Dr. Meg Meeker and I have become friends over the past couple of years as we share a similar passion for equipping fathers of daughters to dial into their heart space. I believe her words will inspire you to be better dads by hearing her insights into your daughter’s unique needs. —Michelle
Men love differently than women. That’s why you scratch your head in confusion when your daughter or wife cries and insists that you don’t understand. They want you to know what they want, like, and need, without ever telling you. You, on the other hand, love deeply but differently.
As you work on your relationship with your daughter, you must remember that different things will make her feel loved than what make you feel loved.
First, she feels loved when you pay attention to her. When she comes home from a soccer game and you ask if she wants to go have ice cream because you want to hear all about the game, she feels loved. When she goes on a date and comes home at midnight, she feels loved if you are waiting up for her. Sure, you can ask her how her time was, but the mere fact that you cared enough to make sure she got home safely makes her feel deeply loved.
Women, like men, want to feel that someone in their lives adores them. Adoration is the sense that you can do no wrong. Why should you communicate this to your daughter when she, of course, makes mistakes? Because she needs it from you. Because she needs it from you, your daughter has a space in her heart that is designed for you alone. No one else can occupy that spot.
When you express your adoration to her, she realizes that you have a spot in your heart just for her. A father who adores his daughter holds her in high esteem, wants only the best for her, and feels that no one in the world compares with her. She is more beautiful, kinder, and stronger than all women (or girls) her age. Every daughter wants her father to feel this way about her. And she wants her father to express this to her.
Our culture ties girls in knots, and your daughter is no exception. Not matter how hard you try to isolate her from the ugly influences of a world that sexualizes and degrades women, you can’t. And since you are the primary means by which she develops a healthy sense of beauty and sexuality, when it comes to shaping these in her, it’s on your shoulders. When it comes to loving your daughter, remember these important ideas:
- Do tell her that you love her. Tell her as frequently as feels natural to you. Sometimes you may feel timid, but press through the discomfort. Every daughter need to hear I love you, from her dad.
- Do express adoration. Let her know that she is the apple of your eye. If you have multiple daughters, tell each one of them at different times.
- Do believe in her. If the two of you don’t get along well and fight constantly, you can still show her than you believe in her. Examine her character and find what is good in her. Look deeply into her life and find her natural gifts. Then, communicate to her that you are her “number one fan.” Tell her that you know she can succeed. You know that she is smarter than she thinks, wiser than she believes, and far more capable than she realizes. Communicating this is extremely important because most girls, particularly during the teen years, feel terribly inadequate, dumb, and unattractive. You need to really amp up your positive comments during the tough times and help her combat these feelings.
- Don’t remark on her weight – EVER. No pet names for parts of her body, no calling her “sexy”, and no telling her that she is chubby or that she could stand to lose a few pounds. No matter what you say about her weight, she will her in her mind say, My dad thinks I’m fat; therefore I am ugly. Since you can’t win, avoid this. I can’t tell you the number of messes that I’ve been involved in undoing with daughters whose fathers have innocently commented about their weight as they grow up.
- Don’t remark on her looks very often. I know that this feels counterintuitive. Shouldn’t every girl know that her dad thinks she is beautiful? Of course; but don’t overdo it. You don’t want her to feel like appearance is a priority to you. Remember, when you comment on something, it lets the hearer know that the topic is significant to you (otherwise why would you comment on it?). You want to be sure that your daughter knows that what you really cherish about her is her inner beauty. So talk about that.
- Don’t spare words of encouragement or affection. Girls use more works, and they bond through words. Girls feel that words connect them with others. So tell your daughter what you admire about her and tell her why. I promise that if you are sincere, your words will change the woman that she becomes.
Dad, I know this is a lot of information to take in, so how about taking one item from this list and then commit to putting it into action this week now that you know what to do to put your love for your daughter into action!
Pediatrician, mother and best-selling author of six books, Dr. Meg Meeker is one of the country’s leading authority on parenting, teens and children’s health. Her most recent book, Hero is a powerful affirmation of fatherhood that shows men how being a strong, active father can be their greatest triumph. Copyright ©Dr. Meg Meeker. Used with permission.