A girl's first hero
How dads inspire and support a daughter's development
By JOANNE RICHARD
16th June 2009,
Hey, dads, what you sow now, your daughters will reap later.
How a woman feels about herself as a woman goes back to how dad treated his little girl, report experts.
"Behind every great woman, you will find her dad" -- that's if he was an engaged, present, involved dad, says Dr. Mary Jo Rapini.
"If dads are able to admire their daughters achievements, character and interests and not their looks, the daughter will grow up to be confident and self assured. She will choose men who treat her with the same admiration and respect as her dad did," adds Rapini, a psychotherapist and author.
According to Rapini, a dad has so much power over his daughter.
"If he gives her gifts and focuses on her looks he will raise a girl who is more materialistic and thinks love and affection comes in a gift box.
"If he praises her looks all of the time, he will raise someone who loathes herself and is constantly checking to make sure she looks OK in a mirror -- we do that enough anyway.
"If he focuses on her abilities and interests he will develop a daughter who is more self assured, confident and understands leadership."
Studies show that dads give girls 90% of their self-esteem before the age of 12, she says. "What this means is that girls that grow up without a dad in the home, or one who abandoned them, are always going to be a little bit less confident and sure of themselves than peers who grow up with a dad in the home."
According to Rapini, an involved, engaged dad will be viewed as the first man she ever loved, and someone who loves her unconditionally. "Unlike mom -- who many daughters have emotional fights with -- dads don't get into all of the drama and are more accepting of them.
"Dads also have a way of redirecting a girl when she is being overly emotional. He can make her laugh and help her see the situation is not as bad as it appears. The daughter looks at dad as the type of man she wants to someday marry," adds Rapini, co-author of Start Talking: A Girls Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever.
Dads need to be sure not to pull away from daughters during the teenage years, adds Dr. Venus Nicolino. "Many fathers feel uncomfortable with transformation from tween to teen -- she's no longer daddy's little girl.
"A father needs to be there, emotionally available at all times but especially when he feels himself wanting to pull away during her teenage years. An emotionally available father can be the stabilizing force for a young woman. The little voice inside her that says, 'I love you no matter what', " says Nicolino, a relationship expert.
She adds that the best thing a father can do for his daughter is to love her mother so that she will witness what to expect from the men in her life, and what she should not have to put up with. "Having a father who loves her mother makes her more likely to go on to choose a man who will truly love her."
Dr. Mary Jo Rapini suggests these five dosfor dads to positively impact his daughters:
- Focus on your daughter's talents and make note of them.
- Focus on times you see her being respectful, confident, compassionate and compliment her.
- Help her/guide her in creating her vision, dreams and interests.
- Tell her she can be or do anything she puts her mind to.
- Talk less, do more with her, listen to her.
- Be controlling and tell her you will decide what is best for her.
- Tell her she is pretty and say it all the time so she becomes focused on being pretty.
- Tell her she is getting chubby. Really, if you focus on their body you will create a girl with lots of issues and she may never get over them.
- Fight with her mom and be disrespectful to her in front of your daughter.
- Tell her she is not very smart -- "if you do this, I promise she will fulfil it."
Dr. Mary Jo Rapini