Written by Parcsen Loke.
My Girl T, the eldest of three children, is loaded with confidence and intelligence. Some would attribute these traits to Nature, saying that they are in her genes. I would like to think that the way she was nurtured enabled her to fulfil the potential coded in her genes. Research seem to agree with me. It has been shown that girls whose fathers play an active role in their upbringing have a certain confidence that is lacking in those who do not have an involved father. This confidence increase their chances of academic and athletic achievements and general success in life. (So, boys aren’t the only ones who benefit from involved, loving dads – girls do too.) This, by no means, detracts from T’s own dedication and hard work – all essential ingredients of success.
Fathers also influence their daughters’ romantic life – who and when she dates, and the quality of her relationships with men. A well-fathered daughter is also the most likely to have relationships with men that are emotionally intimate and fulfilling. What is surprising is not that fathers have such an impact on their daughters’ relationships with men, but that they generally have more impact than mothers do. When many of her friends in college were
pairing up and planning to get engaged soon after graduation, T was unwavering. Having a boyfriend was the furthest thing from her mind when she met the man of her dreams. Their encounter was a Divine appointment, to say the least. They married a few years later and are still experiencing an emotionally intimate and fulfilling relationship.
I cannot take all the credit for T’s success and achievements, only some, because for a big part of her growing up years I was struggling with unresolved issues from my childhood. I was pretty much a typical Asian father: quiet, unaffectionate, and angry a lot of the time. For this reason, the last place that I should be working at is a Centre for Fathering. Yet, here I am, with one message: Fathers, get your act together because your children need you.
Your daughter needs you:
1. To be there.
Girls whose fathers are present at home have a healthy self-esteem, are less dissatisfied with their appearance and their body weight, and therefore are less likely to become clinically depressed or to develop eating disorders. Conversely, her confidence in her own abilities and value as a human being can be greatly diminished in every setting (personally, professionally, physically, socially, and romantically) if her father isn’t there.
Anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge-eating, body dysmorphia, unhealthy preoccupations with food or body weight, and other eating disorders are all the more likely if a girl does not have a father figure growing up. Daughters without dads are also twice as likely to be obese. Because her longing to have a close relationship with her dad is denied, she may develop what Margo Maine calls “father hunger,” a deep emptiness and a profound insecurity.
2. To model Positive Masculinity.
As a girl tries to figure out what men are like, the first one she watches is her Father. He can be one very significant example of a man who is consistent, trustworthy, and sensitive to feelings, who places his family at a high priority on his schedule, who keeps his promises, and who invests his energies in the lives of those around him.
With such a positive reference point, she’ll learn what to expect from the men she meets. You can bet she’ll meet plenty of men who are dishonest, irresponsible, and chauvinistic, and she’ll be able to see through them right from the start.
Furthermore, model for her how a woman should be respected, protected, and loved through your relationship with your wife.
3. To model healthy behaviour toward women.
What is and isn’t appropriate when men are present? How will men respond when she “flirts” for attention? As her father, you’re a kind of first boyfriend, and you play a large role in showing her what a proper, respectful male response sounds and feels like. Make it clear that she has won your heart not with her looks and feminine charms, but because she is a unique, gifted and worthwhile person. If your daughter learns at home that she is accepted and appreciated for her personal qualities, because of who she is as your daughter, she will be much less likely to feel the need to earn love from men through physical means.
To my girl T, I would like to dedicate this song:
To learn more about how to be the father your daughter needs, contact Centre for Fathering.
1. Nielsen, Linda. How Dads Affect Their Daughters into Adulthood. Institute for Family Studies. June 3, 2014
2. Maine, Margo. PhD. Father Hunger: Fathers, Daughters, and the Pursuit of Thinness. Second Edition, 2004.
3. Your Daughters Need Your Affection. National Centre for Fathering.