Dads have a unique role to play in raising girls who are confident, resilient, and happy. Here are a few gifts that dads give to their daughters.
After spending 2 three-day weekend retreats in Pennsylvania and California with dads and their 7-9 year old daughters, my belief in the power of play has been rekindled. And I don’t mean just play, I mean rough and tumble play.
There is research that shows that girls who grow up with dads who play in this way end up having higher levels of confidence and independence. Playtime with dad is usually more loud, spontaneous, stimulating, physical, and out-of-the-box than time with mom. It teaches girls to be more creative and curious and improves their ability to learn.
Dads also do more physical and verbal teasing with their daughters, and this kind of bantering improves girl’s abilities to handle feedback and to toughen them up a bit. Girls can be overly sensitive to feedback and criticism from teachers, coaches, and peers, and so they need to be able to take it and give it back. This will prepare them to handle boys and their mischief too.
Fathers also encourage girls to stretch, take risks, and to get out of their comfort zones. It’s good for girls to have experiences where they can initiate, create, push the envelope, make things happen, and have adventures. This builds confidence, independence, and a can-do attitude.
Research has demonstrated that girls who have a lot of quality time with their dads develop a better sense of humor, and this in turn predicts that girls will grow up with a higher level of independence, confidence, and happiness.
Another gift dads can give to their daughters is to focus on their non-physical qualities. Affirming virtues such as persistence, integrity, compassion, leadership, focus, creativity, and self-efficacy can more than balance out the unhealthy cultural message that says that girls are mostly about their bodies and appearance.
The best gift dads give to daughters is their presence, not their presents. And especially if their presence involves good old fashioned rough and tumble play, bantering, and adventures. Game on!