Girls need their daddies! There is a special bond between a daughter and her dad that is very different than with anyone else. He is the most significant male figure in her life. In the eyes of a girl, she learns what a man is supposed to be, what she can expect in a man, how she is to be treated by a man, and how a man looks at her. It is through him that she gets the main validation of her femininity. As a little girl, she learns she is "daddy's little girl" through the gleam in his eyes, the way he holds and hugs her, the way he treats her, and how he tells her how pretty she is. As she goes through the awkward stage of adolescence she still hears how proud he is of her and how she is developing into a lovely young woman. During all this time she learns of the different strength he has and she develops a feeling of security around her dad, knowing he will protect her.
When the first daughter is born there seems to be a confusion in this normally strong man. How do I hold her? What do I do for her? How will I talk to her? She is so helpless. Oh my goodness, I'm not sure what to do. With a boy I know what to do, but I've never been a girl. My experience with my siblings is we tussled, laughed, yelled and kidded with each other. At school, it was much the same thing until I really discovered a desire to date and marry. But this is different, she is my daughter and I have a responsibility for her. Oh, Help! All of this brings out the soft and somewhat helpless side of a man.
Importance of a Father
In an article in ScienceDaily, Dr. Anna Sarkadi, from the Department of Women's and Children's Health at Uppsala University, Sweden stated, "Our detailed 20-year review shows that overall, children reap positive benefits if they have active and regular engagement with a father figure. For example, we found various studies that showed that children who had positively involved father figures were less likely to smoke and get into trouble with the police, achieved better levels of education and developed good friendships with children of both sexes." She continued, "Long-term benefits included women who had better relationships with partners and a greater sense of mental and physical well-being at the age of 33 if they had a good relationship with their father at 16."
A few suggestions
Let your daughter see the tenderhearted side of you. When she is little hug her and kiss her, rock her, read to her, tuck her in bed, play some of her games with her, and tell her how pretty she is. As she gets older, she will still need your hugs, kisses and assurances that she is a beautiful woman, inside and out.
Take time to listen to her and do the best you can to understand her. At some point she will need to hear the male point of view from the understanding dad who will be straight forward with her.
Help her know you are there to protect her with the caring strength of a man. One married woman, in her late 30s, recalled how, at age 17, her father held her and rocked her as she cried because her boyfriend had just dumped her. She saw that same scene repeated as her husband held and rocked their daughter of 17 as she cried over her boy problems. Part of this protection is teaching her how to set boundaries with boys and men.
Help her know that there are boundaries she, too, must respect. She must learn there are times that "no" applies to her as well as to others.
All of this will be more meaningful as your daughter sees the way you treat your wife. This is the true training ground that will help her know what to expect in male-female relationships. She will see that tenderness, respect, kindness, and safety are given from childhood to adulthood by the most significant man in her life and she will look for the same from her man.
Yes, a daughter needs her daddy to round out the journey of life. And you can be that most meaningful man as she grows up.