‘Your daughter loves you and needs you—don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re of secondary importance’

Sacks, a veteran of helping single dads, believes otherwise, “Your daughter loves you and needs you and you are good at raising her – don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re of secondary importance, because you’re not.” Elizabeth Donovan, M.A., writes for Parenting magazine and founded, a site geared to helping parents raise daughters. She recently interviewed me and several single fathers for a new piece on dads & daughters–Single Fathers Raising Daughters: How to build a strong, meaningful relationship. Donovan lists “10 Tips to Strengthen the Daddy/Daughter Relationship.” I thought this one was particularly good:

Be a Steady, Consistent Force. As a single father, you are the “rock’ in your daughter”s life. She will look to you for safety, love, and a sense of how men should treat her. When you say you will put her on restriction or give her a time-out, you must follow through. Never threaten to punish her unless you”re willing to do so. Otherwise, your daughter will learn that she can ‘take advantage” of dad and her behavior will worsen. By providing the right amount of calm and consistency, your daughter will grow to respect you – and herself.

For slightly different reasons, I’ve always thought that the follow-through on consequences is very important for boys, too, and I’ve kept that in mind raising my son who is now (gasp) about to finish 11th grade. Time flies. Donovan writes:

A recent study found a correlation between men daughters chose to date and the relationship they have with their fathers. If a girl”s father is supportive, loving, and respectful, she tends to chose someone who will treat her the same way. Having a father as a positive role model can help daughters feel beautiful, confident, and empowered.

That certainly sounds right but I don’t remember that study–does anybody know what she’s referring to? In the article Michael Long, father of a 23-year-old daughter, says that when his daughter was in high school, he knew who all her daughter’s friends were dating. I do that with my son and his friends, too, except that it changes around so quickly that you can’t keep track of the players without a scorecard. Another of the fathers interviewed, Martin Bearg, an attorney and single dad who raised two children, saw his daughter pass away from cancer at age 16. Ouch–I can’t imagine anything worse… The article can be seen here. My answers to Donovan’s questions, some, of which were in the article, are below. Q. How did you connect with your daughter? R. My favorite thing is when I put her to bed, tell her stories and she falls asleep in my arms. For the first nine years of her life, she fell asleep in my arms like that practically every night. That”s less common as she grows up, of course. One challenge is to stop treating her like she”s my little princess and start treating her more like a teen or a young woman. One way we interact in a more adult way is to talk about politics and history, both of which interest her. Apparently she listens and often voices her opinions–last night she told me that in her class they had been talking about the proposed LAUSD teachers” strike, and out of the blue her teacher called on her and asked, “I suppose your father has an opinion about it?’ Q. What is the most difficult part? R. There are certain things which boys and men find attractive in girls/women, things which are hard-wired and won”t change. I don”t want my daughter to ever feel that she isn”t attractive to boys or that she doesn”t have many opportunities to find love and companionship with boys. On the other hand, I don”t want to push her to be something she isn”t, or to make her feel that I want her to change or that she isn”t perfect just as she is (because, of course, she is perfect just as she is). Q. What is the most rewarding part of raising your daughter? R. A friend of mine said “A man never knows what love really is until he has a daughter.’ It”s totally true. The most rewarding part of raising her is just having her love me. For me, there has never been nor will there ever be anything better. Q. What words of advice can you offer other single dads raising a daughter? R. When she”s moody/hormonal/difficult, get in the habit of underreacting. Be a steady, loving father who she knows is always there for her but who also knows when to back off. You are the man in her life and every interaction she has with men throughout her life is going to be colored by her interaction with you. Your daughter loves you and needs you and you are good at raising her–don”t ever let anyone tell you you”re of secondary importance, because you”re not.

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