I am so proud to welcome my husband as a guest poster today on Love, Play, Learn! My daughter and his bond is so strong and is amazing to witness. He is sharing his tips on being a daddy and how to raise a strong and happy girl.
When my wife first told me that we were expecting, I found myself flooded with emotions – the largest of which was sheer excitement. I was going to be a daddy! The feeling of elation soon turned to fear when the question popped up in my mind: how do I be a daddy? My own relationship with my father was complicated so I feared that I was woefully ill-prepared for it. And then when we found out that we were having a girl, I became even more nervous. How do I raise a self-respecting, well-balanced daughter in today’s world? After a discussion with my wife, and now 19 months of on-the-job experience, I’ve put together a list of 10 things that I try to focus on so that my daughter can grow up to be the caring, thoughtful adult that I long for her to be:
1. Love Her Mother:
I list this first because, arguably, this is the most important in helping to develop my daughter’s ability to develop, and maintain, a stable relationship in her future. Parents are the largest influence in this area and how you treat your spouse reinforces the kind of relationship that your child will seek in their adulthood. Love her mother, treat her with respect, and don’t be afraid to express your love for her in front of your children. Expecting your child to know that you love your spouse without ever showing/expressing it around them sends mixed signals. To put it simply, think of it this way: would you want your daughter to marry someone that treats her the way you treat your spouse?
2. Tell Her She’s Beautiful AND SMART:
It goes without saying that fathers play a significant role in helping develop their daughter’s (really their son’s as well) self-esteem. Your daughter faces a world that is not afraid to bash her self-esteem, and/or self-image, in order to sell her something. It’s important that early, and often, you remind her that you think she’s beautiful, inside and out. Of course beauty isn’t everything and your daughter should know that you value her intellect as much, if not more so, than her appearance. Help her understand that her self-worth is not reliant on her physical appearance so that she learns not to base the value of others on their appearance. Teach her that beauty can be found in everyone and that intellect will help her live a rich and fulfilling life.
3. Spend Time With Her:
We live in an increasingly connected world. Yet, paradoxically, our personal relationships have become disconnected as a result. Your daughter wants requires your attention. There are certainly times in which this will be incredibly difficult, given the demands of your career, but the investment of your time in her life will reap rewards beyond measure in her adulthood. Make sure that she understands, and feels, that she is your number one priority in life.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Act Silly:
Creative play engages your daughter and enriches her imagination. This means that you shouldn’t be afraid to sit down to a tea party, or dress up now and then. You may feel ridiculous but your daughter will love you for it. It shows her that you value her happiness more than your personal pride and helps stimulate her creativity. This may mean you’ll have to watch a silly, childish movie on occasion, but would you prefer that she remember all the fun you had with her as a child, or the times that you turned her down because it was beneath you?
Nothing stimulates your daughter’s intellect, increases her vocabulary, and helps strengthen your relationship like cuddling and reading a good book. Dedicate a short portion of each day- bedtime is usually the easiest- to read to her whichever books she chooses. If your schedule makes spending time with your daughter difficult, say due to career obligations, commit a small window of your time just to this task and do everything within your power to be there each night – even if it means reading over Skype. This will become something that she looks forward to each day.
6. Share Your Hobbies With Her:
Who says that your daughter wouldn’t be interested in watching the football game or your favorite movie? When she’s young she’ll see this as an opportunity to spend time with her daddy doing something he enjoys. Include her in some of your hobbies so that she can learn to love and appreciate you even more. Perhaps even more importantly, be involved in her hobbies as well. Does she enjoy dance? Sports? Perhaps art? Be sure that you know the answer to that and you show her you care by participating in her hobbies as well. Sure, she may no longer want to join you as she gets older but don’t forget to extend the invitation. She may rather hang with her friends than spend time with the “old man” but at least you’re reminding her that your hobbies can be just as enjoyable, if not more so, with your daughter in tow.
7. Be Respectful of Others:
One of the biggest challenges that your daughter will face in her youth is developing a positive self-image and self-esteem. This is especially critical when she’s in her early teens as her self-esteem is particularly fragile. Be cognizant of what you say of others, especially women, when your daughter is with you (though best practice is even if she’s not with you). Remember that your “joke” or insult may have lasting consequences on your daughter’s psyche. Don’t forget that she looks to you to get an idea of what to expect from the opposite sex.
8. Be Her “BFF”:
At 19 months, I make it a priority to ask my daughter how her day went every night I come home from work. Sure, her incoherent ramblings usually consist of a smattering of words along with pure gibberish but I appear genuinely interested nonetheless. I make it a habit so that when she gets old enough to speak, she’ll know that I look forward to hearing about her day each evening. Your daughter will face many challenges and frustrations in her youth; make sure that she understands that she can always come to her daddy to share the good, and the bad, of her day on a regular basis. There will be times when she’ll need your shoulder to cry on, or just a pat on the back for a job well done. Be there, nonetheless. She’ll remember it.
9. Help Her Reach For The Stars:
Whether it’s an artist, nurse, lawyer, engineer, or mathematician, remind her that she can achieve whatever she sets her mind to, regardless of her sex. Help her understand that she can break the boundary and become successful in whatever endeavor she chooses and then help her achieve this. Don’t just tell her that she could be President of the United States if she asks, take her to a local government meeting to see politics in action. She won’t reach for the stars if you simply tell her to; she needs you to show her how to get there.
10. Cherish The Moments:
The most common line I heard when we were expecting was, “enjoy it; they grow up fast.” I wasn’t sure just what this meant until one day, several months ago, my daughter went from stumble-walking to running, practically overnight. It dawned on me that day that she was never going to be the little baby that would fall asleep in my arms during a movie. Cherish every moment with your daughter, because one day you’ll look back and wish that you had just given her one more hug, one more kiss, or one more “I love you”. She’ll always be your little girl but there’s only so long that you’ll be able to hold her in your arms and carry her up to bed after a long day of play. I’ll be the first to admit (and my wife will likely be the second to confirm) that I don’t always follow these steps perfectly. As long as I give it my best effort, I can feel comfortable in the knowledge that I’m giving my daughter the best chance to grow up to be a happy, self-assured, woman.
One of the books my husband and I read that greatly influenced the way we parent is called Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen
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