On a Saturday afternoon in the fall, I often find myself being the only one in the house that cheers upon seeing a defensive tackle split a double-team, get into the backfield and take down the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage. Probably the reason for this is I am a father in a house full of girls. It's not that my girls don't appreciate sports. I have seen them exhibit some pretty impressive moves on the soccer field and the karate mat. But there is so much more to "daddy's little girls."
I grew up without a father so, naturally, I knew very little about parenting and even less about parenting girls. However, since having daughters, I have become more cultured. I know the names and songs of all the pop culture icons and Hollywood heartthrobs. I have also expanded my vocabulary. One new term that I have learned is something called accessorizing. Pink is not merely a color; it's a theme. Shoes are not something you wear; they're something you "wear."
There is so much to learn about being a father to girls as they evolve from this little porcelain doll in my arms to a conglomeration of hormones with a cell phone. Therefore, rather than traverse uncharted territory on my own, I decided to let the women in my life teach me how to be a father of girls. All I needed was a willingness to learn. It's amazing what girls can teach about effective parenting.
Be a father throughout your daughters' lives
Your employment obligations might limit the amount of time you can spend with your children. But children (especially girls) need as much daddy involvement as possible — and not just as a disciplinarian. It's important that you devote as much time as you can to your daughters.
A daughter's first real love is her father. From tea parties to meeting your daughter's friends, your active involvement is vital. A study from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that girls are less likely to engage in dangerous peer-group activities, experiment with drugs and participate in promiscuous sex when their fathers are more involved in their lives. They also perform better academically. You can't wait until your daughters are teens before you step up and assume your role as a father. Forge and strengthen this relationship throughout your daughters' lives.
Listen without fixing (but be able to fix when it's necessary)
It might be difficult to resist the urge to get the toolbox and immediately try to fix whatever issue your daughter is going through. This is fine when a toy breaks or a piece of jewelry needs to be repaired so it can be worn that day. But more than being able to fix a problem, girls want you to listen to them with a sympathetic ear. There is a big difference between hearing and listening. When you genuinely listen to what your daughter says (withholding all judgment and fatherly advice), it makes her feel that she can tell you anything.
Encourage your daughter to talk to you. Get to know your daughter's peer groups. Don't be afraid to ask questions about what is going on in her life. You are going to have some potentially awkward discussions with your daughters as they enter the different stages of their lives. Establishing a comfortable level of communication early on will make the difficult topics much easier to deal with.
Treat your wife like royalty
The best way to teach is by example. A well-known quote says, "The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." You want the young men in your daughters' lives to treat them with kindness, courtesy and respect. When you treat your daughters' mother in this fashion, you show your daughters what qualities they should look for in the young men that they date and spend time with.
Help your daughters develop self-confidence and independence
It's good that your daughters know how to check fluids and change a flat tire on an automobile. But it's more important for them to develop self-confidence and decision-making abilities. A vital concept that you should instill in your daughter is to forge her own identity and not have it be defined by peer groups or the person she chooses to marry.
I have witnessed several female family members stay in unhealthy and abusive relationships on account of their fear of being alone. Marriage and family are a collaborative effort. Parental efforts can be more successful when both parents are confident as individuals and can contribute their own valuable experiences to the family. Much of these experiences come from what girls learn from their fathers.
I have had many rewarding parental experiences with my daughters. We have great talks (even about the awkward topics) and they tolerate my lame jokes and puns. When my teenager asks which pair of earrings go better with her shoes, I know she's not going to go with my choice — but it's nice to be asked.