As Father’s Day (June 17) rolls around, we are mindful that it wasn’t that long ago when a father’s job was to attend his daughter’s pretend tea parties and make her a pretty doll-house. But today’s fathers must navigate a new world and avoid gender specific roles.
“The fathers of today’s girls need to be engaged, creative and flexible,” says Sheri D. Engler, author of The Pearls of Wisdom: A Fairy Tale Guide to Life’s Magic Secrets for All Ages www.thepearlsofwisdombook.com. All proceeds go to the Angel Whispers Foundation, which was organized to empower young females.)
She says today’s dads should encourage girls at every opportunity.
“Women are breaking down many barriers, but there is still a lot of work to be done,” Engler says. “Today’s fathers play a critical role in their daughter’s self-image and can be instrumental in encouraging them to challenge the status quo.”
Engler offers the following tips for fathers who want to raise their daughters to be strong, independent women:
* Treat women with respect. Your daughter is watching how you treat women, and it will have a lifelong impact on her in ways you can’t imagine. You must be cognizant of your attitude and behavior around women at all times. This includes not saying negative things about her mother if you are divorced. See yourself as a role model of the kind of man you would want your daughter to marry one day, because that frequently influences how women choose their partners.
* Give her compliments about things other than her beauty. It is OK to tell your daughter she’s pretty, but that should not be the only compliment you give her. Compliment her intelligence, her resourcefulness, her imagination, her many skills, her hard work, and her strength. Honestly tell her the unique things you love about her, the things that make
her a good and special person.
* Teach her the magic of self confidence. Teach her about the power that comes from believing in herself and believing she can achieve greatness in the world, while understanding that there are many girls who simply want to be a “mommy” like their, which is the most important job in the world. In this case, they may fear failing their father’s expectations of greatness. There is a critical difference between encouragement to be who they are and pressure to be who they aren’t.
* Teach her about what has traditionally been “guy stuff.” Teach her self-reliance, such as routine car maintenance, or mechanics in general. Teach her how to use tools while building a treehouse. Go fishing together. Take her to see planes at air shows, teach her photography and go birdwatching with her. It matters to spend quality time with her, because it makes her feel she is worth her dad’s time. And it doesn’t have to stop in childhood. What could you be teaching your adult daughter?
* Let her get gritty like the boys. Teach her how to play sports from early on. This fosters tremendous social confidence as well as body confidence. Or just let her play in the mud and get dirty if that is what she wants to do. Girls don’t always have to be clean and pretty.
* Introduce her to books with girl heroes. There are plenty of books to choose from, so when reading to her let her enjoy a variety of adventures including books with strong female leaders like The Pearls of Wisdom or other books that were written to empower girls. This will send the message that you believe in her. Or perhaps help her write a story of her own imagining herself as the hero or lead character. If no-thing else this will give you a valuable view of how she sees herself, so you know what’s going on with her.
* Share music with her. Play your favorite music and tell her why you like it and let her do the same. Take her to concerts. If she wants to play an instrument, help her learn how. Music, and the arts in general, can be very bonding experiences.
“The most important change for today’s fathers is that they shouldn’t box girls in or out of anything just because they are a girl,” Engler says. “Fathers who respect the women in their lives have a better chance of raising daughters who feel deserving of respect themselves. Confidence, self-respect and family support will help them face any challenges that may come their way.”