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7 Tips for Dads of Daughters

You can bond with and build up your daughter.

If you’re a father or a stepfather, I’m going to ask you to do one thing today. One. This one thing is for the little girl in your life. Whether she’s a baby, is “toddlering” around the house, navigating middle school, working on a college degree, or has started a family of her own: It doesn’t matter. She’ll always be your little girl.

You know the saying: A son is a son ‘til he gets a wife, but a daughter is a daughter for the rest of her life.

I recently read something by Mat Johnson that was so profound it froze me in my tracks. I had to sit down and let it sink in. (Full Disclosure: I was already seated. But the rest is absolutely accurate.) Mat is a professor and prize-winning author of fiction, non-fiction, and graphic novels. He is also the father of two little girls. Here’s what he said that hit me like a ton of bricks:

A man’s daughter is his heart. Just with feet, walking out in the world.

That’s powerful stuff. I don’t know how much Mat is into family research, but in just 14 words, he encapsulated decades of studies on the impact a father has on his daughter’s life. It’s worth breaking down and looking a little deeper.

A Man’s Daughter Is His Heart…

I’m about to share a bunch o’ findings from a bunch o’ research. (I’ll link to it at the end for your perusal.) 

First, understand that you’re always directly or indirectly impacting your daughter. She’s watching, listening, and taking mental notes. (Like, how does Dad treat Mom, me, and other women?) Remember: It’s not about just being around. The goal is to actively engage with your daughter from birth onward. 

Daughters who have a dynamic, secure, warm, comfortable, conversational, and loving relationship with their father gain all sorts of advantages they carry throughout their lives. Your life is molding hers.

…Just With Feet, Walking Out In This World.

What dad doesn’t want these things for their daughter?

Actively engaged fathers help their daughters become more:

  • Intellectually developed – from IQ to better grades in school.
  • Confident and assertive. (And more likely to feel better about themselves.) 
  • Likely to pursue higher education.
  • Likely to have higher career achievement & have a higher-paying job.
  • Likely to experience better emotional & mental health.
  • Likely to have healthy romantic relationships up to, and including, marriage.

⇨ Your Relationship With (Your Wife) And Daughter Also Provides A Critical Buffer ⇦

Daughters with actively involved fathers are less likely to: 

  • Develop eating disorders and a poor self-image.
  • Engage in “delinquent” behavior as an adolescent.
  • Become pregnant as a teenager.
  • Experience dating violence or be coerced into sex.
  • Be resilient and navigate obstacles & stressful situations.

How do you get started? According to research, technically, it begins with being present and involved in your daughter’s birth. (You’re probably past that.) Check out these pointers on being a great girl dad for an infant or toddler.  

Keep these general principles in mind:

  1. Listen to girls. What are your daughter’s thoughts, beliefs, feelings and dreams? Don’t just focus on how she looks. Make sure she knows she’s beautiful and valuable on the inside, too.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Get physically active with her. Play catch, tag, jump rope, basketball or go for walks. Studies show that physically active girls have fathers who are active with them.
  1. Involve yourself in your daughter’s activities. Volunteer to drive, coach or host.
  1. Talk to other fathers. There’s a lot you can learn from each other.
  1. Help make the world better for girls. One time, while I was walking through the mall with my teenage daughter, I made a point of watching the eyes of the people we passed. It was disturbing. This world holds dangers for our daughters. Overprotection doesn’t work. Make sure your daughter is over-prepared to navigate the world. 

So, what’s the one practical thing you’re going to do today to work on bonding and building up your daughter? Even if you don’t live with your daughter, you still make a difference

Dads, we can’t do it all in one day, but we can do that one thing today, then one other thing tomorrow. Our daughters need us for the rest of their lives.

Sources:

Resources:

How To Be The Best Dad For Your Daughter – First Things First

5 Steps I Took to Be a Better Dad – First Things First

What All Daughters Need to Hear From Their Dad – First Things First

7 Ways to Embrace Being a #girldad – First Things First

Fatherhood.gov

The Encouraging Science of Fatherhood and the ‘Father Effect’

The Father-Daughter Relationship: How He Affects Her Life

How to Teach Your Daughters The Importance of Consent

These 5 things can help her protect, assert, and defend herself.

I’m a dad of daughters. And like other parents, I would do anything to protect my girls. Anything. From harm and from bullies. From being taken advantage of. And from pubescent boys with only one thing on their mind (and I’m not talking about video games…). 

