Do these 8 things to raise confident, strong-minded daughters

As a Harvard-educated school counselor and parenting coach, I encounter many fathers who feel lost and out of touch when it comes to raising daughters. They often wonder if they should just sit on the sidelines.

That’s why I’ve spent much of my career helping fathers improve their communication skills, maximize their parenting impact, and raise smart, confident, and strong-minded daughters.

Authoritative parenting, which involves being supportive and in tune with your children’s needs, lends to a strong foundation for meaningful conversations. The goal is to discuss important topics with your daughter, hear her thoughts and offer guidance where possible.

Research has found that creating even the smallest moments of father-daughter connection can have positive benefits, including body positivity, romantic relationships, social media, mental health, and academic achievement.

How to build a healthy father-daughter relationship

Having the maximum positive influence on your daughter will require countless conversations, even when it feels like you’re not breaking through.

Here are eight things good dads do to set the stage for healthy, productive conversations with their daughters:

1. Don’t be intimidated by uncomfortable topics.

Great fathers touch on as many topics as possible with their daughters, even the uncomfortable ones.

It is not just about teaching lessons related to the issue at hand. It’s about showing up, sharing your views and listening so she feels loved, seen and supported.

When it comes to young daughters, the conversation with a parent who differs in gender, age and experience will prepare her for conversations of great importance in her personal and business relationships later.

2. Being physically there.

Even if you don’t say anything at times, by simply reading a book near her or bringing her a favorite snack when she’s studying, you’re signaling your presence in her life and making yourself available to talk.

3. Create moments of connection.

Pick something to watch or read together, plan a father-daughter dinner, or take a vacation with the two of you.

If you live apart from your daughter or you work for work, check in via phone calls, emails or video calls. You can also play games online together or stream a sporting event at the same time.

Some of your best conversations will take place against these backgrounds. And when your daughter is older, she will remember and appreciate those special moments.

4. Capitalize on teachable moments.

A teachable moment is any instance where you have an opportunity to voice your opinion, share your values ​​or ask your daughter for her perspective.

For example, if you’re watching a TV show together, look for things you can comment on, such as two characters having an unhealthy relationship. Or if you’re managing your daughter and her friends and you hear them talking about a challenging issue, use the opportunity to ask questions and offer wisdom on how to handle a difficult situation.

“Children are very sensitive about whether their parents will be startled by something,” Mitch Prinstein, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina, tells me. “If they know their parents won’t overreact or judge, they’ll be more likely to talk openly with them.”

5. Repeat habits you want her to adopt.

“Don’t do drugs.” “Don’t text while driving.” “Don’t give in to the pressure to use drugs.” Your chances of getting your message across about healthy habits are much greater if you have a pattern of consistent communication.

Successful parents don’t see it as “lecturing”; they know that the more they reiterate their values ​​and make their views known, the more likely their children will carry those beliefs into adulthood—even if they seem to reject them in adolescence.

6. Limit multitasking.

Those work emails and calls can wait. To the best of your ability, get away from your computer and put your phone away when you spend time with your daughter.

You can also ask her to sit her phone away. In our increasingly distracted world, we all need practice to be 100% present.

7. Pay attention to the little things.

My father always orders me water with a straw when we go out for dinner. He’s been doing this for decades, but it wasn’t until recently that he let me know that he has no idea why I like them. (This is because I have very sensitive teeth!)

It may seem like a small gesture, but it’s a thoughtful reminder that he recognizes my unique qualities and tendencies.

What is your daughter’s favorite food, books, bands or hobbies? Take note and look for opportunities to show that you support and value her individuality.

8. Don’t wait until weekends.

We prepare ourselves to be stressed from Monday to Friday, then let loose – or collapse – once the weekend arrives.

But your daughter may need a break from worrying about schoolwork on a weeknight. Go see a movie together. Attend a nighttime exhibition at a museum. Have dinner at a restaurant.

When I was in middle school, my dad took me to basketball games on school nights. On the face of it, he just took me to a game. But he also helped me learn how to manage my time.

Not only has this tradition benefited our relationship, it has boosted my happiness and taught me the value of work-life balance.

Kimberly Wolf is an educator, speaker and educational consultant with degrees from Brown University and Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is the author of “Talk to Her: A Dad’s Essential Guide to Raising Healthy, Confident, and Capable Daughters.” Follow her on Twitter @KimmySWolf.

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