As dads, we often serve as the first male role models for our daughters, shaping their worldview of how men interact with those around us, how we process (or don’t process) our emotional selves, and how we show what we truly value. What fathers do to and with our daughters is important, of course, but what’s arguably just as important is what we say to them (hello, words of wisdom!). Here are 10 things every dad should say to his daughter.

photo: Kipp Jarecke-Cheng

1. I’m so grateful that I get to be your dad.
In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s easy to forget to express gratitude. Letting our daughters know how lucky and proud we are to be their dad can remind them that we are there for them and that we don’t take our role for granted.

2. You can grow up to be anything you want to be.
Despite all of the progress that has been made in breaking down social and economic barriers for women around the world, studies show that gender roles persist and continue to be established at a very early age for both girls and boys. Fathers can help to combat the straitjacketing effect of gender roles on girls by reminding our daughters that they can grow up to become whatever they set their minds on, even President of the United States.

photo: Caroline Hernandez via Unsplash

3. Your mother/father is my best friend.
Modeling a strong and positive relationship with our spouse directly affects the kinds of relationships that our children pursue with their friends and peers now as well as later in life. Daughters with fathers who respect and cherish their spouses will mirror that behavior in the relationships that they have in their childhood and beyond.

4. I’m sad.
Don’t be afraid to let your daughter know when you’re feeling down. Studies have shown a direct correlation between a parent’s ability to express emotion and a child’s social competence. A parent’s expression of positive emotion toward his child is generally associated with better social development for the child. Conversely, a parent’s negative emotional expression and poor social development can adversely impact the emotional and social development of a child.

photo: Carly Rae Hobbins via Unsplash

5. Let me tell you a secret.
Share a secret with your daughter. She’ll appreciate your candor and vulnerability. And maybe she’ll share a secret of her own with you.

6. Let’s play football.
As adults, we sometimes forget that play is an essential part of childhood. For dads, we can sometimes feel more comfortable rough-housing with our sons, but our daughters want to get in on the action, too. For fathers of daughters, there’s no reason why we can’t toss a football with our daughters.

photo: Gift Habeshaw via Unsplash

7. Do you want ice cream for dinner?
Sometimes having ice cream for dinner is the right answer to any question.

8. What do you think?
Really ask her what she thinks. You might be surprised by her answers.

photo: Kelly Sikkem via Unsplash

9. What do you want to do?
Ask your daughter what she wants to do on a father-daughter date. There are plenty of ideas to choose from.

10. I love you.
Tell your daughter that you love her every day. Tell her multiple times a day. Tell her even when she thinks it’s corny. Tell her because you do.

—Kipp Jarecke-Cheng

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