But I also know I can give my girls greater gifts: the skills and confidence to protect themselves. A big part of this is teaching them the importance of consent. I call it having consent conversations

Now, I know the term consent is often a buzzword, especially when sexual harassment, date rape, molestation, and other horrible abuses are in the news. And, good heavens, we need to teach our daughters to guard themselves. 

I’d like to suggest that consent conversations are more than protection from these sorts of sexual abuses, although they certainly include them.

At its core, talking to your daughter about consent is helping her identify, establish, verbalize, and guard her boundaries. What will she allow to go on around her in a given situation? At what point does she take a stand? And how does she go about taking that stand? 

Even further, consent conversations help your daughter recognize and respect others’ boundaries. As a friend’s son said very well, “Consent isn’t just about dating; it’s about respecting people.” 

Consent conversations help your daughter develop self-respect and assertiveness as well as respect for others. It keeps her safe emotionally, physically, and sexually. It gives her a vocabulary to use for upholding boundaries. And it lays the groundwork for having healthier relationships in the future. 

So, consent conversations are kind of a big deal. 

1. In a given situation with another person, what are you OK with?

And what are you not OK with? Help your daughter think through different scenarios — with friends at school, around other adults, at a friend’s house, with someone they are dating. Ask, what could happen that would be OK or not OK with you? 

2. When someone wants to do something with or around you that’s not OK, how will you respond?

Talk about when to be polite, when to be firm, and when to be forceful with her no. What are situations she needs to walk away from? And if someone keeps doing or saying something despite her objection, let her know she needs to separate herself, go somewhere safe, and call a trusted adult

3. How do you read the situation for danger signs?

Teaching your daughter how to be aware of what’s going on around is a critical skill. How are people acting around you? Can you trust those you’re with to have your back? Be sure to discuss the role alcohol and drugs play in certain situations and how they can break down awareness and inhibitions.  

4. If there’s a situation you feel you can’t escape, what’s the plan?

You don’t want to frighten your daughter, but you do want to prepare her. Teach your daughter to always have the means to get out of a situation. Know where the door and a phone are. Where’s the nearest place with other people? What’s the quickest way to get in touch with someone you trust? It might also be worth enrolling her in a self-defense course or a martial arts class (or better yet, do that together). It can boost her confidence and give her some good skills.

5. How can you tell if someone is OK or not OK with your actions? What do you do if they are not?

Consent conversations are important. We as parents are responsible for teaching our children how to protect, assert, and stand up for themselves (and others) when someone pushes the boundaries. I encourage you to start age-appropriate consent conversations this week! 

Other helpful resources:

Dad, Here Are 5 Things Your Middle School Daughter Needs from You

How Do I Get My Teen To Talk To Me?

What All Daughters Need to Hear From Their Dad

PARENTING COURSE | Ultimate Girl Dad Toolkit

5 Ways Dads and Daughters Can Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Use this day to connect and make memories with your daughter.

Okay, just between us dads, let’s be real. For some of you, Valentine’s Day is, well, kind of enjoyable. That’s alright—no judgment here! 

But many guys see V-Day as a high-pressure hassle. Do I have to actually read the entire V-Day card before I buy it? Can I get away with carnations (the cheaper option) instead of roses? (They’re just going to die…) And so many different boxes of chocolates… sooooo many…

For those of us who are girl-dads, I wanna give you a different way to view and celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s an opportunity to:

  • Have some fun with your daughter. 
  • Show her how special she is to you. 
  • Connect and have a stronger relationship. 

With that, I give you 5 fun, unique ideas to have a special Daddy-Daughter Valentine’s Day. Here we go…

1. Two words: Dessert Day. 

Like, make this day all about desserts. Have dessert for every meal. Take your daughter on a dessert tour of your town. Pick a few places to go during the day. Think coffee shops, bakeries, crêperies—and sample some sweets. Choose desserts that are more out of the ordinary. Share a banana split. Try out a crêpe. Munch on a macaron (it’s a cookie). Nosh on gelato. Stop in between treats to wash the sugar down, take a stroll, and have some great conversation. That’ll be a Dad-daughter Valentine’s Day she’ll always remember!

2. V-Day Goodies Scavenger Hunt. 

Does your daughter like chocolate kisses? Or books? Or little toys? Hide some throughout your house and yard. Write down clues for your daughter. Make it like an Easter egg hunt, except with Valentine’s Day! End the search with a “big-ticket item” like a stuffed animal, box of chocolates, or even better… a pizza and movie night in a homemade fort with you. What a great memory to make! 

