Tips for Dads on Bonding With Their Daughters
A lot of people expect parents to simply know what to do with their kids since it's not exactly a unique or new occupation to hold, but the truth is, kids aren't born with individual manuals and sometimes moms and dads need a few tips to help them along the way. In the not-so-distant past fathers weren't expected to take care of their children outside of providing money, and the only offspring they were expected to care about later on were their sons. Not too long ago, fathers were kept out of the delivery room when their wives were giving birth to their children for fear that after seeing her in labor they would no longer be attracted to her. Today is a new day.
In more recent decades, fathers have taken on bigger roles in their daughters lives during their younger years. A lot of dads have also become single fathers in recent years to both daughters and sons. Things haven't always been the way they are now, and I think people tend to forget that. Dads need support, too. Dads need a little acknowledgement and a little advice every now and again. There are a lot of fathers that want to do right by their daughters, but they simply don't know what to do. There are dads that will have the ten-minute tea parties with their daughter(s), or they'll take their daughters to the store and buy them a pretty doll, and most little girls are happy with that. But just as many dads will take fifteen or twenty minutes of their time to spend with their little girls, even more fathers will duck out on spending ten seconds with their daughters. Sure, you might buy them a car for their sixteenth birthday or pay for an extravagant wedding for them when they turn twenty-six, but I can assure you dads, it's the years before and the little things in between that will ultimately matter to your daughters (if her brain is bigger than a pea and she isn't as deep as a puddle, that is, no offense).
There are all sorts of misconceptions when it comes to gender norms that confuse dads. Most of what I'm going to say is from personal experience. And I will tell you upfront that I've always been a girly girl; however, I'm a girly girl that had tomboy tendencies to most people who were looking at me from the outside of the situation. If that confuses you, so be it, but I think I'm probably the best candidate to give you advice on some of your little girls.
For the first few years of my life I refused to wear anything but skirts and dresses. I'm serious. I don't remember wearing one pair of pants until I was around six years old, and when my mother made me wear them, I cried. And not just a little boo-hoo before school, I shed a bucket of tears. You would think that if anyone suggested I did anything male oriented I would have cried as well, but that's the exact opposite of how I was. My father watched westerns, and even though I never paid any attention to them, I was right there in the room with him when he was watching them, because that meant being around him and spending time with him. I followed my brother to his Cub Scout meetings and I loved it. I went fishing with my father and brother, and I played with my brother's toys growing up (mainly because I had no real choice, but hey, you take what you can get when you're eight). My point is, it's great if you do a few of the female oriented things with your daughter, but usually a little girl won't mind doing male oriented things if it means spending time with you. It doesn't mean that she will definitely be into sports or whatever it is that you're into, but it will mean something to her when she's older. Thinking back on those times will matter when she's an adult.
Here are six tips of my own that I'm sharing with any dads who come across this hub. Hope they'll come in handy for you :-).
Most little girls don't care if you're trekking off to do "boy stuff"; she just wants to spend time with you. Besides, it's already in her head that's what mommies are there for—the girl stuff. Just remember though, that if you're going to let her tag along with you for the "boy stuff", don't ignore her. She'll be better off being left at home or with a babysitter if you're not going to talk to her or barely acknowledge her existence while you're out together.
If you're going to take your daughter out to do male oriented things, be aware that little girls don't have the same equipment that you do, so don't expect her to pee standing up, or in bushes. Some little girls will do it—but I wasn't one of them. While I wanted to spend time with my dad and brother fishing and stomping through the woods, I wasn't keen on sneaking off behind a briar patch and squatting to use the bathroom. If you're going to take her off from home somewhere, say to a lake or river to fish or even to a park, be sure there are either Porta Potties in the area where you're going to be, or there is a Rest Stop style restroom around where she can use a toilet. Some little girls, however, don't mind peeing outside. Even some grown women will squat and pee outside (in alleys in the city or even on sidewalks; I've seen some things honey). You should probably find out which type your daughter is before you take her duck hunting.
If you're not sure whether or not you're raising a rough and tumble little thing or a girly girl, ask her about it, ask her mother about it, or leave her at home rather than risk an accident and embarrassing her in public. Yes, even little girls in their single digit ages can be publicly humiliated.
Knowing the bathroom policy between a little girl and her mom is a pretty basic thing for a father to know, even if it's weird for some men to inquire about. I know a lot of people reading this are thinking, why would it be weird since we're talking about his daughter, but the truth is, discussing some things, for some people, is harder, and I get that. Believe it or not, this doesn't just apply to dads who are separated or divorced from their daughter's moms. There are dads right there in the homes with their daughters that have no idea what's going on with their child. I would say it's sad, but that's just the way life is sometimes. Traditionally, it's the moms that usually know more about both their sons and daughters, while most fathers still tend to take more of an interest in their sons—that whole "we have the same equipment" argument comes to mind. However, taking small steps, even as small as bathroom policies, is a step in the right direction.
