Raising Strong Daughters
By Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC
When my daughter was born, I must admit there was a distinctly different
feeling to it when compared
to the birth of my son. Part of me was thrilled,
but part of me was unsure of how to deal with a
gender that I still couldn’t quite understand.
When my son was born there was a clear sense that
this was territory that I knew: there will be
wrestling, playing ball together, playing with
cars and, he has a penis! There was a sense of
security from all of this and a deep sense of
Raising a daughter creates different issues for
many fathers; it is even more challenging
considering the cultural landscape that exists
To better understand these issues, it is helpful
to explore the expectations of girls that we have
as fathers, many of which may be expectations
handed down from our own fathers.
Some men feel a strong need to control their
daughters, and expect them to act “nice” at all
Others shower their daughters with all of the
gifts and "things" that they’ll ever need, seeing
them as weaker than boys (therefore not
encouraging strength and discipline in them).
It’s easy for fathers to treat their sons and
daughters differently. They can be
rough-and-tumble with their sons…but treat their
daughters with kid gloves. This opportunity to
wrestle or to play physically with your daughters
is extremely important, because it shows them that
you believe they are capable enough to handle it.
(If your daughter is eighteen, it’s probably not a
good idea to start now.)
The cultural messages we get are that girls and young women are valued
for being beautiful, thin, talented, etc. Girls should also be happy,
agreeable and eager to please. This cultural backdrop may be partly
responsible for the alarming statistics concerning rates of depression,
anorexia, bulimia, and other disorders for girls when they are approaching
or have entered their teen years.
So how can fathers overcome some of these barriers and help
create daughters who become strong, secure women?
If fathers want their daughters to grow up to be
strong and secure women, it is absolutely
essential that they like women and that they
No matter how negative and pervasive the cultural
messages are, your daughter’s self-esteem is
greatly impacted by your attitude. If fathers
think that women are weaker and need protection,
they will tend to raise daughters who are weak and
To a significant degree, your daughter’s success
in life and in love is in your hands.
As fathers go through the process of raising
daughters, they may have to question everything
they thought they knew about the sexes and the
difference between men and women. How is it that
you learn about these things?
You learn by allowing your daughters to teach you
about them every day. You learn by not attempting
to control or protect your daughters. You learn by
opening up your hearts, and not having the answers
all of the time for your daughters (or your sons).
If you can allow your daughters to enjoy being
female as much as you enjoy being male, you’ve
taken a big first step. If you can also allow your
daughter to make most of her own decisions, you
will probably enjoy a great relationship with her.
You will also know a lot more about women than you
Here are some action points for fathers with their
•Fully explore your expectations for your
daughter. See where you may be too controlling in
her life, or are overly protecting her.
•Create special times with your daughter each
week, one-on-one, when you can ask her questions
about her life and become more fully aware of who she
is. Make this time sacred and let her know it’s
important to you.
•Expect your daughter to be strong and competent;
she’ll know that you do and will respond accordingly.
•If your daughter is a teen-ager or close to it, explore
your attitude about your daughter’s sexuality; many fathers are uncomfortable
with this and leave their daughters emotionally when they need them
•Be a great model for how men treat women in your
relationship with your wife.
•Talk to other fathers who have had daughters,
and find out how they have dealt with the challenges of
raising a daughter.
Your daughter is depending on your healthy attitude to help
her to navigate a culture that is not always positive for girls.
Take a step back and examine your view towards
women and girls. Are there changes you want to
Your daughter will help you to make those changes if
you’ll just listen.
About the Author
Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC, coaches men to be better fathers
and husbands. He is the author of “25 Secrets of Emotionally
Intelligent Fathers” http://www.markbrandenburg.com/father.htm
For more great tips and action steps for fathers, sign up for his FREE
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