Like it or not, you stand a very good chance of being the benchmark by which your daughter(s) will judge all other men. It doesn’t really matter if the standard is that of a friend, co-worker, or life-partner. You are in possession of a unique opportunity to set her expectations. Make it count.
Fathers, be good to your daughters,
Daughters will love like you do
– Daughters, John Mayer
It’s Your Body
From a very early age, it is important to teach your daughter that it is her body and only she can decide what is done with it. Reinforcing this rule means having the discipline to respond to any request to stop tickling or playful restraint (like wrestling) by stopping, immediately. You can help her be strong and comfortable with expecting others to honor those choices. She should expect that others respect her request to stop at any age.
Your Voice is Important
Encourage her to express her feelings. Bring yourself down to her eyes and meet her so that she knows she has your attention. What she has to say matters. Make sure that she knows that you’re listening. Put down your phone, hold her hands, and look her in the eyes. When she shares her feelings, thank her for being brave to say things that might be difficult. Remind her that all of her feelings are ok to talk about. You are helping her strengthen her self-esteem and communicate with others.
You are loved the most…
I have two daughters and I don’t use any words which would have them believe that they compete with each other, but privately I tell each of them that they are loved the most. Now, I do not say that I love one more than the other. I let them know that I love them the most a Daddy can love a daughter, and that is true for each. I’m careful not to say something that is untrue or could be construed as a comparison. You don’t need many words to let your daughter know that she’s always given the most love that you have to give. I want them growing up knowing that they deserve to be loved the best that someone can. They deserve the best someone has to offer.
You are accepted
Other people will have judgements and expectations of you. I hope you are resilient to weather their opinions, but it might hurt. You might not fit into the world, the way other people would prefer that you fit into it. You might wander down paths that leave you feeling alienated and lost. With me, you will always be accepted, because I love who you are and that will give you strength.
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are” – Joseph Campbell
At least once, you will have to follow your heart
There will be a time in your life, when you will have to follow your heart and take a path that no one believes in but you. You might need an adventure. You might fall in love. It will be risky and you might get hurt in the process, but you will grow from it. I might be scared, but I will encourage you to find joy and experience and to live a life of meaning and purpose, as you define it. Following your heart doesn’t necessarily require adventure – you might want to raise a family and change your career goals. You might choose a simple life that gives you peace. I will encourage you to set aside the expectations of others and listen to your own heart.
You always have a safe place to Land
You will not always make the choices that I would make. I might be disappointed in you or others might be disappointed. You will be hurt and heartbroken. You might be the one who acted carelessly or unkindly. Someday, you will feel like you have failed. We all do. But no matter what, you will always have a safe place to land. I cannot save you from the pain of life or the fear of taking risks, but you are always safe, with me.
You’ve earned your achievements
You didn’t succeed because you are pretty or smart or more aggressive. You earned it with practice and hard work. Even if your goals were accomplished comfortably, I want you to know that your success is built on a lifetime of reading books, being curious about the world, trial and error, training, and the good fortune of earning the kindness and generosity of the people that you surround yourself with. Only you can make the choices that lead you down the path of success. They won’t magically happen because of how you look or the gifts that you were born with.
Money equals opportunity
You can do a lot of good with your life, but one of the necessary lessons that I want to impart upon you is that understanding the value of economic resources will provide you opportunities. Sometimes those opportunities are to pursue your own goals and interests, and at other times, they are for you to do the good that you want to do in the world. When you’re 5 years old, I will start teaching you about how much things cost, and I’ll help you make decisions about what you can do with your own resources. I’ll help you save, give you the discretion to spend and invest, and I’ll introduce you to opportunities to donate or help others.
It’s ok for girls and boys to do the same thing
Wear the colors that you love. Dress up like a princess and climb trees. Help me fix your bike and build things. Ride on the lawn mower with me. Plan on being a scientist. Pretend to be the President. The perspective that I want to impart upon you is that there are many paths for you to take and despite the historical perspectives of one gender compared to another, most paths are available for you to explore.
I plant this seed in you by exposing you to art, to sports, and to science. I give you opportunities to explore any of the paths that feel good to you and discourage any preconceived ideas about what boys or girls are supposed to do. Lastly, I try to surround you with boys that like to play with you, on your level and take part in the things that you love.
I am always with you
I will die. Perhaps it will happen sooner than later – unexpectedly. Someday, we will simply be apart. Maybe there will be miles between us or emotional distance? Maybe we will get busy with our careers or our new families and not see much of each other anymore? Maybe the earth will end?
But I am still and forever, always with you, just as I was on the day you were born. I helped bring you into the world and I watched over you. I want it to bring comfort to your heart that you and I are always with each other.
It is the most important job in the world that I help keep the light shining bright inside of you.
This article has been reprinted with permission from MostlyPlanned.