebrate her beautiful mind
Let your daughter know that you see her beauty inside out. You see her intelligence, her skills, her talents, her passion, her kindness apart from being just a pretty face or body.
Encourage her to get into the habit of reading. Start with a few minutes a day and gradually increase the time spent in reading. Give her the freedom to choose any book she likes. Take an interest in her academic learning. Have thought provoking conversations and discussions around current world affairs, read up on science and technology, challenge her to solve puzzles and complex math problems, play a game of Chess together.
Today, I write well because my father used to pamper and gift me tons of books. He was the brain behind all those prize-winning elocution and essay-writing competitions I pretty much won easily. All thanks to him and Mom, of course. But in that routine course of winning debates, elocutions, essay writing competitions, I grew up intellectually as well.
Dads, tease her brains and let her mind be at her fertile best!
12. Love her for who she is and not what she does
While it means a lot to your daughter that her father appreciates her hard work and performance! It means a lot more to her, when you focus on the character traits that make up her personality. Praise and love her for her honesty, kindness, congeniality, ethics, courage etc. And, she will surely grow up to be a self-assured and resilient person irrespective of the ‘ups and downs’ in life.
13. Challenge her limits
Girls’s brains are physiologically different from boys when it comes to risk-taking and fearing making mistakes. Thank the impact of hormones! Dads, you have to consistently challenge your daughter to get out of her comfort zone. Especially through her childhood and teen years because that is when her brain is the most elastic!
My husband is always egging on my daughter to try several things much to her disliking at times. But, I know deep down as a mother, that he is on the right track.
Scientific studies prove that this will completely rewire her brain structure enabling her to take more risks later on in life. Your daughter will confidently take up challenges and risks without the fear of failure.
14. Make her ‘Daddy’s strong girl’
‘Daddy’s little girl’ might sound cutesy. But in reality, overprotecting her and treating her like a delicate flower isn’t helping – rather hurting her. Resist the temptation to be her ‘knight in shining armour’ each time she falls.
Resist your natural manly urge of being the problem solver and let your daughter take charge. Encourage her by asking her how she would resolve her problems, come up with possible solutions, weigh their pros and cons, find the appropriate solution, and face life’s challenges head on.
Teach her to change a car tire, make her financially literate and wise, encourage her to be physically fit and strong, educate her about the dangers of the real world including sex offenders, enrol her in martial arts or any kind of self-defence training.
15. Accept that she can be a very angry young woman
All girls are not sweet and all boys are not tough. So, let us not try reinforcing these stereotypes in our own homes. It is perfectly okay for girls to be angry, tough and assertive as well. As fathers, you can make a start in breaking these gender stereotypes at home.
No! It is not disrespectful to be angry and stand up your rights. Whenever there is a conflict at home, it is healthy for your daughter to vent out her emotions. Let her learn to assertively fight for a cause that she cares about to you and her family, beginning at home. A girl has to be really comfortable expressing her anger and being assertive. If she can’t do it with her father, she won’t be able to do it with anybody else - male boss, colleague, friend, spouse or any random guy who tried to take liberties with her on the street. A father needs to ‘receive’ her anger and assertiveness rather than punish her for it. He can also compliment her for expressing herself honestly and assertively.
Also, teach your daughter the subtle but vital difference between between being aggressive and assertive.
16. Watch movies, TV shows and Internet together
Several studies have shown how social media causes severe depression, low self esteem and body image issues especially in teen girls. From cyber bullying to revenge porn to lurking of pedophiles, the dangers of social media and technology are far too many. As a father, make sure you control, oversee and have tight restrictions on her social media activity.
The way women are projected in the media doesn’t help in building the self esteem of young girls either. That is why it is so important to make your teenager media literate. You can do this simply by watching TV shows and movies with her, having discussions around them, making her wise – to know the difference between the right and the wrong. Help her to be a good critic in decoding and filtering media messages.
17. Show your vulnerable side
But not everything is sunny about my father or my husband. They have their mood swings and moments of instant irritations,quick temper and gloominess.
According to Santiago Trabolsi, a psychologist, life coach and dad, “When you as a father show your own weakness, it gives permission for your daughter to accept her weaknesses. This emotional connection generates warmth, empathy and honest communication between the two of you.”
I also take great pride in declaring that I am one of the very few who can make my Dad cry like a baby. Whenever I traveled alone in the train to my college hostel, my Dad would break down into tears at the station whenever the train started to move. The night before my wedding, he held my hand and just broke down into tears uncontrollably. I knew it was tough for him to let go of his little big girl while I also knew he was happy for me at the same time. Very rightly said, the father is a daughter's first true love.
18. Shower lots of hugs and kisses
My father still holds my hands, gives me a warm hug and kisses me every time I visit him with my daughter. Somethings don´t change thankfully!
But, I know some of my friends whose fathers shy away from all physical contact with their daughters. Any physical contact is strictly taboo.
Adolescent psychologist Dr. Linda Nielsen weighs in, “Fathers have been told by society that it is inappropriate for them to hug their daughters once they start to mature sexually — past the age of 12 or so. He should ignore this training and give her big bear hugs when he feels like it. It’s important because it’s just one more way of showing her that he is not uncomfortable with her growing up, with her becoming a sexual person or with her maturing body.”
As for us mothers, we can encourage father-daughter time and honour the importance of the father’s role, perspective, wisdom and patience in our children´s lives.
So, to all the wonderful fathers out there, including my father and husband - ´Here’s wishing you a Happy Father´s Day! May you continue to inspire us with your ways. Thank you for making our lives so wonderful and our childhood most memorable. You guys ROCK! Cheers to your good health and happiness always!´
Lots of Love and God Bless!
(This post was originally published on mycity4kids - https://www.mycity4kids.com/parenting/beauty-and-the-mom/article/18-fun-ways-how-fathers-and-daughters-can-bond-better)