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Father-Daughter Bonding: Fears, Myths and Reality

The following is a post from Hugh O. Smith. Hugh is a proud dad, freelance writer and executive at a New York City consulting firm. You can find his blog at hughosmith.com and on Twitter @hughosmith. Interested in blogging a father-son bonding article for us? Read our guest blog guidelines. 

At about 10:00pm on a cold February night I found out I was going to be a father. At 10:01pm, I was a wreck. My biggest concern wasn’t about bringing a baby into our small apartment, or how to pay for the endless procession of stuff a baby needs. It was that I might be a bad father. Every movie or talk show I’d seen with an out-of-control child came back to me in HD. 

Father playing with his happy and smiling baby daughterMy fears intensified a few months later when an ultrasound revealed we were expecting a healthy girl. I was happy she was healthy but the news brought with it a new dimension of worry. What did I know about girls? 

“Perhaps the father’s most difficult challenge today lies in being able to bond with his daughter,” says author Michael Gurian, in The Wonder of Girls.

I knew this all too well. As “only” a dad, could I compete with a mother’s natural bonding mechanisms? Built during pregnancy, this bond would intensify after birth, especially during breastfeeding. According to the New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding, 2002 American Academy of Pediatrics, “This emotional bond is as vital as the nutritional benefit. Breastfeeding promotes a growing attachment that will continue to play an important role in your baby’s development for years to come.” 

One night as I lay awake my wife stirred as the baby moved and kicked. Instinctively, I placed my hand on her stomach and spoke to my daughter. Amazingly, her restless kicking and moving stopped. That night marked a turning point. I realized that I was far from being “only” the dad. There were things I could do, even at this early stage, to ensure there would be a bond between my daughter and I. It was a huge relief to realize I had only to be myself, love my daughter and the bond would take care of itself.

Bonding myth #1: You’re “only” the dad.

The reality: “A father’s love can make or break a girl,” says Mr. Gurian. A daunting statement made less so when you examine the research. According to Dr. Meg Meeker, author of Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters;

  • Girls who are close to their fathers exhibit less anxiety.
  • Girls with doting fathers are more assertive.
  • Girls with good fathers are less likely to flaunt themselves to seek male attention.

Myth busting strategy: Spend time with her. The proof of how important dads are is on your daughter’s ecstatic face when you return home after a long day and in her hugs when you tell her you love her.


Bonding myth #2:
You have to be perfect.

The reality: You don’t have to be a perfect parent in order to bond. There’ll be times when your child drives you crazy and it seems like you can’t do anything right. Step back and give yourself some breathing room. Realize this is a small blip in the vast radar screen of your lives together. After all, your parents weren’t perfect and you turned out fine.

Myth busting strategy: The intimidating job of parenting becomes easier once you realize mistakes are inevitable. Once I realized that it freed me to be the best father possible and not be so hard on myself.


Bonding myth #3:
I don’t have enough bonding time. Mom gets to stay home with the baby for months and I only get a couple of weeks. I can’t compete.

The reality: Moms and dads often bond on different timetables. While it’s true that the mother-child bond may be facilitated by breastfeeding and a greater amount of time together, the fact is the father-child bond is no less strong or relevant. Bonding takes effort and time, there’s no magic that speeds the process. 

Myth busting strategy: Don’t try to recreate the relationship your daughter has with mom. Dads bring a particular set of skills to the relationship. By creating daddy time early on, your daughter will recognize your unique gifts and come to love them. Walks and errands are great ways to get time alone and serve the dual purpose of giving mom a much-deserved break. Mundane tasks may seem, well, mundane but changing diapers or wiping her face (and yours) when the food goes flying is invaluable in the bonding process.

As dads, we don’t have mom’s soft touch or graceful finesse. We might not know how to make waffles just so, or soothe a boo-boo in mom’s magical way. Often, when we’re out with our daughters, socks are mismatched, colors clash and the hair…well let’s just say it’s good that afros are back in style. Still, a father’s love is no less beautiful. As a dad, I know that I am the most important man in my daughter’s life, her first love, guide, and protector. Our daughters need our strength and wisdom to help navigate the long-winding road from the little girl who squeals with delight when you throw her in the air, to the poised, confident woman she will become. If we support and love them unflinchingly, there is nothing our amazing girls cannot accomplish.

iStockPhoto

Phil Mickelson Skips US Open Practice for Daughter's Graduation

If you follow professional golf, you know the U.S. Open Championship is kind of a big deal. ESPN reports that Phil Mickelson skipped US Open practice to attend his daughter's eigth grade graduation.

