30 Daughters Share What Their Fathers Didn’t Know While They Were Growing Up
From less risk of depression to better self-esteem, a loving father-daughter relationship can provide benefits for a lifetime.
The truth is, whether we like it or not, fathers are our first role models when we come into this world. They play a huge role in girls' development, confidence, and self-esteem; they lay a foundation for what we understand as trust, security and love.
But in reality, any woman who grew up with a father knows how complex and often difficult this relationship can be. “Daughters of Reddit, what is something you wish your father knew about girls when you were growing up?” someone asked in this Ask Reddit thread that turned into a raw and very candid read.
Unwanted sexual attention from grown men doesn't always come from strangers. It comes from "family friends" too.
Pay attention to your friends' behaviors and comments around your kids.
My dad cut off a longtime friend after catching him leering at me in a bathing suit at a pool party when I was only 12.
To find out more about the role of a father in a child’s development, we reached out to Rachel Rothman, MS, RD, CLEC registered dietitian and childhood nutrition expert in San Diego, who is also the author of Nutrition In Bloom.
Rothman argues that a father, and parent or caregiver in general, bonding with a child is crucial for a child's development. “Parents provide children with a sense of security, which is so important from a young age. They also provide a role model, which is so important as a child develops,” she explained.
When it comes to establishing a close bond with your children from an early age, Rothman said that the best advice she can give is to be there. “When it comes to parenting, there are so many things we often feel we ‘should’ be doing,” she said.
“However, being there for our child, listening to our child, and offering support are so important. I also feel it's important for a parent to take care of themselves, to take time for themselves, and get the support they need,” Rothman concluded.
Disclaimer: I love my dad, we have a great relationship, he has always believed in my abilities at the end of the day.
That when you let your 10 year old son have more freedom to ride bikes far from home, go to the store alone, and take risks than your 13 year old daughter for no other reason than her gender, she's going to be PISSED and spend the next 10 years rejecting all things feminine because you have convinced her that to be female means to be weak and vulnerable. Masculinity does not equal strength and maturity, and femininity does not equal weakness and gullibility. It took a long time, but he recognizes that now.
Our standards of how we expect to be treated by men come from how you treat our mothers.
Show her kindness, we will expect kindness. Treat her like s**t and we assume being treated like s**t is normal.
It's no secret that the relationship between fathers and daughters is complex, to say the least. We often hear about fathers' lack of affection and inability to form close bonds with their children. Sometimes it turns into a difficult relationship between them that starts at an early age. But in order to understand why and how it happens, we have to take a step back and look at the way fatherhood and manhood are portrayed in our society.
So we reached out to Christopher Blazina, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist practicing in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a researcher, and a retired professor. He also published seven books, including “Men and Their Dogs” and “When Man Meets Dog,” which was awarded the National Indie Excellence Award for Men’s Health.
“It is important to say that in Western culture there is a very rigid approach to what is considered ‘masculine,’” Blazina told us. He continued: “These include being stoic, tough, and denying a need to emotionally bond with others.”
That we take everything he says to heart and he has to be kind. His words can leave deep wounds that stay with her for a lifetime
Treating every boy interested in your daughter as your enemy does both of you a disservice.
My dad was very over-protective. Any time a boy had a crush on me, he would be immediately added to my dad's shitlist. Even if he was perfectly kind and respectful.
After a certain point, I just stopped listening to my dad's complaints. In my eyes, he had lost the right to give input about my relationships.
Unfortunately, when I was 17 I became entangled in an abusive relationship.
My dad hated the guy. But since he also hated every one of my previous suitors, I didn't interpret his concerns as legitimate.
On top of that: since he was so busy trying to *prevent* me from having relationships, he never talked to me about what a healthy relationship looks like.
That if you say your eight year old is “too chubby” to wear something that is going to stick in her brain forever. Choose your words wisely and realize that not only the super skinny child had worth.
“While some research suggests these gender roles loosen some as men hit middle age and beyond, the effects of decades of attempting to adhere to very rigid rules for being a male can linger,” the professor explained.
According to Blazina, this presents a complex issue “because for all the rigid rules, men are still social creatures that are hardwired to make and sustain emotional bonds with others.”
