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. 

Dear Dad,

What do you think it is easier for a man to teach a little girl compared to a woman teaching a little girl.

- Anonymous 

Dear Anonymous, 

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)

P.S. I'm on Twitter and Facebook too. Come find me there!


  1. John, I think you're dead on right. There is always some man who demonstrates to a little girl (or a little boy for that matter) what males are. I believe it's important for the family to have both, but in the absence of both inside the family, your daughter would learn from someone how men behave and how they treat women. You are right to be focused, but not obsessed, by this simple fact of life. Good for her that your daughter has a father who gets the genuine value of women in the world and treats them as genuine equals to men. That's one of those daily lessons you don't specifically teach, but rather demonstrate by your own example. Hopefully, she'll also learn how to identify men like that for herself when she gets to the point of looking for one.

    For my part, I put in a vote that you teach her that cooking is women's work AND men's work. And that cooking for someone else is a sign of caring and companionship. Both genders can and should do it for the important others in their lives. This probably applies to lots of things, but for me this is a pivotal thing to learn and practice to be happy in life. Hope you get lots more responses as I find this a fascinating discussion.

  2. I don't know why, but this post brought me to tears. Maybe because I've never experienced or seen a father so interested and invested in his daughter other than practical ways like clothing, feeding and putting a roof over her head. Sons, yes. Daughters, never. I may be wrong, but I think that Father's can teach their daughters self-worth in ways mom's can't. The little girl you see in that picture, you will never see on a stripper pole or with a man who treats her abusively because she has a strong male role model guiding her into womanhood that is showing her how all males should treat her. Love this dad.

  3. As a parent of a 17 and 15 yr old boys and an 11 yr old girl I want to weigh in on what a son can learn from his mother. I hope that I have and continue to show my boys that every woman no matter the shape, color, and size deserve to be loved for their differences not in spite of them. I have taught them to launder their own clothes, cook their own meals, and how to clean properly. Not because I don't want to do it but because I don't want them to have to depend on a woman or expect a woman to do it for them. I have taught them the art of arguing and disagreeing with someone with out putting them down or to feel less than them (I hope). As the first woman they have ever loved and that has loved them unconditionally I hope that I have taught them how to be a better man.

  4. Fantastic Post - i was always worried about having a girl! Keep up the good work pal.