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ESPN says:
Mickelson was not at Merion Golf Club on Tuesday preparing for the U.S. Open because he headed home to San Diego, where he will attend his daughter's eighth-grade graduation.

Mickelson arrived at Merion on Monday but was unable to get in much practice due to the severe weather conditions that twice caused United States Golf Association officials to close the course.

Mickelson was quoted in a statement released Tuesday he always planned to attend his daughter's graduation ceremony. But with the bad weather at Merion, he left early so he could practice at home.

Mickelson said in a statement:

  • I was scheduled to return to San Diego after my 2:30pm press conference Tuesday. I came back Monday...my daughter Amanda is speaking at her 8th grade graduation ceremony and I always planned on being here for that, but since it was raining so much Monday and we didn't know if we'd even be able to play a sloppy course, I came home last night to practice in great weather on my range and greens. I'll be ready to go Thursday.

The ceremony is scheduled to take place in the late afternoon Wednesday in California, and Mickelson plans to return to Merion (in Pennsylvania) sometime overnight. He has a 7:11 a.m. starting time on Thursday off the 11th tee (4:11 a.m. California time)

As CBSSports makes clear: say the graduation ends at 5 p.m. on Wednesday (8 p.m. in Pennsylvania) -- Mickelson will probably eat a cookie and drink some juice at the after-party and be out the door by 6:30 p.m. (9:30 p.m. in Pennsylvania). It's a 4 1/2-hour (or so) flight.

Even with a private jet, like I'm sure Mickelson has. He will hit the tee box like any sleepy dad would! To that we say, go Philly Mick, you're doing things #DadsWay!

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photo credit: zzazazz

Just Be a Dad

This is a guest post by Clay Brizendine. Clay is a CPT, a personal and corporate trainer, father of two daughters and author of Shoebox Letters – Daughters to Dads. Follow Clay on the web and Twitter. Interested in guest blogging for NFI? Send us an email.

Screen Shot 2013 06 05 at 8.06.24 PMA good friend of mine, Kash Shaikh, is starting a movement called #besomebody. What is it? In his words, ‘whatever you want it to be.’ He’s starting to get good momentum, and as I see and hear more about it, it got me to thinking about the ways in which I want to #besomebody. One of the biggest? In my role as dad to my 2 daughters. In Shoebox Letters – Daughters to Dads, I point out nine key themes that can direct you to being the best dad you can be. The question is – how will you use these to #besomebody? Use Father’s Day as a time to reflect on what it means to you to be Dad.  

Love Unconditionally
I am very much a believer that strong foundations are what make the impossible possible. Loving your daughter unconditionally turns dreams to realities. It unlocks potential. It makes trying new things without fear-of-failure something that your daughter does rather than just thinking about. Loving unconditionally sets the strongest foundation for a unique bond between dad and daughter.  

Be Patient
How can any of us grow if we’re not stretched beyond what we’re capable of today? Patience is truly a virtue, and as a parent, it’s tested. It’s downright hard sometimes to be patient with your daughter when your job, others in your family, and other priorities all comingle. Patience is further tested when it’s hard to see an end in sight. But the bigger picture tells us to have faith, to be patient, and to recognize the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t as far away as we think.  

Be Mindful
Being your daughter’s dad is an art, not a science. With no manual, we test some things, see if they work, and then try again. Sometimes we work so hard over here… that we forget about what’s over there. Sometimes it’s by choice, and sometimes by accident. But in either case, as a dad, it’s our job to be mindful of our actions and the consequences that can come from them. 

Be Amazing
A dad is human. A dad is a person. You’re not just a dad. You have interests & hobbies, likes & dislikes. Some of those revolve around your daughter, and some of those were formed long before she came along. Letters in the book tell the stories of dads who played what is sometimes the hardest role to play as a dad – themselves. What came from that was… well, amazing.  

Be THE Example
Hundreds of books have argued over what the exact traits are of great leaders. Parents are the leaders of their family, and what has shown to be true through countless generations of these leaders is that setting the right example is critically important. Walking the talk, living your ideals, and recognizing that actions speak louder than words is a sure-fire way for you to have a profound influence on your daughter.  

Be There and Be Accountable
Themes that naturally arose from these letters – unconditional love, patience, being amazing, and setting the right examples – are all challenging enough for a dad. They’re even harder to do when dad isn’t around.  

Be Dependable
de·pend·a·ble. Adjective: Trustworthy and reliable. Synonyms: reliable – trustworthy – trusty – sure – certain – safe. Being dependable is more than just showing up… it’s being there when it counts to your daughter, creating a sense of security. When she can’t count on anything else, as will happen on occasion, she needs to know she can count on you.  

