It is often said that women seeking to marry will gravitate toward men much like their father. While this may or may not be a fact, it is true that a woman’s relationship with her father is the first important female-male relationship she will ever experience and it forms the foundation for all other interactions in her life. A daughter’s relationship with her father also greatly affects her own self-image and confidence.
Even from infancy, a daughter is absorbing the lessons learned through interaction with her dad. That includes the manner in which her mother and father relate to each other. How her parents treat one another within their relationship and whether it is a coupling established upon trust, mutual respect, dignity, patience, and love is how the child will come to expect her own romantic relationships and even other platonic situations with men to occur. Abuse, tyranny or other negativity between her parents subconsciously establishes within the daughter that it is permissible for men to be mean, unruly, unreliable, and abusive. This also affects the daughter’s self worth, in that she perceives herself as worthy of abuse and not someone who should expect anything else.
Self-respect, confidence and esteem are derived from how Dad treats his little girl. If her father listens to and respects his daughter, she will grow to believe that she has value, her words have weight, and she can accomplish things she wants to achieve. In essence, whatever treatment she receives from her father becomes her self-perception as if it is reflected upon her within a mirror.
A woman’s regard of her physical and sexual well-being is first derived from her father’s behaviors. If her dad respects her emerging boundaries and rights to privacy as she grows, she learns that her physical self has value. She learns to expect her boundaries to be respected and that she will not suffer abandonment or other negativity when she enforces those expectations in regard to how others treat her. Very importantly, she will also learn that her value is not in her appearance or beauty, but that it comes from within and how she interacts with others.
Negotiation skills, ability to compromise and the ability to adhere to rules are are derived from the father-daughter dynamic. In communicating with him, she is desiring strength within her own voice and development into a young woman who can confidently make quality decisions for herself. If her dad does not listen, rules without patience, or expects absolute control in decision making regarding his daughter’s life, he is teaching her that men are not compassionate, cannot be negotiated with, and inevitably that her opinion does not count, even when it comes to taking care of herself. This undermines her self-confidence and causes rebellion where rules must be followed.
When Dad listens to his daughter and allows her to negotiate and openly discuss sides of a disagreement, he is also teaching her to use clear forethought and assertive behaviors without aggression or excessive emotion. He is instilling within her that her thoughts and words count, even when they are not the same as his or those of someone else. This ability to effectively communicate and see that men are not a ruling authority over her will allow her to develop more fully within personal relationships and in other areas of her life, such as career.
Through actions, mothers teach their daughters about being women and how to fulfill the roles of mother, wife, and friend in society. Fathers teach girls how to be their truest self by providing self-confidence, esteem, trust, compassion, and patience within their daughters. Although most fathers rarely think of how much their daily behavior affects the psyche of their little girls, his every action that she witnesses either adds to or detracts from her potential for becoming a resilient, assertive, self-respecting member of society with the ability to engage in healthy, productive private and public relationships for the rest of her life.