Interestingly, as men age, they undergo dramatic personality changes. They can be observed not just in their relationships with humans–close relatives, daughters and sons, partners, etc., but also in their bond with animal companions.
Don't just assume your daughter won't be interested in your activities because they aren't stereotypically girly or because once as a small child, she didn't want to do it. Not wanting, say, go hiking or fishing when I was 5 years old doesn't mean I never ever want to do it. Keep trying to get your kids involved in your life and don't just give up. You're teaching them not to share things about themselves and losing the chance to bond over something you love.
Your children are always more important than your second or third wife.
I have my own brain. Not everything I say has been concocted by my “liberal professor” or [insert male SO’s name here]. Believe it or not, I am 100% capable of forming and voicing my own opinion.
your special snowflake liberal millennial daughter with a 4 year engineering degree.
In fact, Blazina argues that in middle aged and elderly men, animal companions can take on a more complex and central role. According to him, “this is in part due to the fact that men’s social networks are usually always smaller but as males age, they shrink to the size of a postage stamp – a romantic partner and if they are lucky, an animal companion.”
When you catcall 16 year olds, it affects me.
When you moo at overweight girls, it affects me.
When you go through my magazine and literally place your 1-10 rating on each of their foreheads, it affects me.
Basically, the way you treat and talk about women affects me. It let's us know what's "normal" and how we should expect to be treated by men.
That it doesn't make you look weak to show affection once in a while. My dad hardly ever hugged us or said he loved us.
Not girls in general, but I wish he understood that depression is an illness. He spent years angry with me and thinking I was just spoiled. It wasn't til I was in college that he realized I wasn't just a drama queen, I was actually sick and needed medication. That realization has done wonders for our relationship.
Simultaneously, this places a lot of emphasis on emotional support from just a few connections. “In one study, 45% of middle-aged men were more likely to turn to their dogs in times of emotional support than any other connection—parents, friends, siblings, and adult children; the only bond that rivaled the one with a dog was their significant other.”
“Another study,” Blazina quoted, “found that as men get older (middle-aged), men are also more likely to derive more emotional comfort from the bond with their dog. Making things even more complex is the research suggesting males tend to mask and underreport their emotional behaviors and feelings for their dogs for fear of being thought less manly.”
That not every instance of anger or sadness on my part was because "it must be that time of the month." My dad is a great guy all around, but used to bring that up (even jokingly) waaaay too often.
How to build and support a healthy self-esteem and lifestyle habits. The things you say and the way you treat her can leave a lasting impression on your daughter.
I was a latchkey kid in an Asian household filled with cheap convenience foods (3 for $1 hotdog baos, Chinese crackers, etc) and lack of income for things to do outside of watching TV at home. So, I grew up overweight and uninformed about healthy lifestyle habits.
Since tween-hood, my dad was constantly on me about my body and bluntly laid it out that I would never find a boyfriend. If he saw me in a t-shirt or shorts, he’d comment on how big my arms/thighs looked. I’m now in my late 20s and still refuse to wear tanks/short sleeves/skirts/dresses/shorts because of that idea that has been ingrained in my thought process. The link between being fat and being single still has a huge presence in my mind.
My dad passed away last year from his own struggles with his health (cancer, diabetes, hypertension). Since then, I’ve made my own lifestyle changes and went to therapy. I am about halfway to my weight end goal and I’ve discovered a love for hiking, spin classes, and yoga. But trying to build up self esteem through reframing of things and positive self-talk has been the hardest struggle of all.
That telling me "it's just in your head" anytime I felt *anything* other than happy as a clam, would make me grow up with anxiety and trust issues, and have a hard time expressing/talking about feelings, always thinking I'm "crazy". Just a side note to all you guys out there who have a problem with this- girls are allowed to feel anyway they want at any particular time, just like you. We do not exist to be your personal rays of sunshine. We are human too.
There are some men (and boys) who are perfectly decent when other men are around, but are not nice to women (and girls) when there are no other men around. Believe your daughter about her own lived experiences, even if you didn't witness them yourself.
