Calling all dads! Although we all know this is a day for your children to stop and appreciate YOU (for a change), Father’s Day is also an ideal time for you to take a moment and think about the important role you play in your daughter’s life.
Why? Because chances are you are underestimating the impact you have on her. It’s a widely held belief that the same sex parent, aka her mother, is the biggest influence on your daughter and who she becomes. But guess what? It takes two to tango.
Research actually suggests that the different parenting styles men and women typically have come into play in a uniquely powerful way in father-daughter relationships. A positive relationship with your daughter can have a huge impact on her. From her self-esteem and her self-image, to whether or not she believes in herself. And we all know that if a girl feels about and views herself in a positive light, it allows her to become a strong and confident woman. And who doesn’t want that for their daughter?
So take a minute and think about what defines you as a father. What would your daughter say about you if she was asked? Don’t worry about whether you have the time to help her with homework or attend her after school games. While people might suggest otherwise (and you might even believe it), that is not what defines your role as a father, or what will leave a lasting impression. Showing up for and supporting your daughter is not something that is only based around the school day. There are countless opportunities outside of that for you and your daughter to develop a close relationship. What she gains from communicating well with you will take her far.
According to Linda Nielsen, professor of educational and adolescent psychology at Wake Forest University, “Sons and daughters generally say they feel closer to their mothers and find it easier to talk to her, especially about anything personal. This is probably due to the widely held belief that children—but daughters especially—are “supposed” to talk more about personal issues with their mothers than with their fathers.” This may not be easy but it’s worth the time and effort. When your daughter enters her teen years (aka hormonal years), your instinct might be to pull away and/or withdraw from your moody and standoffish daughter. But avoid the temptation. Continue to work on building a trusting relationship. Try to empathize with what your daughter is thinking and feeling by listening carefully. Wrap your arms around her and expect nothing in return – not even a single word. Giving her this kind of support and affection enables her to learn more about who she is and what kind of person she wants to become. More importantly, it reminds her that you care.
What’s really important in the long run, is modeling the values and behaviors you want to see in her. It’s how you approach life. More specifically, how you approach your relationships. How do you treat her mother (or your significant other)? Do you show her what her future partner should look like? That is simply not something a mother can do. Through your actions with others, you are able to prepare your daughter to have healthy relationships with boys/men, both now and into adulthood. It can give her a solid foundation for life-long self-respect.
Good communication and serving as a male role model catapults the adjective used before your name – you go from being a good dad to being a great dad! And if you’re the type of guy that needs to be the best, you can claim that adjective instead by working tirelessly to build a strong bond with your daughter. Aside from all that you will take away from the relationship, there are numerous benefits for her.
Children whose fathers are highly involved with them in a positive way…
1) Do better in school, and ultimately attain higher levels of education and economic self-sufficiency (1)
- Did you know one of the most important factors in girls’ academic achievement is their father’s belief in them? (1)
- Toddlers with involved fathers start school with higher levels of academic readiness. They are more patient and can handle the stresses and frustrations associated with schooling more readily than children with less involved fathers. (2)
- When fathers are involved in their children’s education, the kids are more likely to get better grades, enjoy school, and participate in extracurricular activities. (3)
- An active and nurturing style of fathering is associated with better verbal skills, intellectual functioning, and academic achievement among adolescents. (4)
- Children whose fathers have left them (and who don’t have a strong male role model to replace him) are more likely to drop out of school, abuse drugs and alcohol, and wind up in prison. (5)
2) Demonstrate better psychological well-being
- They are less likely to become clinically depressed or to develop eating disorders.
- They are also less dissatisfied with their appearance and their body weight.
- Kids who feel they don’t have their father’s respect are more prone to anxiety. (6)
3) Are less likely to get into trouble of any kind.
- Kids who feel they have good relationships with their fathers are less likely to use drugs. (7)
- Kids who have problematic relationships with their mothers grow up to be worse parents, UNLESS they have good relationships with their dads. In which case, they can still become very good parents. (And of course anyone who was parented in ways that left them vulnerable can become a great parent if they’re willing to do the emotional work). (8)
- A girl who has a secure, supportive, communicative relationship with her father is less likely to get pregnant as a teenager and less likely to become sexually active in her early teens. This, in turn, leads to waiting longer to get married and to have children—largely because she is focused on achieving her educational goals first.
