Being a good dad: how to keep improving the dad-daughter relationship

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Being a good dad: how to keep improving the dad-daughter relationship

The fact that, as a dad, you were never a teenage girl yourself needn’t be a barrier to improving the dad-daughter bond. You want your girl to grow into a self-confident young woman – and she’s going to need her dad on her side.

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.

Being a good dad means boosting your daughter’s body-confidence

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.

Improve your dad-daughter relationship by showing your sensitive side: handling sensitive issues with your daughter

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.”

What makes a good dad? Support her instincts

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.

The dad-daughter divide:
How a girl interprets her dad’s opinion of her (it might not be what you think)

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.

How to be a good dad to your daughter: Action steps for dads to help create a stronger dad-daughter bond (and how mums can help)

  • Take a deep breath, be open and relaxed when communicating with her. Listen without making judgements. Ask her how she might resolve her concerns; encourage her to work through her thoughts and resolutions.
  • Acknowledge her emotions; don’t try to change them. Let her know that you can relate to what she is feeling.
  • Try not to draw attention to her appearance or tease her about the way she looks – it might seem harmless fun to you, but such words can have a much deeper effect on her.
  • Spend time with her; create special dad-daughter moments doing something you both enjoy. For example, playing a sport, listening to music or going for a meal.
  • Write a letter to your daughter expressing your feelings for her and letting her know you are proud of her.
  • Let her see the real you and get to know you better. Admit that you still work on your own self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Notice the similarities you have with your daughter – not just ways you might look the same, but things you are both good at, things you both like, the same sense of humour – and share those thoughts with her.
  • Practise being present and open with your partner or wife. Ask her for her support in applying this to your daughter.
  • Talk to your partner, the Dove Self-Esteem Project community and other dads. Share your anxieties and solicit their support.

Meanwhile, mums can support the dad-daughter bond by:

  • Encouraging your partner to connect more with your girl and helping to make it happen.
  • Honouring the importance of a dad’s perspective, wisdom and sensitivity, and patience.

Our experts

  • Dr Christina Berton

    Dr Christina Berton self-esteem expert and founder of the Amara Pro Self-Esteem Foundation in Mexico

  • Dr Tara Cousineau

    Dr Tara Cousineau clinical psychologist, self-esteem coach, founder of Moxie Moms Coaching

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