Raising girls is complicated. I should know–I have four of them. As a woman, I probably have a bit of a leg up on my partner when it comes to understanding their needs. However, he and I are equally aware of how, even in 2020, gender stereotypes and outdated expectations continue to permeate our society.
When a man is blessed with a daughter, his hopes and fears for his little girl can reshape his views of the world. Looking at your daughter will bring the many challenges that our world faces into sharper focus and will, hopefully, change vague wishes for a better world into a commitment to act.
So, what can a dad do if he is concerned about the world his daughter will inherit? Raising your girl to know that there is zero room in this world for sexism, is a start. Your daughter should expect nothing less than equality, and she should be encouraged to dream as big as her imagination allows.
4 Things to Consider When Raising Young Women
Below are a few tips for fathers who want to raise their daughters to be strong, independent women:
Treat Women with Respect
You better believe that your daughter is watching the way you treat other women, and it will have a lifelong effect on her. Be mindful of your behavior and attitude around women at all times. If you are separated or divorced, this includes not saying anything negative about her mom. You should be a role model of the kind of man you want your daughter to be with someday, because the way that you treat women when your daughter is growing up influences how she will choose her future partners.
Enforce Equality at Home
Are you practicing what you preach, dad? If you want your daughter to demand a world where she’s treated as an equal, make sure that you take on your fair share of domestic responsibilities at home. Even better, tackle the chores alongside your partner. Research has shown that in households where the mother and father take on housework together, the relationships with both their spouse and the children improved.
Have Confidence in Her
As a dad, one of your strongest instincts is to protect your daughter. But, if you want her to learn how to navigate this crazy world with confidence, you need to show her time and time again that she has the power to handle her own challenges. Show your girl that mistakes are normal. Let her make her own mistakes, and she will undoubtedly learn and grow from every one of them.
Make a concerted effort to speak up about your own missteps, even when it’s something as minor as forgetting where you put your keys and give her opportunities to make her own uh-ohs. Try thinking of small things you can teach her to do on her own, like making toast. The process of learning through trial and error is sure to build-up her confidence.
Teach Her about “Guy Stuff”
Teach your girl the importance of self-reliance, such as how to change a tire or basic mechanics in general. Show her how to properly use tools while building a birdhouse with her. Take your daughter fishing. Take her to see cars at car shows, teach her sports, and play them with her. What matters is spending quality time with her because it makes her feel special–like she is worth her dad’s time. And it doesn’t have to stop as she grows. Just think of all the things you could teach your adult daughter someday!
Compliment Her (Not Just on Her looks)
While it’s okay to tell your daughter that she’s cute or pretty, it that shouldn’t be the only compliment she gets from you. Compliment her sense of humor, intelligence, imagination, kindness, empathy, and strength. Let your daughter know all the special things you love about her, the things that make her a good and unique person–a person that has the potential and power to change the world.
Create an Open Dialogue
In a world where the voices of women and minorities are often undervalued or even silenced, the seemingly simple act of discussing important topics openly with your daughter can teach her an incredibly valuable lesson. An open and respectful dialogue tells her that she is entitled to speak her mind, and her opinion is as valued as any other.
You may feel uncomfortable talking about health scares, racism, and political upheaval at first—but that’s what’s in front of her. To help your daughter navigate the difficulties and discriminations in life, you need to show her that asking important questions reveals important truths.
Most importantly, don’t ever underestimate the power of the father-daughter relationship. Dads should encourage their girls at every opportunity. Your girl will continue to receive mixed messages about her role in our society, but your love and belief in her will go a long way in helping your daughter become her best, well-rounded self.