- Adolescent girls living in homes without their fathers are 3 times more likely to engage in sexual relations by the time they turn 15, and 5 times more likely to become a teen mother. (9)
And for father’s with newborns or about to welcome a baby into this world – get ready to lay the foundation starting day one.
- Fathers who take a week or more off to spend with their newborn are closer to their child at every stage of the child’s life, right up into young adulthood. (10)
- Dads often worry that they don’t know how to care for a newborn. But research shows that men have a hormonal response to becoming fathers, including increased oxytocin, estrogen, prolactin and glucocorticoids, which creates a natural protectiveness toward the baby. So Paternal Instinct is as real as Maternal Instinct. (11)
- The more time dads spend holding their new babies, the more their paternal instinct is activated, and the more comfortable they feel comforting and caring for their newborns. This is usually a transformative experience for Dad, a tremendous relief to mom, and a vital relationship for the baby. (12)
So what’s the net net?
Dads: Whether your daughter is a toddler, a late teen, or anything in between, spend time nurturing your relationship right now. It will affect and benefit her in countless positive ways in the present and in the future.
Daughters: Don’t miss out by neglecting your fathers and/or believing they can’t relate to you. Make a genuine effort, and you might be surprised at how strong of a bond you can develop.
This Father’s Day, we honor all of the dad’s. We want to take a moment to appreciate who you are and everything you do…especially the role you play in your daughter’s lives.
Rosenberg, Jeffrey. & Wilcox, W. Bradford. (2006 ) The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children. Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, U.S. Children’s Bureau. http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/usermanuals/fatherhood/chaptertwo.cfm
- Campbell, S., & von Stauffenberg, C. (2008). Child characteristics and family processes that predict behavioral readiness for school. In A. Booth & A. C. Crouter (Eds.), Disparities in school readiness: How families contribute to transitions into school (pp. 225–258). New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.
- Goldstine, H. S. (1982). Fathers’ absence and cognitive development of 12-17 year olds. Psychological Reports, 51, 843-848; Nord, C., & West, J. (2001). Fathers’ and mothers’ involvement in their children’s schools by family type and resident status [On-line]. Available:http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2001032.
- Harper, Cynthia C. and Sara S. McLanahan. Father Absence and Youth Incarceration. Journal of Research on Adolescence 14 (September 2004): 369-397.
Bush, Connee, Ronald L. Mullis, and Ann K. Mullis. Differences in Empathy Between Offender and Nonoffender Youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 29 (August 2000): 467-478.
- Bögels, Susan & Phares, Vicky. (2007) Fathers’ role in the etiology, prevention and treatment of child anxiety. Clinical Psychology Review 28 (2008) 539–558.
Gable, S., Crnic, K., & Belsky, J. (1994). Coparenting within the family system: Influences on children’s development. Family Relations, 43(4), 380-386
- Horn, W., & Sylvester, T. (2002); U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (1996). The relationship between family structure and adolescent substance abuse. Rockville, MD: National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information; Harper, C., & McLanahan, S. S. (1998).
Bronte-Tinkew, Jacinta, Kristin A. Moore, Randolph C. Capps, and Jonathan Zaff. (2006) The influence of father involvement on youth risk behaviors among adolescents: A comparison of native-born and immigrant families. Social Science Research. Volume 35, Issue 1, Pages 1-294 (March 2006)
- Dissertation by Dr. Laura Markham based on research done at the Barnard Toddlers Center, Columbia University.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey. Hyattsville, MD 1988.
Billy, John O. G., Karin L. Brewster and William R. Grady. Contextual Effects on the Sexual Behavior of Adolescent Women. Journal of Marriage and Family 56 (1994): 381-404.
Bruce J. Ellis et al., Does Father Absence Place Daughters at Special Risk for Early Sexual Activity and Teenage Pregnancy? Child Development 74: 801-821,
- Study by Elizabeth Gould at Princeton, and Study by Ruth Feldman at Bar Ilan University: http://www.livescience.com/10784-dads-hormone-boost-caring-baby.html