3. Over-the-Top Daddy-Daughter Date. 

I mean, Over. The. Top. Dress to the nines. Leave the house, then come back to “pick her up.” Bring her a corsage. Open the car door for her. Take her to a fancy dinner. (Okayyou don’t even have to spend a lot of cash. Drive her around the block, back home, and surprise her with spaghetti, pizza, or her favorite meal!) Be sure to decorate the table and play her favorite background music. And if you seriously want to go over the top, have someone be the server. 

Dance. 

Take a stroll. 

Then, hop back in the car (yes, open the car door again!), drive around the block, and drop her off at her doorstep. (Yes, you’ll go around the block, like, three times, but you’re making memories here!) 

4. Musical Car Ride. 

Create a favorite-song playlist. Ask your girl to write down her favorites and add some of your own fun tunes. Take her on a car ride and jam out. Open the windows and sing as loud as you can. Dance at red lights like no one’s watching. Grab some dinner in the drive-thru, but be sure to crank up the volume while you’re in line. Drive past some places that are special to you: the house you grew up in, your first apartment, where you went to school. She’ll love hearing stories about you before she came into the world in between songs. But… don’t forget to keep on singing… loudly

5. Making Valentine’s Special for Others, Together. 

Find out who needs a pick-me-up on V-Day. Deliver flowers, candy, or Valentine’s notes to family members. Bake cookies for your neighbors. Write cards to folks in the hospital or assisted living homes. Explore how you can brighten someone else’s Valentine’s Day together and extend the good memories to them. 

Oh, sure, you can see Valentine’s Day as a hassle. But you can also see it as an opportunity to make memories with that special girl in your life. Your daughter will cherish those memories for the rest of her life, and your relationship will be stronger because of it. 

So from one girl-dad dude to another… Happy Valentine’s Day! 

Just wait until they turn 13, they said. Yeah, they’re cute now, but the day is coming, they said. Then my daughter turned 13. And I admit, the days are a lot more unpredictable when you have a middle school daughter. I never know whether I’ll be driving Jekyll or Hyde home from school on any given afternoon. Hair colors change from day to day, moods change from minute to minute. One moment they are cuddling in your lap like they did when they were 3; the next moment they’re rolling their eyes at you and holing themselves up in their room. 

Can you relate?

It’s a confusing time for middle school girls—they’re caught somewhere between being a little girl and wanting to be an independent young adult. They are seesawing between the two at any given moment. 

middle school daughter

It’s a confusing time for us dads, too, for obvious reasons. On the one hand, it’s hard to know what to expect out of your daughter. But more than that, it’s easy to feel like your role as a dad carries less weight than it once did. As a dad of a middle schooler, sometimes I feel like I’m a benched player when I was once a starting quarterback. 

Well, as a fellow dad-of-daughters, I’m here to say that you (and I) are still in the game. And I’d like to share some words of encouragement for being the best dad you can for your middle school daughter. 

Your daughter needs you to spend time with her.

Yes, she wants to exercise a lot more independence. She wants her space, her privacy. But your middle school daughter also desires to spend time with you. I mean good, quality time where she has your undivided attention. She not only wants to know you love her, but also that you like her, you like being with her, hanging out with her. Make time to do your favorite things together. Go on a coffee date, chow down on greasy cheeseburgers, take a hike, watch a movie, jam to music in the car (both yours and hers). If you haven’t already, find the activity that is going to be “your thing together.” (My daughter and I have “our” TV show that we watch together.) If you do have “your thing together,” go ahead now and make plans to do it again soon. (No, like, right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait here…

Your daughter needs you to listen.

It used to be that I could sit my daughter down and teach her all kinds of wisdom and “life lessons,” and she’d hang on to my every word. At 13, that doesn’t work quite as well anymore; “life lessons” come across more like lectures or replays of what’s been said before. But where my daughter and I do connect nowadays is when she comes to me to talk. I’ve found the key is to do a lot less “lesson-giving” and a lot more listening. Listen to understand. Ask questions to get an idea of where she’s coming from, how she’s feeling. And always, always let her know that she can come to you anytime with anything on her mind… and you won’t respond with any kind of judgment or ridicule.

And a funny thing happens sometimes: in the course of simply listening to my daughter, somehow a nugget of wisdom will slip through the cracks and get heard by her. Amazing how that works.

Your daughter needs you to affirm her. 

Lots of changes are happening in your middle school daughter’s life: brain development, friendships, body changes, emotions. It’s just a normal part of her development. But when your daughter experiences these changes, it can cause her to be unsure of herself, and she needs a regular boost of confidence. This is where you come in.