And believe other women about their own lived experiences as well. If your daughter grows up hearing you talking about how your mother and sister were *clearly* overreacting when they said your childhood neighbour was creepy - because, after all, he was always perfectly decent to you - your daughter is not going to go to you when your own neighbour is creepy to her when you're not around.
I'm not sure about girls in general.
To me, I'd rather have had a dad who was *there*, than a dad who was successful and a workaholic.
When your dad is gone, you remember the silly little things: the bedtime stories he told you, playing with you on the beach, having ice cream together.
Be a father who is present in your daughter's life. Play with her when she's small. Tell her stories. When she's older, listen to her. Take an interest in her interests even if they sound silly. Take an interest in her life in general.
That's all anyone can ask.
Don't be scared of having your picture taken, if your daughter wants to take pictures of you, or especially with you, let them. My dad died when I was 13 years old and then I realized that all of his hiding from the camera meant I was left with only a handful of photos and he wasn't in any of our home videos. You don't realize how important they can be until you aren't able to make new ones
When your daughter is going through puberty and starts getting her period, *don't* write off the things she's going through. There's all sorts of new hormones swirling around in there, and they're gonna affect her mood. She's getting periods, they're probably gonna hurt. Being in pain makes you grumpy, but don't write off every instance of anger or bad temper as being 'because you're on your period'. Maybe her mom doesn't get bad ones, maybe you've never thought about it because your wife is a grown woman who has learned to deal with her periods and the assorted mood swings and pains and moved on; your daughter hasn't yet. Be a little more thoughtful, help teach her ways to manage what she's feeling.
If she's in a lot of pain, and it doesn't change after a while, take her to a doctor. Maybe nothing's wrong and she got s**t luck, but she could have endometriosis or cystic ovaries. Stick up for her at the doctor - lots of women have trouble finding doctors who will listen to them about their pain, and it's very hard to advocate for yourself when you're only 14 and throwing up from pain.
I have the most wonderful father in the world. This post isn't going to be things I wish he knew, but more things he did that were awesome when I was growing up since I'm seeing a lot of daddies with little girls commenting that they're reading this post.
My dad never hesitated to do "girly" things with me. He was the one who took me school shopping (we would often hit Starbucks and then pick up chocolate covered strawberries afterwards). He would fix my hair for school and paint my nails for me. I remember wanting a head full of tiny braids (this was the 90s) and he spent hours of his Saturday afternoon braiding. We played with Barbies and he actually came up with storylines for them and put effort into it. On the other hand, he also never kept me from doing "tomboy" things. I raised baby calves, helped him wash cars, and worked on the lawnmower.
When I was little we had "Daddy-Daughter" dates where we would go to Chuck-E-Cheese or mini-golfing. When I was in middle school and high school we would go to the pool together and lay out and talk. A few years ago we got tickets to see Miley Cyrus' Bangerz tour and got drunk together and had the best time.
He was always patient with anything regarding my self-esteem. He helped me lose weight when I was in middle school and waited for hours for me to get ready before we went somewhere, and never, ever commented on anything other than to compliment me.
The biggest thing I think that he did (and still does) is to encourage my independence. He helped me through school and constantly reminds me that I am a strong woman and that I don't ever have to get married if I don't want to (my mother used to put a lot of pressure on me to "settle down"). He is my friend along with being my dad. I'm forever thankful for him.
I truly am incredibly lucky to have him and I recognize that. I already tell him how much I appreciate him all the time and my first big tattoo was a portrait of us together but I think he will really love seeing this! Also, to all the dads who have commented saying they hope they can be like my dad - if you try to be, you will be! He put effort into our relationship and that's what matters. :)
Now that I’m an adult I realize just how wonderful my father really is. Not just in comparison to others but he is an objectively amazing father. He taught us children the hard life lessons while still protecting us. He taught us to be self sufficient and independent. He taught us to work hard and don’t give up just because things get challenging. He busted his a*s to make sure we got to go on vacation and experience life. He taught me to hunt, fish, and fix a car. He also taught me to garden and grow my own vegetables. How to take care of livestock and other animals with compassion.
