Being a dad who stays the course with your daughter is easier said than done. Let’s be honest, when she was younger and used less words she was easier to track with. But as she has matured and grown, so have her needs and wants…and words! That’s often where you dads get overwhelmed and lost.
As a way to support your deep desire to truly dial in to your daughter’s heart, here are a few things that I’ve learned along the way, ten land mines to avoid if you want to raise a healthy, vibrant, loving, and spirited daughter.
Here’s what not to do and say if you really want to be a fantastic dad:
- Tell her she’s too emotional
The reality is that as women we have 11% more neurons in our brain centers involved in hearing and language as compared to men, leading us oftentimes to be better skilled at expressing emotions. It’s vital that you honor the wiring of your daughter, particularly when it comes to emotional responses.
- Require her to talk calmly and rationally in order to communicate with you
I do understand that most men “flood” when there is too much emotion coming at you because it feels like you need to fix and have the answers. However, the more you can be a sounding board as your daughter vents and expresses, the more of a gift you are to her. Listening to her is the best gift you can give.
- Criticize her
There’s a difference between choosing certain times to correct or discipline and putting her down or highlighting the things she’s doing wrong. If you have something that needs to be addressed, be sure and pack a lot of positive, life-breathing, encouraging statements around your corrections and it will have a much higher success rate of responsiveness.
- Tease her about her weight or any part of her body
I understand that guys tend towards teasing each other about body parts and it’s no big deal. Not with us girls. We remember things that are said, even in jest, forever. Everything. Make sure to never, ever, under any circumstances tease her about her weight, her size (breast size, pant size, etc), or any imperfections on her body. Those words will stay with her long after they’re said. And even if she seems to laugh it off, those reminders of her flaws are hurtful and will most likely lead to less self-confidence, a negative body image, and possibly lead to an eating disorder.
- Put her mother down
Whether you’re still married or divorced, when you demean, criticize, or speak negatively about your daughter’s mom, you are essentially criticizing her. She will hear it as you saying that you think she will turn out the same way. Because every daughter sees herself as some sort of reflection of the woman who brought her into the world, she uses mom as a reference point for understanding herself. Look for the positives in mom and point them out to your daughter.
- Think your actions behind closed doors don’t matter or are inconsequential
We’ve all heard the adage, “do as I say, not as I do.” But really, who is kidding who here? As a dad, just remember that the choices you make when no one is looking are the things that define you and measure your integrity. Let your actions on and off the court be filled with self-respect if you want your daughter to live out her morals, beliefs, and values as well. Let me say it another way: Be the man you want her to marry. It starts with you, dad.
- Forget her birthday
Each of us has an innate desire to be known and even celebrated. But simultaneously we as girls don’t always feel we’re worth the party. This is where you as her dad come in. Your investment of time, energy, and money tells her that she’s worthy, valued, and loved. Make sure to join in the celebration on her birthday because it shouts, “I’m glad you were born!”
- Compare her to her siblings
Although it might slip out of your mouth, try avoid ever saying, “Why can’t you be more like…” We girls compare ourselves to everyone else without prompting. So if you add to that reality, it only adds more fuel to an already existing fire. Make sure to let her know that she’s one of a kind even though much of the time she may feel like she’s one in a million.
- Speak in anger
If I had a nickel for all the times I’ve heard daughters, most often with tears running down their cheeks, tell me about the wounding that has been experienced as a result of dads anger, I’d be rich. Words spoken in anger do the most damage to a daughter’s heart over anything else I hear from girls about their relationship with their dads. If you want to have your daughter’s heart stay open to you, make a contract with yourself to never speak in anger to her again because it destroys her spirit and her soul. Take a time out to cool off and come back when you’re calm. You’ll never regret waiting to speak.
- Give monetary gifts rather than yourself
In a world where life seems to be increasingly speeding up faster, it can be easy to give things more than yourself to your daughter. Remember that she wants and needs you, your heart, your attention, and your time more than any monetary thing. You, dad, are the gift.
Remember, dad, keep the word DON’T in front of all these suggestions. And trust me, these will help you become a more focused, dialed-in, intentional and consistent dad for your daughter.
Dr. Michelle Watson has a clinical counseling practice in Portland, Oregon and has served in that role for the past 18 years. She is founder of The Abba Project, a 9-month group forum that is designed to equip dads with daughters ages 13 to 30 to dial in with more intention and consistency, and has recently released her first book entitled, Dad, Here’s What I Really Need from You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter’s Heart. She invites you to visit www.drmichellewatson.com for more information and to sign up for her weekly Dad-Daughter Friday blogs where she provides practical tools so that every dad in America can become the action hero they want to be and their daughters need them to be. You can also follow or send feedback on Facebook at www.facebook.com/drmichellewatson and Twitter @mwatsonphd.