Be Their Hero
Being a hero to your daughter takes everything you have as a dad. But how would you know if you lived up to that billing? You’re on the right path if your daughter describes you like some of the ones from the book describe their dads.  

Love Forever
Love Unconditionally. Be Patient. Be Mindful. Be Amazing. Be THE Example. Be There and Be Accountable. Be Dependable. Be Their Hero. Why? So that when you’re gone, you can Love Forever.

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Date with Dad: What Makes it So Special?

This is a guest post by Angela Patton. Angela is Founder of Camp Diva, which organizes "Date with Dad"; a father-daughter dance connecting fathers to their daughters while in prison. Follow Angela on Facebook and Twitter. If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.

I was searching the internet one day for images of fathers and daughters dancing and came across a picture of a father and daughter at a dance that looked like it was from the 60s. It reminded me of something I knew all too well…father-daughter dances are nothing new. They’ve been going on for decades, centuries even. I remember attending one with my own father when I was a little girl. So I asked myself, what makes our (Camp Diva’s) dance so different? What’s so special about the Date with Dad Dinner and Dance? 

camp diva angela patton1) How it began?
One day, I was having a conversation with my girls in Camp Diva. One shared how smothered she felt by her father’s attention, while another shared how much she wished her father, who she hadn’t heard from in years, would pay her any attention at all. This led to a deeper discussion about their various ‘daddy issues.’ And while they all had different relationships with their fathers, they all wanted better ones. So I asked them how they thought they could help themselves, and other girls, develop healthy relationships with their fathers. The reply:  “a dance!” So the “Date with Dad Dinner & Dance” began with the girls doing much of the planning. They spoke. We listened. In the end, we gave them what they said they wanted…quality time with their fathers.

2) We Have Fill-In Dads!
A single mother in Rhode Island complained her daughter was prevented from attending a father-daughter dance. Well, not to worry, Date with Dad has Fill-In Dads! Among the 20 who attended our first Date with Dad in 2008 was a girl whose father was deceased. After helping to set up for the event, the husband of one of our volunteers saw the girl, walked over to her, and asked her to dance. He ended up hanging out with her for the entire evening. Both had a great time, and he volunteered to come back the following year—starting a tradition of “Fill-In Dads” at the Date with Dad. Not having a father or father-figure doesn’t exclude girls from attending.

3) We Go To Prison!
One year, one of the Camp Diva girls told the others she would not be attending the dance because her father was incarcerated. So the girls suggested bringing the dance inside the walls of the city jail! They wrote a letter to the sheriff, the sheriff said yes, and so began “A Dance of Their Own,” which gave 18 incarcerated fathers the chance to connect with their daughters outside of normal visiting hours—minus the glass wall and telephone—enabling them to hug and hold their daughters. No one is left out of the Date with Dad experience.

4) It is Open to ALL!
Traditionally, many father-daughter dances are attended by members of a certain organization, or students in a particular school, of a certain age group. But Date with Dad invites girls, and women, of every age to attend; thus, bringing together women and girls of various backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, and socio-economic statuses, from different areas. Younger girls also get the chance to see older women with their fathers, modeling what they hope will be their future relationships with their own fathers. An equally diverse group of men also come together, from blue collar to professional, single and weekend dads, as well as full time/married dads. Again, the men have a chance to network and connect with each other, and share their trials and triumphs as fathers.      

5) Our Partnerships
We don’t want fathers and daughters to come to the Date with Dad simply to eat, dance, and be entertained. We want to help them connect with each other, heal their relationships, and get them going in the right direction. We want to connect them with community resources to help them strengthen their relationships. To that end, we have cultivated partnerships with various organizations committed to providing that assistance. In addition, we utilize the Richmond Fatherhood Initiative’s “Inside-Out Dads” curriculum for our “Dance of Their Own.” The fathers in the city jail go through the program before and after the dance. Our partners have also fostered within us the desire and opportunity to help others to replicate our model and make changes in their communities. Our next stop: Norfolk, Virginia. It is our hope to expand nationally, as well as internationally, as the issues connected to fathers and daughters are universal.

So you see Date with Dad is not just any father-daughter dance. It’s more than a dance, more than an event. It’s an experience. It’s part of an ongoing conversation between fathers and daughters, or at least the start of one, and it is making a difference!

See Angela's TedxWomen Talk about "A Father-Daughter Dance...in Prison":

Question: How do you connect best with your child?


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