Many men feel a little uncertain, even fearful, about talking to their daughters when it comes to issues relating to body-confidence or appearance. They may be thinking: “How can I help? This is not my area.”
Don’t worry about not having all the answers. Instead, work through the process of solving the problem with her, and encourage her to share her own thoughts and possible solutions. Guiding her to trust in her own capabilities will give her the tenacity to confront other challenges in her life and build her self-esteem.
Many comments directed towards girls tend to be centred on issues of appearance. “You look so pretty,” for example. But as her dad, you know your daughter is much more than merely a pretty face. You see her intelligence, her character and her talents – so, make a point of telling her what you see. It helps to be specific, for example: “Last week I saw the way you figured out that problem with your sister. I could see how smart and thoughtful you were being, and it made me really proud.”
Taking the emphasis away from talking about how she looks will help your daughter to focus on all her qualities, and feel more self-assured as a person. Ironically, NOT talking about her body actually helps a girl to boost her body-confidence.
In many cultures, men are not encouraged to show feelings – especially ones of weakness and vulnerability. So, it can feel uncomfortable when your daughter is struggling with a sensitive issue. You might wonder: “How can I be open and sensitive when I have to represent a strong example of fatherhood?”
Men needn’t be ashamed of showing their true selves in front of their daughter. Doing so helps to build a stronger dad-daughter bond and opens a better space for communication.
“When you as a father show your own weakness, it gives permission for your daughter to accept her weaknesses,” says Santiago Trabolsi, psychologist, life coach and dad. “This emotional connection generates warmth, empathy and honest communication between the two of you.”
Have you ever heard your daughter complain, something along the lines of: “My dad never listens! He just tells me what to do”? When your daughter opens up, try to avoid leaping straight in with your own opinions – you might distance her if she doesn’t immediately understand the intended point.
Start instead by validating her emotions. For instance, show that you have listened to what she has said and empathise with her, by saying something like: “I understand you might feel hurt and angry.”
This shows your daughter that she is being taken seriously and helps her to trust her own feelings, which in turn builds self-awareness and confidence. At this stage in her life, your daughter is delicately and slowly forming her opinion of herself – and this can often be largely based on what she believes her parents feel about her. Her self-esteem will depend on how much she feels valued, respected and accepted.
Her relationship with her dad will also colour her relationships with other men throughout her life: colleagues, friends, partners. Just think, one day she may fall in love and recognise the same empathy, respect and understanding in her relationships with her partner that her father has shown her. Her dad is an important role model.
Author: Christina Berton, self-esteem expert and founder of the Amara Pro Self-Esteem Foundation in Mexico.
Have you ever asked your daughter what she believes you think of her? Listen to what she has to say – you may be surprised. It might not be what you’re expecting, nor what you wanted to convey.
Remember that girls create a perception of themselves based on the messages, comments and actions they experience in all their relationships, particularly those at home. Daughters are watching and observing how their dads treat them, as well as how they treat their mother and other women.
A dad’s attitude to women will shape the way his daughter sees herself in relation to the world, and how confident she feels as she ventures out into it.
More useful information from us
The father-daughter relationship and girls’ body-confidence – where do dads fit in?
Useful information from elsewhere on the web
How fathers influence daughters
Fathers, daughters and learning self-esteem
Three tips for better father-daughter bonding
Amara Pro Self-Esteem Foundation
101 Ways to Help Your Daughter Love Her Body, by Brenda Lane Richardson and Elane Rehr
Fatherhood – Philosophy for Everyone: The Dao of Daddy, edited by Lon Nease and Michael W. Austin
Dr Christina Berton self-esteem expert and founder of the Amara Pro Self-Esteem Foundation in Mexico
Dr Tara Cousineau clinical psychologist, self-esteem coach, founder of Moxie Moms Coaching
Article date: 21 August 2014
Review date: 21 August 2015
The father-daughter relationship and girls’ body confidence – where do dads fit in?
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