The Two Most Precious Gifts Dads Can Give Their Daughters

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Two Important Gifts Dads Can Give Their Daughters On Father's Day (& All Year Round)
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These gifts keep giving through every generation.

When we talk about Father's Day gifts, we typically think of presents for the "old man" of the family himself, but this is also a perfect time to reflect on the unique importance of the roles fathers play in parenting their daughters.

You may already be well aware that a father is the gateway to his daughter’s future relationships with boys and eventually men or women, but even with all the books with parenting advice about dads and daughters out there these days, it's common to forget about the most important gifts fathers can give their girls. throughout the entire course of their lives.

When we think of child-rearing we often think of supporting the family through steady employment or cooking healthy meals for them. Keeping them clothed and medically cared for.

 

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We also can think beyond the basics. For example, reading them bedtime stories or having certain traditions during bath time. Or taking them on family vacations and helping them with homework.

But these things are not the most important gifts.

The most precious gift a father can give his daughter is to help her see the special qualities she holds that go way beyond her external beauty.

I’m talking about what makes her so special in his eyes. Those qualities that are so endearing about her. It is the responsibility and “gift” of the father to help her see how special she is — and will be to the outside world — that she may not see and value on her own.

These are qualities that the “right” man or woman one day will also see and treasure in her. These are the building blocks of her self-esteem.

Examples of special qualities that build healthy self-esteem:

  • Her compassion

  • How her eyes light up when she laughs

  • Her sense of honor and doing the “right” thing, even when it is difficult

  • Her sense of humor that makes others laugh so often

  • A strength inside her that moves her through difficult times

  • Her belief in herself to try new things and to grow

  • A belief in herself that she does not need to hold back and can be all she is meant to be

  • The sense of emotional security that the right person will ALWAYS be there for her, as is her father, no matter what

  • That we are all human and imperfect and that she is “enough” just as she is

  • Her willingness to try new things

  • How intelligent and/or capable she is of doing many things

These are just some of the possible qualities a father can identify and nourish in his daughter. There are many more possibilities to consider.

 

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The second most important gift comes from the father who teaches his daughter to recognize when a man respects her, and to expect this and nothing less.

Of course she requires respect from people in general, but it is especially important in a romantic relationship. If she feels disrespected by a man, he is the wrong man. She should never settle for anything less in a relationship.

Often a father struggles with how to relate to his daughter as she begins to consider romantic relationships, but this gift of respect becomes most important in adolescent romance, and he must “hang in there” for her to fully accept the value of this gift that he can teach and model.

These two exceptional gifts are so critically important because:

  • She will unconsciously look for positive qualities in a mate that she recognized in her mother, father or caretaker.

  • You wouldn't want your daughter to learn through negative and hurtful experiences if it could be avoided. Without a healthy role model, the daughter will unconsciously look for similarities in a mate that were unhealthy or hurtful in her father, mother or caretaker in the hope of “fixing” that emotional pain from childhood. Harville Hendrix, Ph.D coined the word “Imago” to describe this process in his book Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples.

  • The father figure represents his daughter’s future relationships with men. He is teaching his daughter what men are like and the differences between a “healthy” man and an “unhealthy” man. He does this by modeling what he wants a man to be like for his daughter.

  • The daughter will be handing this down to her daughter, and in a different way, to her son.

In Victoria Secundo's book Women and Their Fathers: The Sexual and Romantic Impact of the First Man in Your Life, she notes the differences seen in daughters of emotionally unavailable or aloof fathers. In her work, she found that such women seek out intimate relationships with men, yet they do not trust that any of these men will be responsive. As a result, these women always remain “on guard” to protect themselves.

The unavailability of a father for his daughter also affects her self-esteem, which is lowered because she feels she is not valued. In addition, she seems to gravitate toward the mother for bonding. This means she is losing valuable learning experiences of how men can operate in positive ways.

Important note: We are discussing the perceptions of the daughter towards the father’s involvement. For example, a father could be justifiably unavailable because of his work hours, however, if the child does not see him reaching for her at other times when he could have, the negative effects will persist.

An absent or emotionally unavailable father likely learned this way of relating from his own parents. Similarly, a father who is critical of his daughter was likely criticized by one or both of his parents.

These negative lessons can be handed down through generations, repeating what we experienced in our childhood. Sometimes, because we are not aware of this, and other times, because of our own self-esteem issues we repeat what we were shown.

BUT, you don’t need to have had a great (or even good) childhood to teach your daughter these things.

As her father, you are a built-in teacher to your daughter naturally.

They don’t teach these parenting skills in school, so if you didn't experience these things in your own childhood how are you to know what to do?

While there are numerous books on parenting daughters available these days, it's also important to remember that you don’t have to be perfect to give her these gifts.

Model for her that you are doing the best you can and that you likely will make mistakes along the way. All parents learn as they go, and we all make mistakes in the process of parenting. What’s most important is that our parenting comes from our heart and love for our children. You have the most precious gift to give your daughter!

So thank you dads, wherever you are!

 

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Susan Saint-Welch, LMFT, is a marriage and family psychotherapist who has been practicing in-person and online in the South Bay of the Los Angeles area for over 20 years. Susan helps families and couples learn healthy communications skills. She also helps radiant, single men and women get un-stuck and find the lasting love they deserve. She is passionate about teaching life skills as well as concepts for healthier relationships, dating, and self-esteem. Susan has been published on MSN.com as well. For more articles, follow her on her website.

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