Friday, December 12, 2008

“Stop Playing Like a Girl” Part 2

Yesterday, I began blogging about a dad who seems impatient with his stepdaughters’ manner of playing, which he sees as too “girly.” And he doesn’t seem to believe that his attitude hurts the daughters’ feelings.

I believe that any dad who believes that his attitudes might not hurt (or, alternatively, help) his daughters is operating on a false premise. Unfortunately, evidence indicates that most fathers agree that their influence on their daughters is minimal.

For example, a 2004 national poll--the first (and apparently only) one of its kind—of US fathers showed that 75 percent of dads think they have good or excellent relationships with their daughters. But at the same time, 66 percent said that their active involvement in their daughters’ lives is NOT crucial to her health and well-being. In my opinion, those 66 percent are dead wrong.

We don’t hear much talk about the influence of fathers on daughters. It’s much more common to hear about how girls are influenced by their mothers. But all it takes is a moment’s reflection to start realizing the huge impact we fathers have on every one of our daughters. To find the roots of a father’s influence, think of your own daughter (or, if you’re a woman, reflect on your own dad or stepdad). It’s normal and natural that a girl wants to know what’s interesting to, or gets the attention of, members of the opposite sex. That’s important knowledge for her to have even if she never dates a boy or marries a man, because she lives in a world half full of boys and men.

Where will she turn first for this information? Most often, she’ll turn to the first member of the opposite sex she gets to know: Dad. Even a stepfather, while not necessarily the first male a girl knows, has huge influence because he spends so much time with her.

We hold a position of unique leverage in our daughters’ lives: First Man. The way we act toward our daughters and the other females in her life set the standard for what she will expect from boys and men. The same is true for our attitudes, words and beliefs. In all of these, we represent to her the richness, honor and value of being a man. When we are true to her and true to the best in our masculine heritage, she will learn to respect men and treat them as equals. She will learn to gravitate toward men who respect her and treat her as an equal, while turning away from men who threaten, violate and abuse. That’s good for both a daughter and her father.

Tomorrow, I’ll blog about some actions dads can take to engage more fully with the daughters, build stronger attitudes about them—and, as a result—have more FUN with your daughters.