FATHERS’ INFLUENCE KEY TO DAUGHTERS’ SELF-ESTEEM
FOCUS ON THE FAMILY with Dr. James Dobson
QUESTION: Talk about a father’s impact on his daughter and what he should hope to accomplish through that relationship.
DR. DOBSON: Fathers have an incalculable impact on their daughters. Most psychologists believe, and I am one of them, that all future romantic relationships are influenced positively or negatively by the way a girl interacts with her dad in the childhood years.
If that is true, then fathers should give careful thought to this responsibility and seek to be what their daughters need of them. There are, I believe, at least seven components to that assignment.
First, a dad’s leadership at home should be a model of strength and authority, but always tempered by love and compassion. Harsh discipline tends to close down a sensitive feminine spirit, but permissiveness and capriciousness can create lifelong disdain for men.
Second, a dad must remember that he is being watched closely by that little girl around his knees. The way he treats her mother will teach her volumes about how men and women should relate to one another. Blatant disrespect toward his wife will not be missed by the child.
Third, I think it is good to begin “dating” a daughter when she is six years of age, or even earlier. Dad should let the child help plan their evenings and then see that they occur when and where promised. These times together are not intended simply for fun, although that is important. The father can also use them to show his daughter how a man treats a woman he respects. He can open doors for her, help her with her chair, and listen attentively when she speaks. Later, when she is a teenager, she will know what to expect — or insist on — from the boys she dates.
Fourth, a dad should always look for ways to build the self-confidence of his little girl. If she believes he thinks she is pretty and “special,” she will be inclined to see herself that way. He holds the key to her self-acceptance.
Fifth, a father should keep the lines of communication open throughout childhood so that he is seen as someone to whom his daughter can turn when she needs advice. She will need that counsel before she is grown.
Sixth, God designed men to be the “providers and protectors” of their families. Their daughters should perceive them that way. Dad is often his little girl’s “hero,” and it is wonderful when that kind of relationship develops.
Seventh, a father must be the spiritual leader of his family, making clear his devotion to Jesus Christ and to the principles in Scripture. He should give the highest priority to bringing up his daughters, and his sons, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
It’s not an easy responsibility raising girls, is it? But those who do the job properly can rest in the knowledge that they have given their daughters the best chance for a successful marriage, if they choose to wed.
QUESTION: Can boys and girls be taught to treat each other with respect? That seems like a tough assignment.
DR. DOBSON: They certainly can! Young people are naturally more sensitive and empathetic than adults. Their viciousness is a learned response, resulting from the highly competitive and hostile world in which they live — a world we have allowed to develop. They are destructive to the weak and lowly because we adults haven’t bothered to teach them to feel for one another.
One of the values children cherish most is justice. They are uneasy in a world of injustice and abuse. Therefore, when we teach children respect for others by insisting on civility in our classrooms, we’re laying a foundation for human kindness in the world of adulthood to come. It is a fundamental attitude that should be taught in every classroom and every home.
Dr. Dobson is founder and Chairman Emeritus of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80995 (www.focusonthefamily.org). Questions and answers are excerpted from “Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide” and “Bringing Up Boys,” both published by Tyndale House.
JAMES DOBSON INC.