- Listen To Girls. I focus on what is really important—what my daughter or stepdaughter thinks, believes, feels, dreams and does—rather than how she looks. I have a profound influence on how my daughter views herself. When I value my daughter for her true self and take her seriously, I give her confidence to use her talents in the world.
Encourage My Daughter’s Strength & Celebrate Her Savvy. I help her learn to recognize, resist and overcome barriers. I help her develop her strengths to achieve her goals, help other people, and help herself. I help her be what Girls Incorporated calls Strong, Smart and Bold!
- Respect Her Uniqueness; Urge Her To Love Her Body & Who She Is. I tell and show my daughter or stepdaughter that I love her for who she is and see her as a whole person, capable of anything. She is likely to choose a life partner who acts like me and has my values. So, I treat her and those she loves with respect. Remember 1) growing girls need to eat often and healthy; 2) fad dieting doesn’t work; 3) she has her body for what it can do, not how it looks. Advertisers spend billions to convince her she doesn’t look “right.” I won’t buy into it.
- Get Her Playing Sports & Being Physically Active. Start young to play catch, tag, jump rope, basketball, Frisbee, hockey, soccer, or just take walks…you name it! I help her learn the great things her body can do. Physically active girls are less likely to get pregnant, drop out of school, or put up with abuse. The most physically active girls have fathers who are active with them!
- Get Involved In Her School. I volunteer, chaperone, read to her class. I ask questions: Does her school use media literacy and body image awareness programs? Does it tolerate sexual harassment of boys or girls? Do more boys take advanced math and science classes and if so, why? (California teacher Doug Kirkpatrick’s girl students didn’t seem interested in science, so he changed his methods and their participation soared!) Are at least half of student leaders girls?
- Get Involved In Her Activities. I volunteer to drive, coach, direct a play, teach a class—anything! I demand equality. Texas mortgage officer and volunteer basketball coach Dave Chapman was appalled by the gym his 9-year-old daughter’s team had to use, so he fought to open the modern “boy’s” gym to the girls’ team. He succeeded. Dads make a difference!
- Help Make The World Safe & Fair For Girls. This world holds dangers for our daughters and stepdaughters. But over-protection doesn’t work, and it tells my daughter that I don’t trust her! Instead, I work with others (especially other dads) to demand an end to violence against females, media sexualization of girls, Neanderthal stereotypes of boys, pornography, advertisers making billions feeding on our daughters’ insecurities, and all gender inequity.
- Take My Daughter To Work With Me. I participate in April’s annual Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day and make sure my business participates. I show her how I manage money. My daughter will have a job and bills some day, so I introduce her to the world of work and finances!
- Support Positive Alternative Media For Girls. Our family watches programs that portray smart savvy girls. We get healthy girl-edited magazines and websites like New Moon Girls (www.newmoon.com). I don’t just condemn what’s bad; I also support media that support my daughter!
- Learn From Other Fathers. Together, we fathers and stepfathers are walking encyclopedias of experience, expertise and encouragement. I share what I know and listen to the wisdom of other dads. I use and share tools like www.joekelly.org. I’m proud of being a Dad!
Adapted from Dads & Daughters®: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter, by Joe Kelly