All middle school daughters need to hear certain things from their dads. Let her know how intelligent you think she is, how creative, how bright. Tell her that anyone would be lucky to have her as a friend. Don’t shy away from complimenting her physical appearance in an appropriate way: her hair, her eyes, how tall she’s getting. (My daughter is an avid cross country runner, and she beams whenever I ask her to flex her leg muscles and show me how strong she is.) Let her know she grows more and more beautiful every day. (Seriously—she needs to specifically hear the word beautiful applied to her.)

Affirming who she is and who she is growing to be can make all the difference in how your middle school daughter feels about herself and her future. 

Your daughter needs you to be interested in her world.

Her world in middle school is more complex than when she was younger. She’s discovering what she likes and dislikes, trying new interests, and devoting more time to activities she can call her own. It’s important to remember she considers this part of her space, her world; but, she wants you to come over and visit often.

Ask her questions about what interests her. Allow her to be the expert on whatever it is she’s into. Ask her to tell you about her best friend, how she goes about putting color in her hair, or what’s going on in the reality show she watches. The trick is to show genuine interest without seeming intrusive or nosy. And you certainly want to avoid coming across as judgy of her friends or interests. Showing interest in her world tells her that you are interested in her and that she means a lot to you. 

Your daughter needs you to believe in her.

Here’s something I realized about my daughter not too long ago: it’s possible that she’s going to do something later in her life that will absolutely change the world. I have no idea what that might be. Maybe she’ll help heal people as a doctor, or write award-winning screenplays, or solve some major crisis in a far-off country. And the same possibility holds true with your daughter as well.

Here’s the question I have to ask myself: When that time comes around, do I want my daughter to look back and see that her daddy believed in her every step of the way

Absolutely I do. 

And I’m sure you want the same for your daughter as well. Let her know you believe she’s capable of making a difference in the world around her, both now and in the future. 

Dads, I’m asking you to join me in the mission of being the best dad you can be for your middle school daughter.

Let me leave you with a sobering thought: This is the stage when it’s the easiest to pull away from your daughter but is possibly the most crucial stage to stay in the pocket. You’re still in the game and called to play it strong. Your middle school daughter needs you, whether she’s Jekyll or Hyde on a given day. Now, go eat some greasy cheeseburgers with her and tell her she’s beautiful. 

For more great information on being the best dad for your daughter, check out the links below:

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!)

Image from Pexels.com

Four months into our pregnancy, we were eager with anticipation and excitement to find out whether we were having another boy or a little girl. Our son, three at the time, was excited to find out as well. When the doctor showed us the ultrasound of our little girl, we were ecstatic, overjoyed, and couldn’t wait for the journey ahead. Secretly, thoughts raced through my mind: “How am I supposed to be a dad to a little girl?” “I never had a sister.” “What do I do?” “Is she gonna paint my nails and do my hair?” “Will we play with dolls?” Quickly my thoughts turned a corner as I thought, “What will my daughter need to hear from me, her dad?”

As a dad, I want to be my daughter’s first love. I dream (and am scared by the idea) of walking her down the aisle one day. I want to be the one she comes to when she needs help or advice. But how do I build this relationship from the start? Thankfully I had a few other girl dads in my life who gave me some wise advice. I can’t say I always live it out but I try daily. They told me to speak words of life and truth over her. Words she needs to hear from her dad. 

“I love you.”

Life isn’t going to be easy. Our daughters need to hear often the words “I love you” and she needs to hear them from her dad. I want my daughter to know I love her, not because she has done anything or because of anything she can offer me, but solely because she is mine. The world can often infer the idea that love is transactional, we are loved for what we do or what we offer. Our daughters need to know they are loved for who they are. It is important to let them know nothing they do can change the love we have for them.

“You are beautiful.”

She will hear she is beautiful many times, but she needs to hear it often from dad. There is something special when a dad says these words to his daughter. You can also add words like smart, funny, etc. The truth is you are building her confidence. Your daughter will know she is beautiful because her daddy says so. The world will try to tell her she needs to look a certain way, wear certain clothes, or buy certain products to be beautiful but if you have instilled in her from an early age the truth, that she is beautiful, it will resonate with her. Take the opportunity to tell her often.

“You have value.”

Telling my daughter she has value comes from many of the same reasons why I tell her she is beautiful. I want her to know she has value, not because of anything she has done, but because she is mine and I love her. As with beauty, the world will try to skew this one, to say value comes from what you offer or what you do. This is not the case: she has value because she is an individual. I want this to be a constant reminder in her life. Value comes not from what you do, what you offer, or who you are: you have value because you are.

“I’m always here for you.”

