Father-daughter relationships are like walking a tightrope. Achieving the right balance of attachment and detachment has proven elusive for most fathers. A father’s influence on his daughter, or the lack of it thereof, is a great determinant of what her relationships, social life and career will look like. Just where do they go wrong?
1. Suppressing emotional expression
Once, when they were boys, fathers were taught that it is not only a show of weakness to cry, it is also an unmanly and unattractive quality. They weren’t taught how to deal with emotions, only how to suppress them or stuff them in dusty, old compartments in their minds and ignore them until they are forgotten. Now faced with raising a girl who has no such inhibitions, fathers fall back to the only way they know – dismissing or invalidating their daughters’ feelings.
2. Putting down your daughters’ mother
When they are older, consciously or unconsciously, girls find themselves seeking out relationships that adopt the first model of a relationship she ever knew. Constantly criticizing, fighting with or abusing your daughter’s mother and never showing any affection for her in front of your daughter skews a girl’s perception of what relationships and marriage are about.
3. Punishing independence and separation
When healthy expression of thoughts, feelings or desires that differ from your own are stifled, a deep-seated resentment is sure to follow. Most girls will be hesitant to challenge their fathers and will instead suffer in silence. Those that do will resent constantly being treated like a disappointment or being completely ignored as fathers often resort to when crossed.
4. Basing your Child’s worth on their performance
Daughters learn that their fathers’ love is malleable from a young age. Fathers take the lead role in families, a position that even children recognize. A girl will revel in getting her father’s attention when he comes home, especially due to the fact that he’s generally a rare commodity at home. When she doesn’t receive it, she will work harder to get him to notice.
If as a father you focus your love and attention on her academic achievement or career progression, her confidence will be based on those aspects. Failing at these things will shatter her self-worth.
5. Living vicariously through your child
We all know fathers who push their daughters to do all of the things they wished they did when they were younger, or if they’d had boys instead. Whether through manipulation or coercion, these fathers sign up their daughters for all sorts of classes and completely ignore their daughters’ unique needs and desires. This leaves them feeling unheard and without any control of their own lives, something that cripples them when they have to go on their own.