However, he also treated me more like a son than a daughter. I only wish that my father would’ve acknowledged that I’m a girl and it’s okay for me to like dressing up and that it’s okay to “throw like a girl”. Granted, I got a full ride to college for sports and that’s partly because I had to hang with the boys and my dad didn’t want me to be a great female player but just a great player in general. I think he messed me up only in the sense that it’s extremely difficult for me to date. I’m either too intimidating to strangers or “one of the boys” to people I know. I think I lost my feminine side because I am so close to my dad and he was slightly dismissive of my emotional side. I had to be tough and stoic.
I suppose I shouldn’t complain; I just feel like if my dad were less of a hard a*s and treated me more like a daughter than a son I would fit in more. Maybe be able to get a date instead of always just being a “bro”. That being said I am thankful for the life skills he provided and the protective eye he still has watching over his baby girl. [26yo F]
Edit: news update; got a lot of confidence from all the positivity and now I’ve got a date coming up with a guy who doesn’t know me or my “bros” and I get to make an actual first impression without being seen as one of the boys beforehand. Wish me luck! He seems kind and intelligent; I’m really excited to see what happens! Even if it’s a flop it’s a good step out of my passive ways!
I wished he knew girls could like girls and it was ok. That would have made my coming out story less dramatic.
If you want someone to respect you, you have to go first. My folks (especially my dad) would patiently explain how my feelings and desires were silly, because they didn't share them: but expect me to prioritize their feelings and desires even though I didn't share them. If you want her to be polite to your boring friends, be polite to hers. If you don't want her wearing a lip ring to the company picnic, don't wear socks with Crocs when you pick her up at school. If you're poor and she has to wear hand-me-down clothes, dress yourself out of the thrift shop.
Don't make your daughter feel bad for going through puberty. My dad made me feel so humiliated when I first started my periods and also made me feel like young going through puberty, growing breasts and having hair down there was something that should only be for adults and somehow I was growing up way before I should have.
That it is best to have a personal bond with your father, a hobby or activity that’s the two of you -no matter how small, and not him just be there when the whole family is together.
When our outdoor cats would get ticks I quickly alerted my father and we removed them. For him a chore and for me the one thing that was *us doing something together*.
- you need to teach by example. Don’t go around preaching things that you don’t even do.
- give her privacy. So many times I had my bedroom door threatened to be taken away, or my belongings taken away, etc. It was horrible and I felt like I was in jail.
- while it is important to compliment her on things she has control over (big achievements, good test mark, etc.) it’s also important to tell her she’s beautiful. I never got that.
- pay attention to her interests and ask about them. Make sure she has opportunities too, like if she’s interested in something around 8 or 9, she obviously can’t sign herself up for a team/lessons of any kind.
- remember that one day she is going to be an adult and you need to prepare her for that as a teen. That means you treat her like she is an emotionally mature person, not a 4 year old. You teach her how to have calm, stable discussions that reach compromises, not screaming arguments. Also teaching her how to cook her own healthy food is very important.
How to put hair in pony tails/brush long hair in general. Just thinking about it twenty years later makes my scalp hurt.
Also, to include the daughter in stereotypically-male housework. I can cook and load a dishwasher like my life depends on it, but I can't do any sort of maintenance like putting up a picture frame or unclogging a sink.
When you do something wrong, apologize. Don't just try to ignore what we just fought about and try to be our friend 15 minutes later. When you try to ignore our problem, it hurts us. It makes us angry. We won't want to be friends.
My friends and I have almost all had this issue with our dads. The worst thing, though, is when you try to have someone else apologize fix things for you. My dad has asked me to be this middleman for my younger sister, my friend has been asked by her dad, and some others have mentioned their dad sending in their mom. It doesn't make things better, and a lot of the time, makes that middleman lose respect for you.
Respect us as people and apologize to us.
That girls are not delicate little creatures who can't do anything. I always wanted to be an auto mechanic and help work on cars and he'd never let me. He told me girls can't do "man jobs" because they cause drama on the jobsites when all the guys are worried about sleeping with them. Now I am always having car trouble and have to pay out the a*s to get a mechanic to fix simple things because he wouldn't just show me how to fix it.
Edited to add that I grew up before the internet. YouTube IS awesome now but there's something really intimidating for me about even trying now just because of the attitude I faced being a girl in my house.