3 Things Little Girls Need From Their Fathers

Joyce McFadden outlines ways fathers can be more communicative with their daughters about sexuality.

Photo credit: istockphoto

1. She needs you to respect her body and its capacities.

When she’s little, don’t avoid using the correct names for her body parts. I saw a discussion about this on “The View,” and one of the perspectives was that children are too young to know such “adult” terms. But they’re not adult terms. They’re anatomical terms. They contribute to self-knowledge, which contributes to well-being. A study in the journal Gender and Psychoanalysis found that preschool-age girls were more likely to have been taught the word “penis” than any specific word for their own genitals. That isn’t fair and it isn’t right. If you don’t call her elbow her “Over There,” then don’t refer to her vulva as her “Down There.” When we do that, we only stigmatize those parts and make it even harder for our girls to feel pride and ownership over them. And if you’re uncertain about the anatomical terminology, invest in the two minutes it will take you to Google it. Your daughter’s body image is well worth those 120 seconds.

2. She needs to feel close to you throughout your lives together.

Don’t go MIA or withdraw from her once she starts to sexually mature. I believe the psychology of this common paternal phenomenon is rooted in how basic it can feel to some men to view women primarily through a sexualized lens. (As Billy Crystal jokes, “Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place.”) It can be difficult for men to go from parenting a pre-adolescent girl to finding themselves the father of a young woman with curves.

3. She needs you as a role model for how she should be treated by boys and men.

No matter her sexual orientation, your daughter will live in a world with boys and men. Pay attention to the way you address her as well as to the way you talk about women. Be thoughtful in the way you speak to your sons about girls and women, and set limits on appropriate language. The tone you set in your home can either negatively complicate how she believes she deserves to be treated by the opposite sex, or it can ground her in her right to be treated respectfully.

We're having a conversation about the changing roles of men in the 21st century. Main site is https://goodmenproject.com Email us info@goodmenproject.com

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