As she approaches adolescence, she hears that it’s unattractive to recognize your own needs and speak up openly for them. People (sometimes within her family) begin seeing her as a sexual object rather than as a person. She begins to wear the gender straight-jacket that squeezes out her breath while rewarding her more for her looks, passivity and being soft-spoken than for her passions, insights and beliefs.
Fortunately, we can help address many of these problems. Since the father-daughter relationship is one of her most important ones, we are in a unique position to counter these negative cultural messages by encouraging our daughters to speak up and rewarding them when they do. The best way of doing this is to actively listen to our daughters.
When we turn our attention to what a daughter says, does and cares about, we show her that a crucial man in her life—her father—cares about who she is, above all else. When we respect what our daughters’ voices say, we build up their inner strength.