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12 Things Every Father Should Teach His Daughters

Last week, I posted a list of things that I believe every father should teach his sons. Before the pixels were even dry, I was asked if I thought the things I mentioned were exclusive to boys, or if girls didn’t need to learn about integrity, patriotism, and a strong work ethic. My response was that I would deal with some of those issues, but from the perspective that boys and girls are very different.

Let me give you an example. Loyalty to your mate is a characteristic our culture views positively. But biologically, humans have two different perspectives on that trait, and the difference is based on gender. Assuming that our strongest biological drive is to pass our genetic material along to the next generation, the best strategy for a male would be to have as many partners as possible, to spread his material to the maximum extent possible. Women, on the other hand, to ensure that their genetic material is passed on most effectively, will tend to attach themselves to the strongest possible male, and will cling to that male as long as possible, to produce and protect her children.

Now I know that these are just general trends and as soon as we slip beneath the population level and start dealing with cultural groups, these generalizations become less valid, but there is no doubt that they affect behavior at the individual level.

So considering the basic effects of this biological scenario, it seems evident to me that raising males requires that we reinforce the concepts of loyalty and fidelity to a far greater extent than is necessary with girls. Not because it is less important for girls, but because the concept is more in line with their pre-existing biology.

Now, with that explanation out of the way, let’s talk about some things I believe we fathers should be teaching our daughters.

  • Competition 1 of 12
    This is an unusual choice to lead off this list, but it works because many of the other things on the list can be taught through competition. However, competition is important for girls on its own merits because it teaches them that they can achieve success on their own. It also teaches them that with hard work, dedication, and some sacrifice, they can do things they never dreamed possible.
  • Assertiveness 2 of 12
    Whether it is our culture or our DNA, women tend to naturally fall into a secondary role. No matter what the cause, this is something that fathers must teach their daughters to avoid. But at the same time, we must make sure that they are not mistaking aggression for assertion. Look at the girl in the middle of the picture. She's the leader of that little band, literally holding them together, but there is no coercion involved.
  • Independence 3 of 12
    Again, it isn't important whether the cause is biological or cultural, but for whatever reason, there are girls who find it hard to stand on their own. As fathers, it is part of our job to help them gain the confidence to run free without looking back to see if we are following close behind.
  • Self Esteem 4 of 12
    Self Esteem
    To be honest, I struggled with this myself, so I know it isn't purely a problem for girls. At the same time, girls are more subject to self esteem issues as evidenced by the rate of eating disorders and and other issues. I tried to make sure my girls knew that, regardless of what they heard from their classmates, or saw on TV, or got from any other source, that they were worthy of the best that life could offer them. It's sometimes hard to know where the line is between reinforcing self esteem or puffing up an overblown ego. I found the easiest thing to do was to never make up something to praise, but never fail to praise what was praiseworthy.
  • Integrity 5 of 12
    Remember high school? Remember girls who would say one thing to your face and an entirely different thing behind your back? I don't know where that comes from, but I watched all three of my daughters deal with that and it was almost as painful for me as it was for them. I tried to teach them that integrity is more than just telling the truth; it's also how you treat people. One of my daughters has a friend that she's known since high school. They've 'ended' their friendship several times after getting into an argument over one thing or another. But the hurt feelings always faded and they patched things up, mainly because when they were mad at each other, they said it straight up to each other. There was no dishonesty involved. Picture by shannon pifko
  • Self Defense 6 of 12
    Self Defense
    In my earlier article I said that boys needed to learn how to fight, and here, I'm saying girls need to learn how to defend themselves. I'm saying it differently because there is a difference between boys and girls and I have to acknowledge that. On average, girls are not as strong as boys, which means that on average, an equally trained boy will beat an equally trained girl. In order to account for this purely physical disparity, the girl needs to train more, or adopt a different mindset. This mindset has to be one that includes the idea of escape or safe retreat.
  • How to Fix Things 7 of 12
    How to Fix Things
    Inability to fix a leaky faucet is not a good reason to get into a relationship. The more things your daughter can fix on her own, the better off she is, not just financially, but emotionally as well. A capable girl will grow up into an independent woman. Photo by Stephen Davies
  • How to Earn Money 8 of 12
    How to Earn Money
    Just like the last one, the more capable a woman is, the more stable she becomes, which also breeds confidence. A woman who knows how to support herself is in an excellent position. And this starts early. Teach your daughters how to earn money with chores or part time jobs, just like your boys. Photo by Jan Willem Geertsma
  • How Boys Think 9 of 12
    How Boys Think
    Of course, that's assuming that boys do, in fact, think. As a man who has raised three boys, I can testify that the question is not easily answered as it seems that boys sometimes disengage their brains and run on autopilot for days at a time! As fathers, we need to make sure our girls know that boys don't just look different, they think differently as well. This becomes even more essential as our girls begin to become women and start dating. Photo by Gabriella Fabbri
  • Respect 10 of 12
    I'm an old fashioned guy, and I believe that women are due respect simply because of who and what they are. It's an antiquated notion that gets me in trouble from time to time, but it is one I hold to, and one I try to instill in my sons and daughters. I still open the car door for my wife, not because she is incapable of doing so, but because I am symbolically placing my masculine strengths at her service as a reminder of our marriage vows. But respect isn't one sided, and women need to be able to show respect as well, particularly with each other, and across generations. Since I was a single father, I didn't hear a lot about my daughters and their conflicts with their mother, but I have friends with daughters, and I've heard plenty from them. Fathers and sons don't seem to have the same problem, or at least, not to the same extent. I tried to teach my daughters to respect their mother, pretty much no matter what. Picture by The Horton Group
  • How to say NO! 11 of 12
    How to say NO!
    I'm the world's worst person to try and teach this since I try to accommodate everybody all the time. My best hope is that they can learn from my bad example. You can't please everybody and you can't do everything and if you try, you will wind up disappointing somebody. Usually yourself.
  • Being a Patriot 12 of 12
    Being a Patriot
    Even with everything that is happening, I love my country. I love what it stands for, what we've done, and what we still have the potential to do. Even though things are getting a little ragged around the edges, we are still the place everybody turns to when things go wrong in the world. And the unique thing about America is that we, the people, are America. We determine what our future is. I worry a lot about the direction we are going, but at the same time, still believe in the potential of our nation. And so I try to teach my chidren to honor the ideals that America has historically stood for, in the hopes that we will stand for them again. Photo by cathyK

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