A girl needs someone in her corner. Someone she can confide in, share dreams with, and find safety in. Hopefully, this is her dad. The bond between a father and daughter is special. It’s hard to explain, but if you have a daughter, you know this to be true. There is nothing better than when my 4-year-old crawls in my lap, holds my face and says “Daddy, I love you.” My response is most often, “I love you too sweetie and I am always here for you.” I want her to know she can always come to me. In a few years she won’t be crawling into my lap. She may be holding my hand or just offering a hug but the truth will remain the same: I will always be here for her. 

“You can tell me anything.”

I read a story recently about a dad who wrote a note to his daughter and put it in a drawer. The note said “If you’re scared to tell me something, just bring me this note as a reminder that I’m here to support you. I won’t get mad; I will work with you on a solution.” I love this and I want this for my kids. NO MATTER WHAT, I want my daughter to know she can always come to me. She can come to me because I have told her she is loved, she has value, and I am always here for her. 

By speaking words of truth and life over our daughters, we earn the respect and the trust to be the person they can lean on. My daughter will grow up knowing no matter what she does, good or bad, her dad is right here for her to lean on and confide in. There are things all daughters need to hear from their dad. This is just a starting point. What do you want to instill in your daughter? You’ve got this, Dad!

For other ideas of how to be the best dad for your daughter, check these articles out:

Image from Freepik.com

Wondering how you can connect with your kiddos? Here’s a list to get you started!

  • Plan a regular time for Daddy/Child date to do something fun and adventurous.
  • Write a short message to them on a stick-it note and hide it in their lunch.
  • Let your child help you wash the car or fix something.
  • Play a game with them—one that they want to play.
  • If you like to cook, let them help you.
  • Take them to the park.
  • Teach your child how to do something like build a kite, a soapbox derby car, a paper airplane, etc.
  • Tell them what life was like when you were their age.
  • Listen to them—learn about their favorite things, who their friends are, their favorite game, etc.

A young girl was touring the social worker through the home she shared with her father. When she came to her bedroom, she proudly showed the woman everything in her room. With big eyes and a huge smile, the little girl asked, “Would you like to see bombs away?”

Hesitantly, the social worker said yes. “Come on Dad, let’s show her,” said the little girl.

Dad came over to the bed, grabbed his daughter’s arms and legs and started swinging her. Finally, he let go as she yelled, “Bombs away!” and landed on her bed. Loud, gleeful laughter followed.

Looking horrified, the social worker said, “Stop! No! You should not be doing that.” Both father and daughter looked at her with troubled and quizzical faces and said, “We shouldn’t be doing bombs away?”

Fathers and Mothers Parent (and Play) Differently

“This is probably one of the best examples of the difference in how men and women view play with children,” said Dr. Ron Klinger, founder of the Center for Successful Fathering and author of The Common Sense No-Frills, Plain-English Guide to Being a Successful Dad.

“Researchers tell us that children of all ages from infants to high school prefer play with dad over mom because it is unpredictable, physical, rough, dad cheats, and it’s fun. It is a test – it stretches you. You find yourself doing things you would never do. Most importantly, it is a playful form or preparation for the challenges our children will face in the real world.”

Klinger contends that what the father was doing with his daughter was totally appropriate. While mothers are the initial primary caregivers and continue to be the nurturers and protectors, it is the father’s job to engage his children in rough and tumble play and to encourage them to take risks.

However, the challenge for many is that nearly 80 percent of dads today did not grow up with an actively involved father in their lives. When moms say, “Don’t play so rough,” most guys don’t know to say, “But this is what I am supposed to be doing.”

“The bonding with a child and their father is based on this rough and tumble play,” Klinger said. “This playful interaction turns out to be very powerful in teaching independence, self-reliance and courage. It also encourages children to become more tolerant of frustration. The father is introducing the child to a world that is defined by adventure and adversity, not comfort.”

There are other benefits of rough and tumble play for children, too. They include:

  • Building a bond of affection and trust with their father;
  • Exposure to personal challenges such as riding a bike;
  • Learning to be a successful risk-taker;
  • Building self-confidence;
  • Girls growing up to be unintimidated by competitive men; and
  • Becoming resilient.

“When a mother approaches her child, the infant’s heart rate begins to slow down,” Klinger said. “When a father approaches his child, their heart rate begins to race in anticipation of excitement and action. Babies need this to stimulate brain activity.

“I can remember when my own son would climb our spiral staircase and leap out to me below. The space separating us was only a couple of feet, but he was jumping from seven feet high. He was investing a huge amount of trust in me. Admittedly, this is the kind of thing that drives mom nuts, yet it’s exactly what dads and children should be doing. Play is the antidote for anxiety.”

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!