Thursday, December 12, 2013
What can a dad can teach his daughter better than a mom?
I received a reader question a little while back, and since my answer became the length of a standard blog post, I figured I would share it here.
What do you think it is easier for a man to teach a little girl compared to a woman teaching a little girl.
I'm still pretty early in my parenting journey, so I reserve the right to amend this around the time my kids hit puberty, or any time before then. In general, I think men and women can teach boys and girls pretty much anything with equal proficiency. Sure, it might be slightly less awkward for a mom to teach her little girl to wipe from front to back, and a dad may have a slightly easier time teaching his boy the socially acceptable locations to pee standing up, but as any child of a single parent household can tell you, in a pinch a mom or a dad can do anything.
That said, we do have a mom and a dad in our house, and we do have a boy and a girl. To answer your question, here is where I feel my gender specific responsibilities lie when it comes teaching my daughter - at least for now.
I am not just a male in my daughter's eyes. I am the male. I believe that the way I treat her will be the standard by which she judges how other males throughout her life treat her. So while I may not have a list of male-specific lessons that I am in charge of, I do have the opportunity to teach through my example. That is a huge responsibility, and one I accept gladly. Here's how I try to honor it.
I listen to her, and I interact.
Sure. She's a three year old. She isn't the master of conversation that her mother may be. But to her, the Mouse-ca-tools that Toodles brings to help Mickey and Minney finish the Road Rally are really important. And if it is important to her, I want her to know it is important to me. I don't feign interest. I find interest. I ask questions, and I get into the story she's telling me. You'd be surprised how interesting Mickey Mouse Club House can actually be when viewed through the eyes of a three-year old.
I praise her accomplishments and her efforts more often than I praise how she looks.
My daughter is beautiful in every definition of the word. I don't hesitate to tell her that, but I also don't hesitate to praise how stubborn she is. I am quick to point out how curious she is about the world around her and foster that curiosity. I can see her struggle to figure things out. I watch her eyes when she is looking at a problem, and can almost hear her brain flexing inside that tiny little head. I want her to know that struggle is important. More important than being pretty. So we celebrate it.
I don't want her to ever doubt that she is beautiful, but even more so I want her to KNOW that she is capable and intelligent and independent. I want her to know that these qualities are not bestowed upon her by men, but also want her to see that a man who recognizes those qualities as positive and wonderful is the type of man she should feel comfortable having in her life.
I don't treat her or her mother differently because they are girls.
I don't worship her mom because she is a woman. I think putting women on a pedestal just because they are women is as demeaning as treating women like crap just because they are women. If I can elevate a woman based on her sex, then I can demean a woman based on her sex. I don't want my daughter to get the impression that I have that power. I don't. I treat her mom with respect and love because I respect her and love her as a person. My daughter probably doesn't see that right now, but she will over time. The best lessons are the ones that don't need to be taught, but are learned through daily example.
Anyway, that's all I've got so far. I get that this is incredibly oversimplified, but honestly, my daughter is pretty simplified right now. Like I said, she's only three. I am sure that things are going to get much more complicated as she gets older, and I will have to think about how my actions and choices affect her. The same goes for my son.
Stevie and I's parenting philosophy has never been to consistently be right, but to always strive to be less wrong. We think this is a good start, but we want to hear your thoughts too! Feel free to chime in in the comments - especially those of you with older kids.
Love, Dad (John)
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