FACT #1: There’s nothing like being the dad of a daughter.
FACT #2: To a daughter, there’s no one like her dad.
I’ll be honest: both times my wife and I were pregnant, I was hoping for a boy. I was an only child, and I had no idea how to navigate the world of tutus, dolls, fingernail polish, or Disney princesses. But after my first daughter was born, and even more so after my second, I can tell you I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
There is truly a special bond between a dad and daughter. It’s hard to explain. To know what I do—my presence, my attention, my support, my compassion for my daughters—will be carried with them through their entire lives is both a massively overwhelming mission and a wonderfully great privilege.
And if you were to look up the research on dads and daughters, you’d find a warm, affectionate relationship between the two does indeed help a young girl thrive and develop. Fathers leave a legacy with their daughters which positively informs their identity, confidence, body image, assertiveness, mental health, and problem-solving skills. Not to mention, being the first man in your daughter’s life, you are the one who teaches her the level of respect, love, and treatment she deserves from the opposite sex.
Fellow dads out there, we’ve got a mission.
How can a dad foster a strong connection with his daughter? Here are five ways to be the best dad for your daughter:
1. Be present.
Not just in the same room or in the car picking her up from preschool. I mean, be truly present. Engage with your daughter. Talk, interact, ask questions. There’s a big difference between sitting on the same couch and directing your attention toward your daughter. She needs to know you are interested in her. She will beam when you ask her questions and show an interest in the things she is interested in—tutus, Disney princesses, and all.
2. Take your daughter on dates.
I can’t stress this enough. Even when they are barely walking, daddy-daughter dates hold a special place in her heart. These are the opportunities for your little girl to experience “out there” with you, at the pizza place, the park, the movie theater, fishing, the hiking trail. It gives her the experience of seeing how you operate and behave outside the home, with other people in other places, while knowing your attention is solely on her. So much positive development and socialization results from this kind of quality time with you.
3. Hug, cuddle, and hold hands.
Your daughter needs a positive, comforting touch from you. She gains a sense of warmth, protection, and security when you wrap your arm around her or give her a big goodnight smooch at bedtime. Many daughters love tickle fights and wrestling matches. (Dads need to be wary of how far these go; always give them an easy “way out” of a pin or hold so they don’t feel trapped. Otherwise, the touch turns from feeling protective to overly vulnerable.) There’s power in a dad’s touch which can be used to strengthen the connection with his daughter.
4. Build her up.
Never miss the opportunity for genuine encouragement, compliments, and praise. Just like there is power in your touch, there is also power in a dad’s words. Your daughter loves to impress you, whether it’s with her artwork, her dancing skills, or her knowledge of Disney princesses. Showing your accolades helps her to develop confidence and esteem. Encourage her to keep trying when she can’t quite get something right, like tying her shoes, learning how to spell a word or learning to jump hurdles; this helps her to build grit and determination.
5. Tell her “I love you,” often.
Dads, your daughter can’t hear these words enough. As my girls have gotten older, I’ve come to realize I don’t tell them this because I necessarily want them to know it in the moment; I tell them I love you because I want them to remember how true it is when I’m not with them. These words give your daughter security and comfort, especially when you are away. Make a habit of telling them this in the most unexpected moments.
To a daughter, there’s no one like her dad.
You are one-of-a-kind to her, the first and most important man of her life. Yes, the mission is daunting. But you’ve got what it takes to be a great dad. Your daughter believes in you, so go out there and prove her right. And don’t be afraid to wear a tutu while watching a Disney princess movie every now and then. (You might even get your fingernails painted for free!)
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