Dads have a unique role to play in raising girls who are confident, resilient and happy. Here are a few gifts that dads give to their daughters.
After spending 2 three-day weekend retreats in Pennsylvania and California with dads and their 7-9 year old daughters, my belief in the power of play has been rekindled. And I don’t mean just play, I mean rough and tumble play.
There is research that shows that girls who grow up with dads who play in this way end up having higher levels of confidence and independence. Playtime with dad can be more loud, spontaneous, stimulating, physical and out-of-the-box than time with mom. It teaches girls to be more creative and curious and improves their ability to learn.
Dads also often do more physical and verbal teasing with their daughters, and this kind of bantering improves a girl’s ability to handle feedback, toughening her up a bit. Girls can be sensitive to feedback and criticism from teachers, coaches and peers, so they need to be able to take it and give it back. This will also prepare them to handle boys and their mischief.
Fathers also encourage girls to stretch, take risks and get out of their comfort zones. It’s good for girls to have experiences where they can initiate, create, push the envelope, make things happen and be adventuresome. This builds confidence, independence and a can-do attitude.
Research has demonstrated that girls who have a lot of quality time with their dads develop a better sense of humor, which in turn helps girls grow up with a higher level of independence, confidence and happiness.
Ever worry about your daughters seeing too much Miley Cyrus and Victoria Secret ads? Do you want your girls to grow up strong and resistant to the unhealthy messages and images portrayed in the media? This is another area where dads can have a crucial impact on their daughter’s development. Here are my top two suggestions for empowering girls.
1) Focus on non-physical qualities: When addressing your daughter, or any girl for that matter, consciously remark about things other than their physical beauty or their outfits. Instead, affirm more important qualities, such as character, values, talents, compassion, focus, determination, sense of humor, ability to not let things get to them, honesty, sense of fairness and justice, integrity and kindness. The more we focus on these qualities, the better chance girls will focus on these as well. They are so much more than their bodies and looks. What dads acknowledge to their daughters can balance out what the culture is telling them about what is important.
2) Guide girls to become media and image savvy: Good research has shown that when parents watch TV shows and movies with their daughters, and use these times as opportunities to talk about what they are seeing, it really does help girls put things into perspective. Teach girls to ask themselves questions every time they see an ad or commercial or image in magazines, movies, videos, mall window displays, etc. Ask questions such as, “Is the model happy?” “Why would she go through hours of makeup to look like someone she’s not?” “Does she really look like that?” or, “What are they trying to sell me?”
Then, let girls in on the secret: companies are not trying to sell them products, but really the idea that without these products, they can’t be happy or popular. If girls want to be cool, hot and sexy and have tons of cool friends like the ones in the commercials, they’ve got to drink their soda and use their makeup, etc. These companies are selling the lie that more is better, and they are trying to create a craving in girls to buy more. If we can get girls to understand this, then they won’t be as vulnerable to advertising and the media.
The best gift dads can give to daughters is their presence, not their presents, especially if their presence involves good old fashioned rough and tumble play, bantering and adventures. Game on!
Tim Jordan M.D. ©2014
Sleeping Beauties, Awakened Women: Guiding the Transformation of Adolescent Girls by Tim Jordan M.D.
The Wonder Of Girls by Michael Gurian
So Sexy So Soon by Jean Kilbourne and Diane Levin
The Lolita Effect by Gigi Durham