It is important that fathers bond with their daughters. A girl’s identity – that is, her sense of “self”, her understanding of who she is, her view of her personal characteristics, skills and attributes – continues to form during the tween years. Her identity is influenced by many factors, such as her parents, friends, teachers, siblings, successes and failures, and experiences.
Amidst all of these, fathers have a distinctive effect on her identity, as well. Fathers usually have a special connection with his tweenager, and so have a special contribution to make to her identify formation.
Here are our top 10 strategies for a father to help his primary school-going daughter build a strong and positive view of herself. That said, bear in mind that they apply as much to boys as girls. Mums also have a vital part to play in the development of their tween’s identity.
Spend time with her
In many families, Dad works all day and only sees his kids at the end of the day. That usually makes her especially value his time, and so those shared moments together make her feel very special and very important. That strengthens her identity.
Praise her achievements
She beams with pride when Dad tells her how pleased he is with her latest progress. Of course, she is happy to be praised by anyone, but positive comments from her father have particularly positive impact on her self-esteem.
Talk about her friendships
The typical tween wants her Dad to be interested in all aspects of her life, and in her friendships, in particular. She wants him to like her pals, and she also wants him to advise her when those friendship go wrong. She values his opinion.
Emphasise all her strengths
When he points out her positive qualities, her identity is boosted. It’s not just about him commenting on her looks, but also about her skills and abilities. Her identity is strongly influenced by her father’s admiration of her personal qualities.
Show her respect
Okay, she is only eight years old and she doesn’t have the experience and maturity of an adult. But that does not mean he should belittle her. When he respects her, listens to her, and treats her views seriously, her identity grows stronger.
Be a good male role model
To a certain extent, a daughter bases her relationship with boys on the relationship she has with her papa. So, if he makes her feel good about herself, then it is likely she will expect the boys she plays with to treat her kindly, as well.
Avoid gender stereotypes
If he takes the view that his tween can take part in any pleasure activity she wants, even though some of these may not be traditionally associated with her gender, her identity will have fewer limitations and she’ll have higher expectations.
Give her control
Naturally, you and your spouse make all the major decisions in her life, but Dad can try to involve her in planning wherever possible. Giving her a small degree of decision-making – for instance, letting her choose what to wear – gives her a sense of empowerment.
Boost her resilience
If she expresses fears about, say, having to join a new afterschool class, he can help by ensuring she prepares for the challenge well in advance. Maybe he can teach her new skills or help her practise some of the activities beforehand.
Use positive language
For example, instead of telling her, “The class test is going to be tough, so I hope you are well prepared”, you could say, “I know you are going to do well in the class test because you have worked hard and are very good at this subject.”