A Daughter's Guide to FATHERHOOD; Every Girl's First Love Is Her Father: The Man Who Shapes Her Opinions about All Men. Mary Greene Reveals How This Bond Determines the Quality of a Woman's Future Relationships - and the Kind of Person She Will Become

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), June 10, 2012 | Go to article overview

A Daughter's Guide to FATHERHOOD; Every Girl's First Love Is Her Father: The Man Who Shapes Her Opinions about All Men. Mary Greene Reveals How This Bond Determines the Quality of a Woman's Future Relationships - and the Kind of Person She Will Become


Byline: Mary Greene

Next Sunday is Father's Day -- the poor relation of Mother's Day. No daffodils, no breakfast in bed. No guilt if you forget all about it because how many dads could even tell you when it falls? And, anyway, it's all commercial nonsense to sell cards and you shouldn't have bothered. He's not going to sulk if you don't buy him a mug saying Best Dad in the World. 'I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection,' said Sigmund Freud. And that sentiment doesn't fit on a mug.

Boys need fathers to teach them how to be men, but that doesn't mean that raising daughters is women's work. A girl's first love is her daddy and that early father-daughter relationship -- when he's the only man in her life -- shapes the woman she will become, her self-esteem, body image and confidence for decades to come. It shapes her opinions about men: are they strong, dependable partners, or are they distant and unavailable? Or are all men b*****ds who will let her down? It sets the bar -- low or high -- for the men who will later share her life, and a woman is highly likely to choose a boyfriend or husband based on the qualities -- good or bad -- that she sees in her father.

Sylvia Plath's father died when she was eight, the all-powerful hero of her little-girl world, and in her poem Daddy she wrote, years later: 'And then I knew what to do. I made a model of you, A man in black with a Meinkampf look... And I said, I do, I do.' The man in black was her husband, the poet Ted Hughes.

If fathers are superheroes to their daughters, then they need to be conscious of how they wield that power. Girls won't always admit it, but deep down they know that their dads are omniscient. In 1979, Meg Meeker overheard her father, a doctor, boasting to a colleague on the phone that she would be starting at medical school the following year.

Her father's unwavering confidence in her changed her life. In fact, Meg had just been rejected by several medical schools. Her father wasn't obstinately ambitious for her to follow in his footsteps, but she knew that if he believed she could do it, then it must be true. Sure enough, it worked out just as he said. Now a prominent paediatrician and family counsellor, mother of four, and author of Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know ([euro]22.45, Eason), Meeker says: 'I can tell you that fathers change lives, as my father changed mine. My father always made sure that I knew he loved me.

'Did he tell me often? No. He didn't talk much. My mother listened to our problems much better than my father did, but I knew who I would ask for help if my life or health were ever threatened: my dad. He was tough, he was serious, he intensely loved his family, and the most important job he held, in his mind, was to make sure his family was cared for.' Most fathers would agree with that. But in a culture that often leaves men confused about their role, what does it take to be a good father to daughters? How can they strengthen that special bond and become a, strong, protective influence in their lives? Here are ten things every father should know...

10 THINGS EVERY FATHER SHOULD KNOW ABOUT DAUGHTERS

1 You are the most important man in her life. Girls take their cues from their fathers -- so remember that how you treat your daughter's mother has a tremendous impact on a young girl. If she sees you treating her mother with love and respect, that becomes the template for loving relationships when she is older.

Research shows that girls who have strong relationships with their fathers do better academically and are less prone to developing eating disorders.

2 Your daughter sees herself reflected in your eyes.

Praise the best in her -- her intelligence, her kindness to others, her sense of fair play -- and that's the person she'll want to be. Tell her that you are proud of her unique qualities and you build up self-esteem that stays with her for life.

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A Daughter's Guide to FATHERHOOD; Every Girl's First Love Is Her Father: The Man Who Shapes Her Opinions about All Men. Mary Greene Reveals How This Bond Determines the Quality of a Woman's Future Relationships - and the Kind of Person She Will Become
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