7 lessons to teach your daughter


by Ben Fanning

As I was driving away from dropping my daughter off for her first day of school, I noticed a boy push her down on the playground.  

I slammed on the brakes and considered running onto the playground to help her up and recommending the boy be spanked.  My wife laughed at my reaction and said, “Ben, how would you handle this differently if she were a boy?”  

Reality check!  My traditional father role as protector and provider came very naturally, but there was another role even more paramount...teacher.  

The truth is that you’re always teaching your daughter something. The question is “are you consciously choosing what you’re teaching”?

My impulse in that moment was ‘to save the day’, but I contemplated if that was the life lesson I really wanted to teach?  When I asked her teacher about the incident, she said they had addressed it.  My daughter didn’t seem to even remember “the push” and couldn’t wait to go back the next day.


 Sometimes allowing the space for your daughter to have a learning experience is the lesson.  Here are seven more life lessons every dad should teach his daughter:

#1 How to say “No” – Ever tickled your daughter and she said ‘stop’, but you kept tickling?  Honor her “no” by actually stopping immediately. Ever forced your daughter to kiss and hug old aunt Gertie even when you knew she didn’t want to? Teach her that she has control over her own body and that her affection is hers to give alone.  Demanding obligated affection can have serious consequences down the road. Stand up for your daughter in front of those who insist upon affection. She should get to choose.  

Try this: The next time you’re at a family event with your daughter, let her decide who gets her hugs.


#2 How to enjoy work – Your daughter’s foundational beliefs about work will come from you.  How you choose to talk about work at home can make the difference between her selecting a career she is passionate about or ending up in a job she hates.  

Try this: When you describe your work to your daughter, choose to say, "Daddy ‘gets’ to go to work, instead of "Daddy ‘has’ to go to work.”  


#3 What to look for in healthy relationships – How you treat and discuss women affects how your daughter sees herself and will mold what she looks for in a partner.  Be aware your daughter is learning from your subtle behaviors. 

Try this: Reflect on your last three conversations with your partner.  How are they modeling a future relationship for your daughter?  


#4 How to lead the way – Your daughter is never too young to lead.  Get her accustomed to leading, and she’ll be more confident in this role as she gets older.  Make sure she knows that you think her ideas are important.    

Try this: When you’re exploring a new city, it’s tempting to walk in front and let her follow. Instead, let your daughter have the thrill of reading the map, deciding on the direction, and walking in front.  If you get a little lost, you can always course-correct.


#5 How to be herself – There is a common stereotype that women should avoid confrontation.  This can lead to her never being comfortable expressing anger or disagreement.  

Try this: The next time your daughter is angry, encourage her to express it by listening to her instead of trying to change it.


#6 You don’t need to be perfect – There is plenty of pressure from society to be the “perfect” woman.  This unrealistic pressure can hold your daughter back from taking strategic risks in life and lead to hiding her mistakes instead of learning from them.  

Try this: Make a list of 3 mistakes you made as a kid and what you learned from it.  Share one in your next conversation with your daughter.  


#7 She has an inner warrior – Instead of defaulting to immediately fixing the problem, seek opportunities to help your daughter develop resilience (a predictor of long term success).  The next time your daughter brings a problem to you, resist the urge to immediately solve it. Ask her how she can address it.  

Try this: Share stories with your daughter about strong women…not just strong men. For a book of real stories of strong women try, Rad American Women by Schtaz and Stahl.  I’ve been reading this to my daughter, and it’s been inspiring. 

Laura Olsen

Houston, TX