You may never have been a girl yourself, but that needn’t be a barrier to father daughter bonding. You want your daughter to grow into a self-confident young woman – and she’s going to need her dad on her side.
Many men feel a little uncertain, even fearful, talking to their daughters about positive body confidence or appearance. They may be thinking: “How can I help? This is not my area.”
Don’t worry about not having all the answers. Instead, sharpen your listening skills and work through the problem-solving process with her, encouraging her to share her thoughts and come up with possible solutions. Guiding her to trust in her own capabilities will help her confront other challenges in her life and build her self-esteem.
Boost your daughter’s positive body confidence
Comments directed towards girls often focus on appearance. “You look beautiful” or “your hair's so pretty,” for example. As her dad, you know your daughter is much more than a pretty face. You see her personality, talents and intelligence – so make a point of telling her. It helps to be specific, from “you were so kind sharing with your sister just then” to “the way you tackled that homework was really clever”.
Taking the emphasis away from how she looks will help your daughter focus on all her qualities and feel more self-assured. Ironically, NOT talking about her body can actually help to boost her positive body confidence.
Show your sensitive side
In many cultures, men are not encouraged to show feelings – especially not weakness and vulnerability. You want to be strong for your family, so it can feel uncomfortable when your daughter is struggling with a sensitive issue.
Men needn’t be ashamed of showing their true selves in front of their daughter. Doing so helps to build the relationship between father and child and can improve communication between the two of you.
“When you as a father show your own weakness, it gives permission for your daughter to accept her weaknesses,” says Santiago Trabolsi, psychologist, life coach and dad. “This emotional connection generates warmth, empathy and honest communication between the two of you.”
Think about your attitudes to women
Try asking your daughter what she believes you think of her. It might not be what you’re expecting or what you wanted to convey.
Remember that girls create a perception of themselves based on the comments and actions they experience in all their relationships, particularly at home. How you treat your daughter, as well as how you treat her mother and other women, will shape the way she sees herself and how confident she feels.
As she grows up, your daughter is gradually forming her opinion of herself, and this will largely be based on what she believes her parents think of her. Her self-esteem will depend on how much she feels valued, respected and accepted.
Break down communication barriers
Does your daughter complain: “My dad never listens! He just tells me what to do”? When she opens up, avoid leaping in with your own opinions – you might distance her if she doesn’t immediately understand your point.
Instead, show that you are listening and empathize by saying something like: “I understand you feel hurt and angry.”
This lets her know she is being taken seriously and helps her to trust her own feelings, which builds self-awareness and confidence.
Her relationship with you will colour her relationships with other men throughout her life: colleagues, friends, partners. Just think, one day she may fall in love and recognize the same empathy, respect and understanding in her partner that her father has shown her. As her dad, you're an important role model.
Author: Christina Berton, self-esteem expert and founder of the Amara Pro Self-Esteem Foundation in Mexico