THE MOST IMPORTANT MAN IN YOUR DAUGHTER'S LIFE
From: Kim Storment
To: John Clifton Msg #53, 09:24pm Nov-11-90
Subject: Fathers & Daughters (1 of 4)
I (think I) posted this a couple of years ago, but it applies to your
comments. This is from one of those infamous "women's magazines", Family
Circle. (Maybe it should have been in Sports Illustrated or Field &
Stream, instead, to reach its stated audience.)
THE MOST IMPORTANT MAN IN YOUR DAUGHTER'S LIFE by Nicky Marone (2/28/88)
An Open Letter to Fathers
I wonder if you have noticed the changes in your little girl and if they
bother you? I know they bother me. As her teacher, I see your daughter
six hours out of every day, one spent in my class and the other five in
the hallways of our junior high school. When she entered my class two
years ago, she was bright, sparkling and competitive. Today, as a ninth
grader, the vital and lively girl I knew has disappeared, to be replaced
by a submissive, subdued teenager who wears tight jeans and too much
makeup. She seems to have lost interest in her grade-point average and
she deliberately pretends not to know the answers to questions raised in
Before you become too alarmed, let me tell you that she is not alone. As
is typical with teen-agers, she is one of a pack. Many of her equally
bright girlfriends suffer from the same disorder. I wish I could reassure
you that this is only a passing phase that stops when puberty ends.
Unfortunately, my years of experience and the current research on girls
like your daughter indicate the opposite. This is the time she is likely
to go permanently underground with her abilities and never resurface to
realize her potential.
I know you love her very much and want what is best for her. Rest assured
that you can make a difference, but the earlier you begin, the better.
Your importance as the man in her life cannot be underestimated. Consider
this: Studies of female achievers show consistently that a father's role
is critical to his daughter's development -- particularly in the area of
achievement. Fathers who act as mentors to their daughters have a
profound influence on them. By being the first supportive male in your
daughter's life, you will be giving her the edge: the self-love and
confidence necessary for personal and professional achievement and a
lasting foundation on which to build her life.
I am also dedicated to her succes, and in this way you and I share a common
What Kind of Daddy Are You? -- a Quiz For the Courageous
There are all kinds of daddies. Soft daddies. Stern daddies. Fun
daddies. Demanding daddies. Each kind produces a different kind of
daughter. There is no one Best Prescribed Mode of Behavior. Every
situation a father faces with his little girl will require a different
kind of behavior on his part. There are times to be lenient and times to
be stern. Unfortunately, many parents (not just daddies!) get locked into
one particular kind of behavior mode and play out every scene using the
Many of the ideas in the following quiz may challenge you to make some
changes in your attitudes and actions. The purpose of this quiz is to
raise your awareness of the kind of father you are and to emphasize rule
No. 1 in all effective parenting: What you =do= has much more influence
on your children than what you =say=.
Each set of questions will help you characterize your behavior and the
message it carries. There is no laying of blame intended here. Most
fathers do not have gut-level understanding of the obstacles, both subtle
and blatant, facing their daughters.
You will not receive a score on this test. It is not meant to be a measure
of your love as a father. Its purpose is simply to stimulate your thinking.
1. Do you have a hard time disciplining your daughter if she's in tears?
2. Do you say things like, "She's really going to be good-looking some
day," or do you take a great deal of pride if someone else says it? (If
you have a son, do you discuss how good-looking =he= is going to be?)
3. Do you excuse inappropriate emotional displays by saying or thinking,
"That's just how girls are. They're more emotional." (Would you excuse
inappropriate emotional displays in a son?)
4. If your daughter has done poorly on a math assignment, have you ever
said (or even thought), "That's O.K. Girls aren't supposed to be good in
5. If a woman puts on overalls and fixes her kitchen sink, does she seem
unfeminine to you?
If you answered "yes" to the questions above, then to some extent you have
accepted the traditional stereotype of the female as an appropriate role
model for your daughter to follow. By encouraging traditionally "female"
behaviors -- being sweet, polite, attractive, emotional and dependent --
you discourage the development of the traits required for achievement --
taking risks and mastering skills.
Let me take a moment here to clarify a point about achievement. I use the
terms "success" and "achievement" to refer not only to the corporate
executive but also to the person who wishes to paint watercolors in her
attic or become an apprentice carpenter or start her own small business.
After all, for a female to refuse to accept society's limited expectations
requires both risk-taking ability and mastery-oriented behavior -- traits
that also characterize high-achievers. If your daughter comes to believe
that the requirements of "femininity" define her worth as a human being,
she may never develop assertiveness, never cultivate and refine her
talents, never realize her dreams.
