5 Things A Father Can Do to Increase His Daughter’s Self-Worth
By Cliff Park
I am a proud father of four daughters. Despite my imperfections, my daughters know they were/are loved, and have grown up with a sense of self, a security of who they are and what they might become, and they enjoy a positive view of women in general. So what can a father do to influence and increase his daughter’s self-worth? Here is a list from a father who tried:
• FIRST, LOVE HER
The single greatest thing a father can do to influence his daughter is to love her. Tell her, show her, let her know! Take every opportunity to let her know of your love for her, even as she grows into adulthood. Studies repeatedly show that a girl’s self-esteem is impacted by her father’s love. For example, Forsman (1989) determined that a woman’s perception of her father’s unconditional regard for her was significantly related to self-esteem. Interestingly, the study also found that her perception of her mother’s unconditional regard was only weakly related to her own self-esteem. Another study about two years later found that girls who perceived their father as warm and supportive had higher self-esteem (Richards, Gitelson, Petersen, and Hurtig,
• SECOND, LOVE HER MOTHER
John Wooden said, “The best thing a father can do for his children is love their mother.” I believe that a daughter who sees her father love her mother grows up with a stronger sense of who she is in this world. It gives her confidence and also an expectation. She has an expectation, even a demand, that she will be treated kindly by men. She demands the respect of men, and if she does not get it, she no longer desires to be with or around that man. Modeling how a woman should be treated by her husband provides a blueprint for daughters as they enter that relationship.
• THIRD, GIVE HER TIME
Some of my fondest memories in life are of the mud pies coming from the pretend oven–the wonderful playtime with Polly Pocket, fishing on a river, or playing basketball. It really doesn’t matter what the activity is as long as your daughter knows she is important enough to spend time with. Make it a regular occurrence, make it special, and regardless of how busy life can be, make it happen. A few months ago I was shuffling through some old photos and found a picture from a Daddy-Daughter Date in 2002. I was in the picture surrounded by four beautiful little girls, ages four to nine. Though I have accomplished many things in life, that was one of my proudest moments.
• FOURTH, SET HIGH EXPECTATIONS
Girls want to please their parents. If you set low expectations, they may not become all that they can be. I am not suggesting that a father should have unreasonable expectations or think that each of his daughters will have a 4.0 GPA or be All-State everything. But what I am suggesting is that a father knows his daughter’s capabilities and should expect her to achieve, and should help her to achieve her goals. As she matures, she will set her own expectations–and a father must be supportive. When she fails to meet expectations, celebrate and acknowledge her accomplishments. Express your love and confidence in her ability to do better next time. If each time she falls you are there to pick her up and point her in the direction she needs to go, she will never falter and will have sufficient self-confidence.
• FIFTH, LET HER GO
First, give her freedom to make her own choices as she grows and develops, and second, prepare her for the time that she will leave home. I believe a daughter who knows that at some point she will be on her own is better prepared when that time comes. If she knows that she has the freedom to succeed as well as the freedom to fail, she will go about life with a higher level of confidence. Research backs up the need to allow children to have personal freedom and autonomy. Craig Hart (2003) stated that “children who experience an appropriate amount of autonomy tend to be better at sharing power and understanding others’ viewpoints. They have fewer disputes with their parents and are more respectful of adults in general.
As no father will ever be able to shield his daughter from all the troubles of the world, protect her by providing her with a shield of her own. Be a father who focuses on these simple steps to instill in your daughter a healthy sense of self-worth and a greater chance to find success in relationships, in womanhood, and in life.
For more information on this and many other subjects to help you raise a strong child, check out our book 30 Days to a Stronger Child. Want to teach your daughter to reject the media messages around her? Check out Messages About Me: Sydney’s Story, A Girl’s Journey to Healthy Body Image.
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Forsman, L. (1989). Parent-child gender interaction in the relation between retrospective self reports on parental love and current self-esteem. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 30, 275-283.
Richards, M., Gitelson, I., Petersen, C., & Hurtig, A. (1991). Adolescent personality in girls and boys: The role of mothers and fathers. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 15, 65-81.
John Wooden (1997). Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court
Craig Hart, (2003) THREE ESSENTIAL PARENTING PRINCIPLES, BYU Magazine, Spring 2003.