It’s been noted for decades that parental relationships act as models for how children interact with others in the future. A child’s formation of thoughts, attitudes, tendencies, perception, and outlook can all be determined by the nature of the connection they share with their parents. If children are exposed to absent, abusive or aggressive parenting, children in turn are more likely to recreate those models in their own interactions with people.
This social science truth is even more critical in the father to daughter relationship. There is nothing more special than the bond shared between a loving father and his little girl. This bond must be established and strengthened over time to ensure she will possess the optimism and fortitude to meet the challenges and opportunities in her future.
In the Hebrew Bible, book of Proverbs, chapter 22, verse 6, it reads if we “train up a child in the way he (or she) should go: and when he (or she) is old, (they) will not depart from it.”
This proverbial truth is about much more than teaching a child how to distinguish right from wrong. It’s really about taking time to help your child form positive character traits that will shape their lives for years to come. This is especially important for daughters.
Girls need their fathers. More importantly, fathers need their daughters.
Research has shown that the quality of the bond between fathers and daughters is a predictor of how she will communicate, trust and connect with others in the future. One way of looking at it is that girls learn to create secure attachments with their dads first, which allow them to then have more positive relationships with their mates later. Men, consider that for a moment! Each interaction you are having with your daughter is shaping the way she will communicate and trust her mate in the future.
Therefore, ask yourself the following questions:
1. How often do you tell your daughter she is smart?
2. When is the last time you told her she was beautiful?
3. How often do you pray with her?
4. Do you hold your daughter’s hand as the two of you walk in the mall, park or on a sidewalk?
5. When is the last time you reviewed her homework and helped reinforce what she learned in school?
Number five is extremely important, because in most cases, men leave homework duty over to the mother. Some men say, “I work…its the mother’s job to follow-up on the homework”. However, if men release the teaching and nurturing aspect of rearing their daughters over to the mother, then they are communicating a lack of engagement in the development of her mind. This will impact the degree to which she will listen to you during her dating years, when you tell her to find a man who respects her mind. If fathers do not show interest in their daughters mental and educational development in the adolescent stages, it molds her expectations of what men expect of her in the future.
Next is temperament. This is a critical area of father to daughter role modeling. By definition, temperament is “the manner of thinking, behaving, or reacting characteristic of a specific person”. In the father / daughter context this means, daughters learn from their father’s behavior; how they should be treated, how they should respond and what they can expect from men. For example, fathers who regularly get angry in front of their daughters, even if it’s not directed at them are shaping her understanding of what to expect in future relationships. Without realizing it, men could be teaching their daughters that a mate will yell in the house, get angry, throw things, break furniture, curse and yes…hit a woman. Additionally, it’s the father’s temperament that can shape how a daughter will express anger, deal with authority and handle rejection in the future. It’s critical for fathers to take stock of the consequences of “flying off the handle”. No matter the source of the anger, fathers must take the time to reflect on the messages they are communicating to their little girls when they lose control of their tempers. Conversely, this is also true if a father only gets “really mad” once in a while. Occasional meltdowns still plant a seed of tolerance to angry and disturbing behavior. This is obviously something that no father would want his adult daughter to endure in any future relationship.
Next, it’s all about friendship. Yes, a father can and should be a friend to his daughter. Some people may think this is paradoxical to the father / daughter relationship. However, it’s just the opposite. To understand this, it’s important to establish what friendship truly means. The most important aspect of friendship is trust. In a trusting friendship, each individual can confide in one another. A father and daughter should have an understanding that they can speak openly and truthfully about anything.
A genuine friendship understands that sometimes anyone can have a bad day and need personal space to assess, rest and regain their energy. This is critical to fostering a healthy father / daughter relationship. Dads must allow their daughters the breathing room to relax and reconnect with the outside world. At the same time, fathers should remain available to receive her when she’s ready to reconnect with her dad. Another aspect of a true friendship is celebrating her success. Fatherhood gives many opportunities to be happy when something wonderful happens to your daughter. It’s important that daughters receive adulation from their dads. It helps to build up self-esteem and personal confidence.
Lastly, the father to daughter friendship does require a degree of “respect for personal privacy”. Fathers must understand that daughters need the freedom to create their own “world”. There are certain things that are just her personal business. If the father / daughter friendship is genuine and strong, she will eventually share anything inconsistent with how she was raised.
As I write this article, I realize that many daughters do not have a father. This is a reality of life. However, I firmly believe what I’ve shared can apply to mothers acting as fathers as well. On the other hand, if the father is present and active in his daughter’s life, I ask that he remember the magnitude of the responsibility he has for shaping her future.
It’s an extraordinary responsibility, which requires a deep special bond.
By. G Anthony Knowles