By Dr. Dean Beckloff | Contributor
“Fathers be good to your daughters, daughters will love like you do.”
Several years ago, the song “Daughters” by John Mayer was a hit. It hooked us, perhaps because the simple words proclaimed that fathers have a big influence on daughters—for better or for worse. Therefore, fathers must be good to their daughters. And it’s true.
When my mom lost her dad, she mourned the loss for a long time. That one hurt her deeply, and she ached and hurt for months, maybe longer. Her dad was her hero, her strength, the man she looked up to, and whom she wanted—and needed—respect from. That respect and affirmation she received as a girl, guided her in her life and helped her to keep her life moving forward positively, even when times were tough. The loss was beyond huge—how do you lose someone like that? Eventually the mourning was worked through, and celebration of the life he had lived finally allowed her to pick herself up, and move on.
The affirming word of a father to a child is a strong word in his child’s life. Affirmation from a father gives strength and empowerment to a boy or girl and brings confidence in a world that can be a bit shaky at times. That affirming word can be a light that shines out into the future and brings great hope when times get rough.
They say that when daughters feel esteemed and respected and loved by their dad, they don’t need to go find that love somewhere else. And if a daughter does not have that good, grounded, deep relationship with her dad—and perhaps has one instead filled with tension—a girl is going to fill those needs elsewhere. And the elsewhere may not be the greatest of decisions. Fathers be good to your daughters.
And what about dads and their boys? Do boys also need their daddy? Of course. And of course, a boy is going to look to his dad to see how to grow up, how to treat people around him, how to treat women, how to live life, how to ultimately become a man. A boy looks at his dad to learn what is important in life. And gaining love and respect from his dad can propel a boy into manhood and into his own future relationships, including romantic ones. A boy learns from dad how to handle emotions and whether to deny those emotions. And the affirming word from a father, gives a boy deep confidence, a powerful strength to grow up, a great peace within that helps inspire hope when the going gets tough. Fathers be good to your sons.
My grandfather, my mother’s dad, left a great legacy. He was a man of affirmation. That was the kind of man he was—and that affirmation took root in my mother and me. It propelled me toward giving the gift of affirmation to my own children, and it gave me confidence to give the gift of affirmation to the kids I worked with as a teacher and then later as a child and teen counselor. The affirming word of a father can become a legacy that transforms lives for perhaps generations to come. It spills out into not only their family but also other folks along the way. Fathers can sometimes feel unnecessary and powerless in the family, but that is simply not true. The father’s words of affirmation bring hope to the souls of his children. For parents and their children, the legacy can be full of hope long past the life of a father. The legacy can also be filled with rage and anger, long past the death of the father.
So, what do we do with all that? Here are some points to consider:
Don’t withhold the powerful, confidence-building words of encouragement and affirmation to your child, boy or girl. Those encouraging words are powerful in what they bring to your son or daughter’s future.
Don’t give empty praise. Make sure that the affirmation is tied to reality—but then don’t hesitate to give it. Don’t fear that you’re building narcissistic pride. True affirmation builds strong hearts. Withholding affirmation builds twisted personalities.
Don’t forget to affirm with physical affection—hugs, squeezes, and pats on the back remind children they are loved and cared for, that they are wanted and needed in this world, and that they belong.
Sometimes words of affirmation shine a light on the future. Don’t forget to talk about future possibilities when affirming the child’s capabilities. It’s as simple as, “I bet you could be a great pilot on an airplane!” Helping kids to connect with a future as an adult helps them envision it and move toward it.
Remember the words from the song: “daughters will love like you do.” Fathers, when you love your daughter with a strong love full of words of affirmation, you give the daughter the ability to also love with a forever love. When you love and affirm your son—you send a man into the world to love deeply and protect fiercely.
Finally, how you regulate your emotions will also send your children into the world, either happily or regrettably. Love deeply with a love that regulates emotions. They will regulate their emotions much like they see you do. Send your kids into the future with promise rather than discord.
Fathers be good to your daughters and your sons. You are not sidelined in growing kids up well. Your influence is profound and deep—and will affect your children all their lives.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Dean Beckloff is a pediatric therapist who specializes in treatment for children and families navigating divorce and other life challenges. He is the founder of the Beckloff Behavioral Health Center in Dallas. You can reach him at DrBeckloff.com or 972.250.1700.