She likes treats and she will expect you to want to get them for her instead of her having to ask or beg for them. I'm not saying that if your daughter is being an absolute brat about something that you should reward her for a tantrum, because that's the exact opposite of what I'm saying. Let's be blunt about this. If you have a spoiled little girl on your hands and she drops to the floor and starts kicking and screaming because she wants a particular doll, I'm not telling you to buy her the doll. In fact, I would tell you NOT to get her the doll in that instance. However, if you just took your daughter out with you to a softball game or you took her to the doctor and she had to get a shot, take her out for ice cream afterward. Most kids want a treat just because they're alive, boy or girl, but a treat is always sweeter when they don't even expect to get one or they're having a bad day. And please don't act as if you don't when your kid is having a bad day; it's obvious, same as it's obvious when you're having a bad day. If you love them, you'll want them to be happy, not sad.
Moms are usually more intuitive when it comes to giving treats than dads, and that's just what I've observed from the people I know. Even if you're the cheapest dad in the world, it's not going to break the bank to spring for a vanilla cone from an ice cream shop or a fast food joint on the way home. Think of getting your daughter a treat as a part of the bonding process. She may not even like ice cream at all, and would rather you get her cherry or raspberry flavored slushy from a convenience store or a hot dog from a place she likes. This is your chance to get to know something about your daughter—what she likes, and what she doesn't like—or what kind of food she opts for in general. A future reference on the matter could be helpful.
Show an interest in what she's doing.
I realize people work and as long as one parent is at the recitals, meets, and games a kid can manage to be satisfied, but there's a difference between providing money for the household and just opting out because you don't care, or her extracurricular activities don't interest you.
My father had this thing about not being involved. It was weird. I thought it was weird then, and now when I'm an adult I see that most people wouldn't have believed some of the things he refused to do. For example, I had a music recital when I was around ten years old or something. He took me to the school because my mother couldn't at the time, but instead of coming into the building to watch me play, he sat out in the car until it was over and then took me home. Yeah…weird. For whatever reason, my father was limited. In fact, he's still limited now, and on certain matters, he's never changed. He was never at any of our birthday parties, even if it was in the house (I did mention this was strange, right?). That's simply how he was/is. Now that I'm an adult and I understand people, I don't hold those things against him because I know him. Other daughters won't be so understanding on the matter (then again, other fathers probably aren't as weird as mine either).
Because of the pedestal a lot of other daughters put their fathers on, they take their father's issues personally. When their father can't deal with certain things or he isn't there for them in certain ways, it hurts their feelings. When their father doesn't seem to care what they're doing in school or after school, or he barely talks to her at all, they understandably interpret that as their father doesn't love them.
Sometimes, as a dad, you have to fake it even if you never make it. If she's dying for you to decorate cupcakes with her and you feel as if you'll die if you have to stare at pink and orange frosting for an hour while she's jumping and squealing, die a little dad. Die a little rather than hurt her feelings. Sometimes it goes a little deeper than the cupcakes and that hour will be a light in her little life.
If you have two daughters, possibly the worst thing you can do is show an interest in one and not the other; or call one pretty and the other one ugly. This may seem like shallow advice, but whether or not people want to acknowledge it, words do hurt children, probably a lot deeper than they do adults. In fact, when you insult your kids, that digs deeper inside them than any nice things you say. Calling your daughter fat, or comparing her to her sister and making her feel dumb, or acting like your other daughter is better than her in every way will make her feel less than the person she is even if it's not true in the least.
I would think that if you're a father reading this hub, you actually would care how both your daughters feel and you wouldn't want to intentionally hurt either of them. I want men to understand that no matter how much times have changed, and no matter how much you add the line, "I'm just kidding," after an insult, an insult is still an insult when it comes to your daughter. If you make her cry, it's your fault if you hurt her feelings, don't try to blame her for "being sensitive".
Don't forget that as the father, you're a model for your daughter's future. Whether consciously or subconsciously, her taste in men later in life are going to reflect what you did or didn't do for her and it doesn't always boil down to what you did or didn't buy for her. Material things almost never matter in the long run. What she's going to remember is whether or not you criticized her when she was practicing her musical instrument; she's going to remember if you had patience with her when teaching her how to drive. Being a good parent takes some effort, but any good parent always knows that in the end, the effort was actually worth it.