I’m not a dad, let’s make this clear. I wish I was, but I’m not. This is a good article for you men out there that are.
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 and, love deeply but differently.
Attention and Adoration
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 her 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 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. No 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.
1. 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 needs to hear I love you, from her dad.
2. Do express adoration. Let her know that she is the apple of your eye. If you have multiple daughters, tell each on of them at different times.
3. Do believe in her. If you two don’t get along well and fight constantly, you can still show her that 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.
4. 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 hear in her mind, 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.
5. Don’t remark on her looks very often. I know that this feel counterintuitive. Shouldn’t every girl know that her dad thinks she’s 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.
6. Don’t spare words of encouragement or affection. Girls use more words, 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.
Pediatrician, mother and best-selling author of six books, Dr. Meg Meeker is the country’s leading authority on parenting, teens and children’s health.
Dr. Meg writes with the know-how of a pediatrician and the big heart of a mother because she has spent the last 25 years practicing pediatric and adolescent medicine while also helping parents and teens to communicate more deeply about difficult topics such as sex, STDs and teen pregnancy. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her new groundbreaking book, The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers, Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose and Sanity out from Ballantine Books. Visit Dr. Meg’s Resource page.
Dr. Meg’s popularity as a speaker on key issues confronting American families has created a strong following on her blogs for Psychology Today. She has also spoken nationally on teen health issues, including personal appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and television programs. Additionally, Dr. Meg lends her voice to regular features in Physician Magazine and Psychologies (UK) and was a contributor to QUESTIONS KIDS ASK ABOUT SEX: Honest Answers for Every Age, The Complete Book of Baby and Child Care (Tyndale House Publishers) and High School Science text, Holt-Rhinehart and Winston, 2004.
Dr. Meg is presently re-certifying with the American Board of Pediatrics and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as the National Advisory Board of the Medical Institute, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Human Development at Michigan State University; Munson Hospital Family Practice Residency Training Program 1998-present.
Dr. Meeker lives and works in Traverse City, MI where she shares a medical practice with her husband, Walter. They have four grown children.