- The Washington Times - Monday, June 14, 2010

In honor of Father’s Day, here are some thoughts on men and one of their most extraordinary legacies — their daughters.

I doubt that achieving a loving, nurturing relationship is a slam-dunk for any dad or daughter.

But it is worth the effort.

In her book, “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters,” Dr. Meg Meeker reminds fathers of the centrality of their role in the family and their special connections to their daughters.

“Your daughter gets up in the morning because you exist,” wrote Dr. Meeker, a pediatrician.

“The epicenter of her tiny world is you. Friends, family members, teachers, professors or coaches will influence her to varying degrees, but they won’t knead her character. You will. Because you are her dad.”

Dr. Meeker explains that daughters give their fathers an “authority” she gives no other man. Daughters care about what their fathers think of them.

“When she’s in your company, your daughter tries harder to excel. When you teach her, she learns more rapidly. When you guide her, she gains confidence,” wrote Dr. Meeker.

A daughter also “takes cues from you, her father, on everything from drug use, drinking, delinquency, smoking and having sex, to self-esteem, moodiness.”

Dr. Meeker’s book echoes the research about father-daughter dynamics. Daughters look to their fathers for “heroic” qualities — leadership, perseverance, courage and integrity.

Also, daughters also have their “starting point” for love in the relationship with their fathers. The obvious lesson is that a healthy, loving father-daughter relationship lays the best foundation for a daughter to marry a man who will treat her well.

“Every man who enters her life will be compared to you; every relationship she has with a man will be filtered through her relationship with you,” wrote Dr. Meeker.

What about fathers who are separated from their daughters, as in divorce?

Linda Nielsen, professor of education at Wake Forest University, has penned a book about father-daughter dynamics aimed at such situations, called “Between Fathers and Daughters: Enriching and Rebuilding Your Adult Relationship.”

Ms. Nielsen believes there are several “myths” that hamper efforts to keep father-daughter relationships intact even though the father’s relationship with the daughter’s mother has ended.

For instance, it’s a myth that fathers don’t long for closer, more emotional relationships with their daughters, she told the Council on Contemporary Families this year. Most fathers want to share their lives and be connected with their daughters, said Ms. Nielsen. Moreover, most daughters long for a more meaningful and closer relationship, too.

It’s also not true that dads are unable to talk about personal things. Yes, there are differences between male and female communication styles, but these differences are small. Fathers can be just as self-disclosing and communicative with feelings as their daughters, said Ms. Nielsen.

Finally, there’s a myth that fathers do not have as much impact on a daughter’s life as their mothers.

Studies show that fathers have as much — or more — impact on their daughters in many areas, especially their daughters’ relationships with men, their vocational achievements and their self-confidence, she noted.

Speaking personally, I don’t know any perfect fathers or perfect daughters. But over the years, I have met plenty of fathers who never gave up on their daughters, and daughters who never stopped trying to embrace their fathers. There are many quiet victories in our families.

I’ll give Dr. Meeker the last word: If a daughter “knows that you are there, dependable and full of love for you,” she tells fathers, “you will have taught her this great lesson: Life is good. Good men help make it so.”

Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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