Joe Kelly knew his life would change when his twin daughters were born. He understood that he was stepping into a very important role as their father. What he didn’t count on was the dramatic impact these girls would have on him as a man and their father.
“The uniqueness of the father-daughter relationship can deeply enrich a man’s life,” says Kelly, first and foremost the father of twin daughters, and head of the national non-profit organization Dads and Daughters. He also wrote Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter When She is Growing Up So Fast.
“Every single one of us grew up a boy. Sometimes that is a hurdle and sometimes it is an advantage. All of the time, it is a chance to grow in unique ways. Through our daughters, we can start to see and experience the world differently.”
When his daughters were older teenagers, Kelly began reflecting on how much having daughters changed his life. He was curious to know if any other men shared this experience, so he interviewed a diverse group of men. He was actually surprised by how much they had in common.
Kelly recognized that he had to be very aware of how he lived his life. He began thinking about the messages he was sending verbally and his actions.
“You can tell your daughter she can be anything she wants to be,” Kelly says. “But if you then turn around and pick up a Playboy you may as well have saved your breath because your actions speak louder than your words. It is how I treat my daughter’s mother and the other women in her life and in the world that send a powerful message to my daughter and my son.
“If a boy grows up believing that the size of a woman’s cleavage is more important than the size of her heart, he’s on the road to disaster. As a man and father, I can help my daughters understand that it is not about looks; it is about what you are capable of accomplishing in life.”
Research has shown that girls with involved fathers are more likely to be emotionally and physically healthier and more well-rounded.
Dads and Daughters suggests these tips for fathers to inspire, understand and support their daughters:
- Listen to girls. Focus on what is really important – what does your daughter think, believe, feel, dream and do- rather than how she looks.
- Encourage her strength and celebrate her savvy. Help your daughter learn to recognize, resist and overcome barriers. Help her develop her strengths to achieve her goals.
- Respect her uniqueness. Urge her to love her body and discourage dieting. Make sure your daughter knows that you love her for who she is. See her as a whole person capable of doing anything. Treat her and those she loves with respect.
- Get physically active with her. Play catch, tag, jump rope, basketball or just take walks. Studies show that physically active girls have fathers who are active with them.
- Involve yourself in your daughter’s activities. Volunteer to drive, coach or teach.
- Talk to other fathers. Together, fathers have reams of experience. There is a lot to learn from each other.
- Help make the world better for girls. This world holds dangers for our daughters, but your overprotection doesn’t work. In fact, it tells your daughter that you don’t trust her! Instead, work with other parents to demand an end to violence against females, media sexualization of girls and pornography. Work to stop advertisers from making billions by feeding on our women’s insecurities, in addition to all “boys are more important than girls” attitudes.
According to Kelly, the greatest gifts a father can give his daughter are talking with her, listening to her and trusting her.
If you are curious to know how well you are doing as your daughter’s father, you might want to take the quiz on Kelly’s website, dadsanddaughters.org.
Image from Unsplash.com