As someone who has studied profound influences in the lives of girls and women, I know what an important role dads play in the development of their daughters. Fathers serve as the model and guidepost of what girls expect from men and how they’ll be treated. And with Father’s Day just around the corner, I want to salute all the good men out there who make the world a better place for women through the seemingly simple choices they make as they raise their girls.
I salute dads who don’t see the world in black and white — or in this case, pink and blue. I love seeing the fathers and grandfathers in my family snuggle on the couch with their daughters and granddaughters watching Cinderella almost as much as I love when they teach that same daughters how to build a fire and pitch a tent. These dads don’t call watching their kids “babysitting,” but cherish their roles as nurturer and teacher.
I salute dads who model flexibility and balance when it comes to responsibilities within the home. My own father taught me to shingle the roof and tape drywall seams, along with how to wash and dry dishes both effectively and efficiently. It left a lasting impression that anyone can do any type of work.
These kinds of dads prepare their daughters for futures with options; a young woman raised like this is less likely to be dissuaded if someone says that her college major isn’t for girls or attempts to put limits on her talents.
I salute dads who teach their daughters to take risks. Research shows that fathers tend to encourage children to take chances while mothers tend to be more protective. (Don’t believe me? Go watch youtube and I dare you to find moms throwing their kids in the air! It’s all dads!) It’s vital for girls to stretch by seeking activities that involve risk, such as competitive sports, invention or entrepreneurship, speech and debate, academic or artistic competitions, and student government.
And when girls jump and fall, it is wonderful to have a dad create a safe space for daughters to actually fail (not just learn about failure theoretically) and celebrate the learning that follows; hold them accountable for their mistakes and help them develop the grit that comes through trial, perseverance and reflection.
I salute dads who model what a loving, caring partner can look like. Even more than toys, bikes, clothes, and concert tickets, girls want to be loved. I see so many men showing up for their daughters. This can be literal, in coming to soccer games, plays, concerts, parent-teacher conferences, doctors appointments, and anything else where their presence signals, “I’m here for you.” And it can also be a figurative “showing up” when dads listen, really listen, to their daughters — not matter the topic. Having answers is not nearly as important as being present.
Girls whose dads are there for them not only have more confidence and are more resilient, but they are also more likely to attend college.
When I spy a dad pushing his daughter on the swings in the park, I know that his impact extends well into his daughter’s future in ways he cannot imagine. I want dads to know how much they matter to their daughters because as they come to a greater understanding of their influence, they can better support their daughters’ growth in all areas of their lives. This will in turn improve the long-term wellbeing of women, men, and families in communities and in the state as a whole. Thanks dads!
Dr. Susan R. Madsen is the Karen Haight Huntsman Endowed Professor of Leadership in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University and the founding director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project.