From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Father Daughter Relationships
The family is a training ground for all future relationships. My Mother always told
me..."Learn how to get along with your father and brother, and you'll know how to get
along with your husband". I never fully understood her message until years later when
I got married and set up housekeeping with my husband. It was then that I learned about
compromise, commitment and consideration.
Fathers play an essential role in their daughter's lives. Many things are learned and
many things are taught. Some of the most meaningful moments in a daughter's life are spent
with her father. Here are a few of the things that a daughter needs to learn from her
- "Dad respects me". A daughter's relationship with her father
is usually her first male-female relationship. From Dad, little girls gain their first
reflection of themselves as a female. They develop a sense of acceptance or
non-acceptance; they feel valued or discounted. Self-respect is initially based upon
respect received from others. Their self-concept as a female person is largely shaped by
this early relationship. In short, children regard themselves as they think others regard
them... and Dad is an important person in her life.
- "It is safe to be affectionate with Dad". Daughters need to
be able to relax, be affectionate, and know that they are safe with certain males. They
need to be regarded as people, not sexual objects. When little girls develop modesty and
learn that they have a right to privacy, they develop a healthy sense of boundaries. They
learn how to say "no", which will be an essential interpersonal skill as they
become more social. Dads can respect their daughters' boundaries by "shoulder
hugs" and not making comments about physical characteristics.
- "Men and women can negotiate fairly". Father-daughter
relationships are an important place to learn how to negotiate fairly and compromise
appropriately. When fathers exercise absolute authority, and rigidly set rules, daughters
quickly learn to rebel. If a father is overly-critical and all-powerful, men become the
enemy. If a father is fair and listens to his daughter's thoughts, she will gain
self-confidence and pride in her own opinion.
- "Women can be assertive without being aggressive". When
daughters learn to communicate with their fathers, and trust that their opinion will
count, they can develop self-assuredness which will allow them to be assertive and stand
up for themselves. This is very different from aggressive reactions which stem from a
sense of powerlessness and combativeness. It is important for dads to listen to their
daughters and appreciate their views, even if they don't agree. When we listen to our
children, they are more apt to listen to us and trust us when we impose restrictions.
- "What to expect from a male-female relationship". Daughters
learn about marriage from watching Mom and Dad. If parents treat each other well, this
becomes the expectation. If Dad is a tyrant, then men are regarded as essentially bad. If
Dad is alcoholic or abusive, men are considered to be people who are allowed to get out of
control and be hurtful. The unconscious conclusion is... "If Dad treats me well, I am
a worthwhile individual. If Dad rejects me or criticizes me, I am no good."
Usually, mothers serve as role models for their daughters. They provide examples of how
to be an individual, a mother and a wife. Fathers, however, teach their daughters how to
regard themselves, what kinds of relationships are healthy, what to look for in a partner,
and what to expect of men in co-parenting relationships.
When dads are not part of their daughter's lives, father-substitutes can sometimes meet
these needs, but like the motto of the medical profession says...."First, do no
ęCopyright, 1995 by Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated October 18, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon,