Fathers have a profound affect on their daughters. Fathering impacts what kind of relationships our daughters have as they grow, and helps daughters deal with and balance the masculine and feminine elements in life. Fathering is so important!
How can we nurture the relationship between fathers and daughters? Here are a few thoughts for the first seven year cycle.
Birth to Age 7
- Let dads do something! So many mothers I see don’t really get dads involved, or if the dad tries to do something, the mother says the dad is “doing it wrong”. If mom stays at home some families seem to see child-rearing as the sole job of the mother. Yet, if dads are involved from the beginning of the child’s life it becomes much easier to maintain an open and loving relationship through the changes that menstruation and the teenaged years bring. Many dads at this stage feel estranged and distanced by their daughter’s budding sexuality, so helping Dad build a close relationship in these early years can be a big help in the later years where daughters need to be emotionally open and treated well by the “first man” in their life.
- Recognize that Dad is NOT going to do it the way you do it, and that is OKAY. They – the father and the daughter – will find their own way TOGETHER. Their relationship is not your relationship with your daughter and nor should it be. You married this man because you loved him, allow him to also be a parent! Trust him!
- If you are breastfeeding, there are still lots of things dad can do to be involved with the baby. This includes walking the baby around , singing to the baby, holding the baby, changing diapers, giving baths, feeding solid foods when that time comes and taking care of you so you can nurse the baby you created together.
- Work on your own relationship with dad! Girls within the ages of 0-7 are absorbing impressions about how relationships within the family work and about marriage as well.
- Let Dad participate in doing fun things with his child, as I mentioned above – don’t expect dad to step into the highly charged emotional situations without having built love and trust first in spending some fun together.
- However, don’t let dad do just all the fun things….. let dad handle the child crying and dealing with the child when the child is upset. The child will learn that dad is as adept and marvelous as you are with handling things, and that dad really can handle things without mom there! And yes, moms, you may have to leave sometimes or have father-daughter leave the house in order to foster and nurture their relationship without you in the way. Many mothers say their three or four year old dislike being with dad and run to them to fix everything if the mother is anywhere in the vicinity – I hate to sound awful, and this may come around as the child gets older, but the best time for a dad and daughter to build a relationship is earlier, not later. It is NOT attachment mothering it is attachment PARENTING. It took two of you to make this baby, trust that dad can do this! If dad has not built up a bank of love and care with his child before the age of 3 or 4 or 5, it can still happen but it will take consistent work and dedication.
- Sit down together and talk with dad about his ideas regarding such things as gentle discipline, the role of outside time, what kind of toys does he think a girl should have, television and other media, family health, family holidays and how you will celebrate them, how dad envisions the rhythm of the family, family chores, and the big issues of things such as spirituality and how spirituality and religion play into your lives everyday. Figure out these things together! Have a family mission statement.
- Dads need to give their babies and their little girls their time, and their attention. Little girls like to know dad is not only with them physically, but paying attention. As your daughter grows, consider “daddy-daughter” dates or “daddy-daughter” breakfasts weekly so their relationship can continue to be nurtured and grow.
- Dad can be a wonderful person to have humor when mother-daughter tensions run high; dad can be a wonderful person to be part of the united front of loving guidance and teaching boundaries within the home to a daughter in a loving way.
- The book “Raising A Daughter” by Jeanne Elium and Don Elium has this to say on page 267: “Adjustment studies of children raised with three different parenting styles – the authoritative (NOTE here by Carrie: NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH authoritarian, rigid and strict style of parenting), the democratic and the laissez-faire- showed surprising outcomes. Authoritative parents make the rules, offer few choices, and expect their children to follow family principles. Democratic families operate from a place of fairness, consider how other members feel, offer lots of choices, and place high value on cooperation. Children whose parents are laissez-faire, are allowed to believe whatever they wish and to behave according to their own whims. This long-term study found that children raised in laissez-faire fashion grew up to have difficulty cooperating and getting along with others. Those from democratic families found it hard to make decisions as adults. Those raised by authoritarian parents were the most well-adjusted adults, able to make decisions, follow rules, and cooperate with others.” So if dad tends toward harsh and punitive, or just rather jelly-fish-ish, perhaps these are areas you can explore together!
- For the first seven years, the Eliums recommend a style of parenting with few choices, limited media, using gentle physical help to guide a child as opposed to lots of words, and to look at our daughters from a place of kindness and understanding. Sound like Waldorf to me, and like so many of the posts I have written on here to STOP TALKING and START DOING. Help dad to know how to use your environment, your rhythm, stable patterns of sleep and eating and being firmly entrenched in the home. Stop over-explaining to your three, four, five and even six and seven year old. Let Dad in on this secret! Let him help you, model it for him, talk about it when it comes up, get on the same page! But don’t nag, because nagging truly doesn’t work. Parenting is a process, and many mothers want to parent as if they are alone – there are two of you, and both of you have to be comfortable. Talk with each other!
- Know your developmental stages, and especially understand the developmental stages regarding sexuality, because for many parents most of the fears for their little girls revolve around sexual issues. Talk with dad and decide together how you will handle such common things as “playing doctor”, masturbation by your daughter during the early years as this is common, and how you will handle the possibility of scarier sexual subjects such as molestation and sexual abuse. Talk about how you will work to protect your daughter’s safety.
- Talk together about protecting your child’s infancy! Discuss and provide fun activities for the whole family to do together that meets your needs and family values….But again, give dad the space and time to come up with his own things to do with his child during “their time”. They will work it out, and your daughter will so benefit from fathering and seeing their parents work as partners and as two separate people who love them very much.
Just food for thought,