Moms who constantly supervise daddy/daughter time and tell their husbands how to do things are just undermining their husband’s confidence as a dad.
When that confidence is destroyed, fathers pull away from the relationship, says Dr. Linda Nielsen, author of “Between Fathers and Daughters.”
“The father will naturally spend more time with the daughter if he is confident that it matters and that he is a good father.” Her advice: leave fathers alone with their daughters. “Build his confidence by leaving him to do things his way.”
Here are a few suggestions:
The earlier a father spends time alone with his daughter, the stronger the bond.
“A lot of dads want close relationships with their daughters, but they don’t know how to get it,” says Barb Lirtzman, a counselor at North Shore Wellness Services in Northbrook. “Sometimes all it takes is a few ideas.”
- Coach your daughter’s athletic team.
- Teach her the same skills that he would teach a boy (how to mow the lawn, change a tire and use a screw driver).
- Establish rituals (read to her at bedtime, keep a regularly scheduled lunch date and plant a garden each spring).
- Share a hobby
Talk to your husband without pointing a finger at him
Women can show their husbands how important the father/daughter relationship is by sharing their own experiences as a daughter—the good, the bad and the ugly, Dr. Nielsen says. It indirectly sends a message that dad is important.
Deerfield dad Jay Zwart has always been in charge of doing school projects with his children, Elizabeth, 16, and Nick, 15, because he’s good at it. His wife Lori has homework duty and they never interfere with each other’s responsibilities.
“It’s not nagging if you highlight your husband’s strengths,” he says. “Here’s something you’re good at, why don’t you do this with our daughter?”
When Elizabeth was young, she and Jay spent a weekend working on an Aztec Indian diorama. While they molded clay people, cut and sawed wood, they laughed and had meaningful conversations. They still have the diorama as a reminder of that special weekend.
Make lasting memories
Dan Bulf overheard a pregnant mother reminiscing with her elderly father about the fun they had participating in the Adventure Guides program at the Evanston McGaw YMCA. At that moment, Bulf, the program’s coordinator, felt like his personal mission of “creating stronger fathers” had been met.
Jay and Elizabeth Zwart show off the project that holds special memories for them.