As Father’s Day approaches, dads are in the spotlight. They are celebrated for being great dads, but what does that mean to a daughter? As a gender expert here are my top ten things for dads to avoid when trying to raise strong girls:

  1. Don’t let your wife do all the housework. Watch the chores you expect of girls and boys. Are both sexes required to do dishes, set the table and do laundry? As a dad you can break down out-dated stereotypes that often cast females as slaves to the home. For one week act like her “ideal future husband and father.” This means sharing the housework, being attentive as a husband and a father. Remember you are her primary male role model. She watches everything you do.
  2. Avoid making assumptions about girls and boys. Notice your own unconscious implicit bias. We all have hidden ideas and assumptions about what boys and girls can do and many of these archaic beliefs are holding girls back. For example, do you think boys are stronger than girls? Do you think females should be CEO’s and presidents? Do you think girls are better at math or nurturing? Do you ever ask your daughter to “act like a lady?”
  3. Refrain from commenting on her body. Our society is brutal on girls. We criticize their hair, dress and weight all the time. Since your daughter faces a barrage of media, family and peer pressure to be beautiful and slim, parents need not add to this. Just by saying “you look cute” suggests that this is valuable and a goal she should aspire to.
  4. Don’t ask her to smile. Our entire culture places too much pressure on females to be nice and happy – all the time. We do not have the same expectations of boys and men. Dads must allow their daughters to express all emotions including sadness, anger and even hostility. She is only human. Preventing her from expressing these feelings causes long term harm to her self esteem. And don’t let her fall for the so-called tyranny of niceness where she curtails her own needs for others.
  5. Try not to buy only “girl” toys. Conduct an inventory of toys in your daughter’s bedroom. Are the toys soft and cuddly or are they intellectually challenging? Are they sporting or strength building toys? Make sure your daughter has the same access to the more “masculine” toys and particularly video games.
  6. Avoid rescuing and overprotecting her. Research shows that parents often rescue girls more often than boys. Often fathers think they are helping their daughters when they are actually creating “learned helplessness” where girls give up too early on tasks and stop taking reasonable risks. Give her many chances to fail.
  7. Don’t call her your princess. The stereotype of “princess” that is so readily accepted in our society is not healthy for girls. When you call her a princess you are placing many expectations on her about how she should dress and behave. Is your version of a princess tough and out-spoken or is she pretty and agreeable? When you watch Disney question whether the role models are truly positive.
  8. Avoid buying fashion magazines. Almost all fashion magazines are mostly advertisements that teach your daughter all the wrong things. The ads sustain the billion-dollar beauty industry whose main goal is to make your daughter feel ugly so she will buy more clothes and beauty products. It’s important for Dads to notice the power of magazines, TV, videos, movies and video games and limit some from their media diets.
  9. Never demean girls or women. Dads need to notice how the media sexualizes, objectifies and demeans girls. Realize the harmful impact on girls and notice the ways in which we tolerate it in our culture. The best way for dads to educate themselves about this is by watching two videos: ”Killing us Softly” and “Miss Representation.” As a dad, you must never harass, make cat calls or leer at girls or women.
  10. Never hide the topic of money. Dads have a central role it teaching girls about money and power. Set up a bank account in her name and teach her how to save and earn money. Remind her that she will be working for income all her life and money is necessary. Girls should never shy away from the talk of money, status and power. These are the currencies of success in our society today.