By Eliska Counce, TSB Columnist
Chris Rock said it best: when you’re raising a daughter, the best you can hope for sometimes is to keep her off the stripper pole. And Dad, as the most important man in your daughter’s life, a great deal of the role your daughter chooses to play in life does indeed result from your interactions with her. To her, you are Every Man, and every man she seeks after you she will model after you.
Feeling the pressure yet? Well, having babies ain’t for sissies. You knew the job was dangerous when you took it.
Your assurance, Dad, that your daughter is feminine and attractive will go a long way. If she doesn’t get your approval and attention, chances are she’s going to find it somewhere else, and that somewhere else may or may not be attached to a wallet chain. And if she might just give up her goals for achievement in the process.
Breathing into a paper bag just yet, Dad? Fear not. Here are some excellent Father’s Day tips about how to demonstrate to her to choose men who don’t expect her to be incompetent or helpless:
Change the cliches. Don’t just compliment your daughter on her looks but her internal qualities as well. When other adults say, “You’re so beautiful,” add something like “…and she’s smart, too,” or “…and she’s very creative and clever.” Do you treat women like objects? Because your daughter is watching you. Compliment other women on their talents and achievements in front of her instead. Expose her to unusual but talented women (paging Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keefe!).
Rethink fairy tales. Which of the following did you learn from Disney princesses: a woman’s life ends after marriage, and they’re most appealing either sleeping or dead. Only the evil ones go after what they want. Magic plays a major role in women’s lives, and we can’t solve problems without help from men or the supernatural. Men are transformed by the love of a “good” woman. Beauty is your most important asset. I could go on. LIES, I TELL YOU. LIES.
Teach her she’s an individual. She is who she is due to her passions, talents, skills, values, strengths, weaknesses…not on gender roles. Provide opportunities for her to articulate and define who she is. Support her as an achiever. Expose her to experiences that support an achievement identity. Don’t compare her appearance to others. Point out the misleading messages of media. DO NOT LABEL HER.
Know the parenting rules of thumb. Your daughter needs unconditional love. Now, that doesn’t mean doing anything she wants without consequence. But she needs to know there’s always a home base, no matter how badly she screws up. Take joy in her. Tell her you enjoy her. Your daughter needs a physically and emotionally safe and secure environment. Respect her individuality, no matter how matter how badly you want to shave off that pink hair and start over. Give her time and attention…especially AFTER menses begins, men. Don’t get all squeamish and leave her to mom once her breasts bud. She needs you more than ever as a young woman.
Communicate openly and honestly with your daughter. Be a good role model. Keep stress low. Teach her the difference between aggression, passive-aggression, and passivity. Model assertiveness to her, and make sure she knows the difference between healthy criticism and abuse. Model clear and concise communication. Use “I” messages instead of “you” messages. And again, don’t pass off all the important talks to mom.
Shut up and listen. Make sure your daughter feels she has your attention. STEP AWAY FROM THE SMARTPHONE. Don’t use sarcasm, flippancy, or threats. When she’s telling you something, be aware: she’s looking for approval and recognition. NEVER pass up an opportunity to praise her intelligence and integrity. Don’t interrupt…you don’t know what you think she’s going to say. Limit the “why” question, which tends to make people defensive. “What were you working on instead of your paper?” is much better than “Why the hell didn’t you finish that paper?”
Respect her differences. You don’t have to endorse them, but acknowledge her feelings. “I hate her!” shouldn’t be met with, “No, you don’t.” Explore where she’s coming from instead of denying them.
The best way to keep her abstient is career education. Teach your daughter work is fun, that she is a good worker, that she can be anything she wants to be. As a teen, is it imperative to send the message that a woman MUST be able to support herself financially. Your manta to her? YOU CAN DO IT.
Sports. Teach her sports are fun and not just for males. Give her balls and athletic gear. Tell her she’s a good athlete when she’s young. Teach her athletics are just as important for girls as they are for boys. IT IS NOT UNFEMININE TO BE AN ATHLETE. Let her choose her sport. Let her watch on TV and participate in sports discussions. Physical fitness is a lifelong priority.
The above strategies will help you keep the spirit of Father’s Day the whole year around. Set her on the path to a happy and successful adulthood. The challenges of being female have never been so complex. Raise your daughter to be confident and capable. Your job has never been more important, Dad. But you can do it Keep her off the pole, gentlemen. Keep her off the pole. And happy Father’s Day.