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Mastering the Art of Better Listening

10 Ways to Make Your Children More Resilient

Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand and Support Your Daughter When She's Growing Up So Fast BY Joe Kelly

Queen Bees and Wannabes: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Your Daughter Survive Gossip, Boyfriends, and Realities 

by Joe Kelly

Every father can make a huge difference in his daughter's life. He will not make it problem free, because that's impossible. But his involvement is important in so many ways.

To begin with, fathers influence how their daughters see themselves. A girl whose father listens to and respects her will expect others to listen to her and treat her well.

That way we, as dads, act toward our daughter and other females in her life is what she will expect from boys and men. The same is true for our attitudes, words and beliefs. When we are true to our daughter and true to the best in our masculine heritage, she will gravitate to men who respect her and treat her as an equal. She will turn away from men who threaten, violate and abuse.

A number of hurdles make it harder for dads to parent daughters. To overcome some of them, we just need to raise our level of awareness. Others require more work on our part.
For example:

  • We grew up as boys and even if we had sisters, we still don't know what it's like to grow up as a girl. No matter how much we love our growing daughters and how much we want to connect with them, they are sometimes a complete mystery, just because they're females.
  • We hesitate to ask for advise from our own family members, and when we do talk to other dads we're more likely to discuss the complexities of baseball free-agency than the challenges of fatherhood.
  • We feel caught between stereotypes. We're depicted either as a second-class parent, invisible and incompetent (Dad as dummy) or the all-knowing super-dad who can solve any problem.
  • We were taught that a father's primary obligation is to provide for his family-and that's a good thing to learn. But too many of us equate the key word "provide" with our wallets. This way of thinking justifies our spending too much time, energy and attention away from home and our kids.
  • The way our fathers did things may not make sense today. For example, how much did your dad do around the house? What did he tell you about how to be a father and why it matters?


Listen to your daughter. Pay attention even in the most ordinary moments. A girl's voice is the conduit to her heart, brains, and spirit. When she speaks boldly and clearly, both literally and metaphorically, she feels safer and surer.

It may be hard to hear your daughter talk about her feelings. Very few dads are big on "processing." When we encounter conflict or difficulty, we tend to plow through it as fast as possible while your daughter is more likely to want to analyze the situation.

Problems vs. Solutions
When your daughter tells you about a problem, don't jump in with a solution. Instead, try asking: “Do you want my advice or do you want me to just listen?" When you give a girl this choice, she will be more open to any advice you eventually give.

As with all aspects of parenting, there are no guarantees of outcomes. It should be comforting to parents to know their close relationship and connectedness they have with their kids might help to prevent destructive choices during the teen years. Through effective communication, example, and guidance, parents can make a crucial difference in their kids’ important decisions.

If you expect your daughter to be honest with you, don't punish her as soon as she says a truthful thing you don't want to hear. It was not easy for her to tell you something she knows you won't like. Praise her for being honest before you address the specific subject.

Open Communication:
If you want your daughter to talk openly, resist the urge to criticize. Your comments may seem obvious and not particularly harsh to you, but she may interpret them differently. Listen without interrupting. Try to understand her point of view. This will have a real impact on your ability to talk to each other.

Be involved in your daughter's life.
Try to understand why your daughter is so concerned about her body image. Remember the underlying message girls get from society is that they have to look a certain way to get a boy's attention. A dad counters that destructive message when he plays a sport with his daughter, drives her to practice, attends her recital and cheers on her brains and persistence. It doesn't have to be an organized sport: play catch, jump rope or just walk the dog together.

Get involved:
Get involved with your daughter’s school. Ask tough questions such as: “Are more boys than girls taking advanced math and science classes?” “What is the school's policy on sexual harassment?” Participate in out-of-school activities: volunteer to drive, coach, direct a play or teach a class. Talk to other fathers with whom you can share experiences, expertise and encouragement.

Help make the world a better place for girls.
Work with other parents to demand an end to violence against females, media exploitation of girls, pornography, and advertisers making billions feeding on our daughter's insecurities and all "boys are more important than girls" attitudes.

(Adapted from the author's new book, Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire,
Understand and Support Your Daughter When She's Growing Up So Fast)

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