You can take the toughest, meanest man in the world, and the one thing that can turn him into a softy is a baby daughter. Daughters have this power over a new dad much more than sons do. But we also often treat our daughters differently than our sons. Is that a good thing? In this episode, we are going to discuss some ways we may treat our daughters differently and go over some tips for new dads with daughters.
If you have a new baby girl or have a daughter on the way these are some things you can do (or at least think about) right now.
Be Physical – A study, published in the American Psychological Association’s journal Behavioral Neuroscience, confirms that dad play more physical (like rough and tumble) with their sons than they do with their daughters. Dads with daughters focused more on emotional responses, like making facial expressions, singing, etc. So this means we are reinforcing gender stereotypes from the time they are born. Children benefit from all kinds of stimulation. Your daughter will benefit from you being physical with her. Play rough and tumble with her, wrestle. Do the same physical things you would do if you had a boy. Being physical is good for her.
Compliment Her But Not on Her Appearance – Your daughter doesn’t have control or has a choice of how she looks…..and we are all guilty of focusing on external things. Instead of telling your daughter “You are so pretty” or “You have such a beautiful smile” say something like “I’m really lucky to be your dad” or if she does something great, you can say “You did that by yourself”. It’s great to use encouraging words that allow her to feel good inside…..and please Don’t call your daughter princess. If she feels good about the inside, she will feel good about the outside. It doesn’t usually work in reverse.
Avoid Pinkification – Don’t succumb to the pinkification of girlhood. Her toys don’t have to be pink, they don’t have to be what people would consider girl’s toys. Let her decide what she likes. Does she like to play with cars, tools, or action figures? Great, let her make her own choices. The same goes for clothes. Not every piece of clothing has to be a pink frilly dress nor does it need to always be gender-neutral, but be mindful of what you are choosing to purchase. As she gets older, she will begin to choose what she likes. Allow her to be an individual and make her own choices.
The next one may apply a little more as she gets a little older but I want you to start getting this engrained in your head NOW, while your daughter is still young…
Don’t Limit What She Can do – Other than the direction of wiping when changing a diaper…and BTW always go front to back with your daughter, there really should not be much difference on what little girls do versus boys. She should be able to get dirty, play any sport she chooses, be rough, or do anything else you or others might think is “for boys”.
Being a dad with a daughter is a special gift. It is up to us fathers to make sure we love them unconditionally and support them to thrive. How they view this world is highly impacted by our interactions with them. Go hug and kiss your daughter and let her know how lucky you are to be her dad.