Wise Advice from Dads of Girls
Father’s Day is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the wisdom of dads in our Santa Maria College community. The generous dads interviewed for this collection are all works in progress, just like every parent. They have gained these insights by making mistakes and learning from them.
One dad said, “The fact that you’ve brought up one daughter, or two or three, doesn’t mean you’re an expert. Every girl is different, so what works well with one, won’t work with another.” It follows then, that you should take on board the advice offered here that resonates with you and ignore what doesn’t apply. You’ll also find that most of the advice applies for all of our kids; girls and boys.
- Tell your daughter every day that she is loved, smart, beautiful, worthy, capable and all those things that you know her to be. She should feel these things all the way to her core. If you don’t, you leave her vulnerable to inauthentic people who will win her over with words. When someone in her future flatters her, she should think, ‘Yes. I know that, my dad told me. Now, what else have you got besides compliments?’
- Ensure your daughter knows she can talk to you and you will love her no matter what she tells you. You need to be her safe space. That will mean turning off your ego. You can’t be worried about how your child’s decisions, actions or identity reflect on you. It’s not about you.
- It is important to always be the adult in the room. We can’t share personal problems with kids. Sometimes we need to just wear that pain. For example, they don’t have to understand your side of relationship problems or the ins and outs of uncomfortable family dynamics.
- When you make mistakes, don’t be afraid of starting again. Take the hit to your pride. Apologise and start again. You don’t become a better parent by beating yourself up for getting things wrong, you become a better parent by learning from your mistakes. It’s also important to realise you only really know if you’re making mistakes by inviting feedback. That can be confronting for some, but it gets easier with practise.
- There needs to be balance in your life and balance doesn’t mean everything gets equal attention all the time. It’s natural to want your daughter to see you as someone who can be successful at work, an involved dad, a community leader and involved in sport. However, it’s poor role modelling to try and do all of those things at once. You can do things well but not all at once, otherwise you will burn out. So, sometimes you need to put greater effort into work because of a big project, other times the family needs you more. Talk about that balance that is required.
- Provide a stable base. As girls become teenagers they strive for and explore independence. At this time, they can often push off parents hard and that is a shock and really hurts. Don’t take it personally, don’t react with anger, it will only drive them further away. Communicate the boundaries effectively but support them in their development and be there as a stable base when they need you.
- Seek out a mentor. You need someone in your life to work through ideas, experiences and emotions with you. When you make time to regularly talk with someone who is not directly involved with your family, you become much more conscious in your parenting. You are less likely to automatically parent the way you were parented. You can break bad cycles. You can also deliberately choose the great parts of your upbringing and build on them.
- When you are faced with a difficult decision, write about it. When you get an idea down on paper and start really exploring it, you will start having a strong emotional sense of what is right and what is wrong.
- Ultimately, you cannot force your daughter to do anything and arguments, anger, bold statements and punishments won’t achieve anything positive. Dads often want to fix things by putting in place an action plan, talking sense into someone, and generally controlling things. It is much more effective to stop and first look at the actual gravity of the issue being discussed. Rarely is it even important. A pause will help you find the guidance and learning in the situation, for your daughter and for yourself. You are then able to act effectively and from a place of love and empathy.
- Build traditions. Traditions create bonds and keep you connected even in difficult times. One father interviewed sets aside Monday afternoons to do something special with his girls. Other traditions he has with them include; reading a chapter of Harry Potter together every night and at dinner they all share the best and worst thing that happened to them during the day. Another does the school pick-up whenever he can and includes a stop for hot chocolate or Maccas’ chips on the way home. He says, “It will only cost you $4 but it is one of the best investments you’ll ever make.”
Remember, yes, parenting is a tough gig and you will make many mistakes. But, you don’t have to nail it every single time to be a good-enough dad. And good-enough is a brilliant outcome. You’re good and you are enough.
Thank you to the good-enough dads interviewed for this article. Your generosity and honesty are greatly appreciated.
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