We know you want the best for the girls in your life—and that few things are as important to you as their health, safety, happiness, and access to opportunities in life. But wanting something and taking action to make it a reality are two very different things. That’s right—it’s not enough to simply hope for the best when it comes to your girl, you have to actually help create that bright future for her.
Your girl needs you more than you know. In fact, a girl’s relationship with her father lays the foundation for her confidence and her future relationships and expectations of men. Here are four simple ways you can set your girl up for success in life.
- Include Her in Your World
Love shooting a few hoops in the driveway after work? Invite her to join you! Cooking dinner tonight for the family? Ask her to be your sous chef! The point is to introduce her to a broad range of activities and to show her that you don’t only do things that are thought of as “manly,” and that she doesn’t only have to do things that are traditionally thought of as “girly.” Showing your girl that she’s welcome and wanted with you, and in all spheres, regardless of gender, will help her see that there are no limits as to the fields she can pursue or the activities she can excel in.
- Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk
You want your girl to be respected by (and to expect respect from!) the men in her life, so set the example by always treating and speaking about girls and women with dignity. And that doesn’t just mean not saying degrading things about girls and women. It also means doing your best to keep your promises and showing up (both in person and emotionally) for her. Yours is the first important bond she’ll have with a member of the opposite sex, and when you treat her well, you’re teaching her what kind of treatment she deserves from other men and boys she meets throughout her life.
Now, you might think an offhand comment about a woman you know or a seemingly innocuous locker room joke couldn’t do much harm—especially if your girl isn’t around to hear them—but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is that each disparaging comment and joke contributes to a culture where other boys and men think it’s acceptable to disrespect or discount women and girls. You don’t want your girl to grow up in a world where she faces discrimination and disrespect, so don’t contribute to that mindset yourself.
- Get Excited About Her Interests
If you’re not sure what your girl is into—ask her! Does she love watching highlights from the U.S. Women’s Soccer team to pick up tips? Is she obsessed with a specific book series? Does she feel happiest when she’s painting her nails or playing video games? Whatever it is, take the time to learn more about the things that make her world special. Even a quick online search should give you a few key facts. And then? Dig in and get involved! Read one of the books she loves and discuss it with her. Help her perfect her soccer moves. Have a dad and daughter day at the salon (note that they can just clip and buff your nails if you aren’t into color!). The point is to let her know that her interests—no matter what they are—are important, valid, and worthwhile. This feeling will help give her the confidence to speak up and contribute her ideas and opinions throughout her life. Bonus? It’ll give you something to bond over and help keep communication flowing even as she gets older and starts to crave more independence.
- Don’t Give Bad Behavior a Free Pass
If she complains about a boy who taunts her or picks on her, resist the urge to say that he’s only doing that because he “likes” her or because that’s what “guys” are like. Whether or not he likes your daughter honestly doesn’t matter when his actions are hurtful, harassing, or generally aggravating. You never want your daughter to equate abusive behavior with love or friendship, so don’t set her up to draw that conclusion now.
Plus, it’s harmful to stereotype all boys and men as the kind of people who would go out of their way to upset or inconvenience women and girls. After all, you’re a guy, and you don’t do those things! Instead, deal with the behavior the way you would if it was coming from anyone else, including another girl. If it’s bad enough, and she’s already tried telling the boy to stop bothering her, it may be time to chat with his parents or even the school authorities.
A world in which we all contribute to helping girls reach their bright, bold potential is a better world for everyone. Girls need (and want!) their dads and father figures in their lives just as much as they need their mothers and female mentors. Thanks for doing your part, and for helping girls to be the best they can be.