Of course it is natural for adolescents to be preoccupied with whether they
meet prescribed standards of attractiveness. However, your approval or
discouragement of stereotyically "feminine" behavior will influence
whether she gets "stuck" at this stage of development, or moves on to the
more mature behavior necessary to meet the rigorous challenges fo life and
1. Do you urge your daughter to explore her environment, seek new
experiences and test her physical limits?
2. Do you "hover" to insure her comfort and security? Do you rescue her
if she seems upset?
3. Have you ever shown her how to defend herself or encouraged her to
enroll in a self-defense course?
4. Do you accept "I'm scared" or "I don't want to" as a legitimate
justification for avoiding a challenge? (Would you accept it from a son?)
Because of realisitc fears concerning our daughters' safety, we train them
to be careful and cautious. But when we rescue them prematurely or
protect them too aggressively, we give them a powerful message: "You
can't do this alone. You need help." The result of this training is that
girls become fearful and dependent and seek shelter under the protective
wings of the risk-takers of our society -- males. Unfortunately, that
means girls are often cheated of the growth and self-knowledge that come
from pushing beyond one's comfort zone.
Certainly there are times when a little girl -- or boy -- is in a perilous
situation and needs adult help. But over-protection and premature
rescuing foster only dependency and fear.
On Male Advocacy
1. Do you voice your approval for non-traditional female role models?
Have you even thought about who these role models might be? If you are in
a position to do so, do you demonstrate your support of female talent by
hiring and promoting competent women on the job?
3. Do you belong to any professional groups that actively recognize and
support women's issues?
4. Have you ever voted for a woman wishing to hold public office?
The purpose of these questions is to discover to what degree you put your
money where your mouth is. Encouraging your daughter to realize her
potential, contribute to society, and achieve worldly goals does not begin
or end at home. It is a philosophy that must be carried out into the
workplace if you are to help create a world where female contributions,
including those of your daughter, are taken seriously.
Every small step you take on an individual basis will be your contribution
to a world more responsive to the achievements of women in general and of
your daughter in particular.
On Male Superiority
1. Do you make most of the final decisions in your household?
2. Does your wife complain often that you interrupt her during
3. Do you resent the extra time your wife may spend on the job, a project
or a class if it takes her away from you?
4. Do you shrug off as a harmless gimmick the sexual sell in advertising
that uses attractive women to entice consumers into buying certain
5, Do you tell sexist jokes when your daughter is around?
If you answered "yes" to these questions, perhaps you need to examine the
message you're sending your daughter: that, in spite of your vocal
support of her abilities, you don't really believe females are as capable
as males, or their concerns as important. It is, quite simply, the only
logical conclusion she can reach from your behavior.
Activities and Time Spent Together
1. Do you spend uninterrupted and focused time alone with your daughter?
2. Do you take your daughter fishing? Hunting? To sports events?
3. Have you ever taken your daughter to your workplace to show her what
you do? Do you ever discuss the nature of the business or professional
worlds with your daughter? Do you explain to her what is expected of the
participants in these worlds?
4. Do you ever discuss finances and investments with your daughter?
5. Do you ever take your daughter with you on Saturdays to do such
traditional "male-type" errands as going to the auto-parts store, the
local dump and the hardware store?
6. Do you ever teach her how to fix things?
7. Do you ever take your daughter to baseball games or other athletic
events? Do you attend your daughter's own athletic events?
One of the most interesting things I have learned from fathers is that many
of them want to spend time with their daughters, but they don't know what
to do with them. One father actually said, "I thought all I could do was
take her to lunch or dinner or out shopping."
The problem for many fathers is that they believe the myth that there is a
prescribed set of activities for males and a different set of prescribed
activities for females. They also belive an even more dangerous myth:
that a mother is needed as a go-between, as a sort of emotional mediator.
Mothing could be further from the truth. A father and his little girl can
enjoy as much camaraderie as a father and his son. One basic rule of
thumb applies: Whatever you can do with a son, you can do with a daughter.
So take your daughter on those fishing trips, to that football game, out to
the garage to work on the car -- whatever! In most cases she will be so
pleased to have you all to herself that she won't care what you are doing
together. And if a particular activity seems not to thrill her, try
something else. She will appreciate your efforts.
Sometimes instituting changes in a relationship -- =any= relationship --
can be awkward or painful. But take heart: This can be the start of a
whole new approach to your role as a father -- an approach that ultimately
will be more rewarding, refreshing and gratifying than you ever imagined.
Nicky Marone lives in Denver, Colorado. A former junior high school
teacher, shw now conducts nationwide seminars titled "How to Father a
--- ConfMail V4.00
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