Valentine's Day: Dads and Daughters

Celebrate the special daddy-daughter bond on Valentine's Day.

Daddy’s little girl. Those three words convey feelings of protection, and a very special bond that often exists between fathers and daughters. A dad is the first and most important man in his daughter’s life, and with her father’s attention, guidance and instruction, a girl can grow into a confident woman with a strong sense of self-worth.

Valentine’s Day most often is celebrated between women and men, moms and dads, but it’s also the perfect time for fathers to reflect on the role they are playing – physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually – in their daughter’s life.

"Your daughter needs the best of who you are: your strength, your courage, your intelligence and your fearfulness," says Dr. Meg Meeker, a pediatrician, nationally known speaker and the author of "Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters."

Three local dads weigh in with some things fathers should and shouldn’t do in order to protect their daughters, while also guiding them into becoming self-confident women.

Make an Investment of Time, Attention

The best thing a father can be for his daughter is there – offering her his presence, his time and his love. Greg Spain of Huntersville says he tries to support his three daughters in the things they naturally enjoy doing.

"Shannon, Stephanie and Summer have their different areas of interest," says Spain. "I don’t want them to do what I think is best for them — I let them figure what they like to do, or want to be for themselves, and then I try to support them any way I can."

Whether girls enjoy playing with dolls or building forts, shopping or sliding into home base, good dads spend time with their daughters and don’t question if the activity is too girlie or too boyish. Research has shown well-adjusted girls have both feminine characteristics (an ability to express emotion and sensitivity to others’ feelings) and masculine attributes (assertiveness, ambition and independence).

Spain says fathers should offer lots of physical affection, too. "Show them you love them; pick them up and hug them," he says. "And tell them you love them. To this day, I still enjoy going into each of my girls’ rooms and kissing them and telling them goodnight."

He also provides his daughters with guidelines, but tries not to smother them. "I think if you mercilessly rule over your kids, it only drives them to turn toward things you don’t want them to be involved with," says Spain.

Charlotte resident Marlon Smith, father to Deja and Jade is thinking ahead when it comes to his youngest. Smith says he is committed to getting to know Jade’s friends and their parents. "There will come a day when her friends will have a major influence on what she thinks, says and does. To help ensure Jade maintains a positive self-esteem and Godly values, I will get to know her friends and their parents," says Smith. "My goal as Jade’s father is to instill principles that will have her make the ‘right’ choices when her friends are peer pressuring her to do something else."

Be the Man You Want Her to Marry

Whether by intention or accident, fathers send a message, and daughters see it, hear it and accept it, says Colin Pinkney, a Charlotte father of six (four of whom are girls).

Therefore, dads need to model for young girls the kind of man they want they daughters to date and eventually marry. "They get from their dads the image of who they will marry," says Pinkney.

In her book, Meeker cautions fathers, "The man you see at the other end of the aisle will undoubtedly be a reflection of you — be that good or bad. It’s the way it is: Women are drawn to what they know."

Oftentimes, girls grow up to marry men who put their wives second, according to Meeker. Dads who are always in constant pursuit of "more" (working 60-hour weeks for career advancement, striving for a bigger bank account or letting their gaze fall on prettier women) send the message that career and money are more important than relationships.

Smith says he’s trying to "walk the talk," by intentionally modeling the type of behavior he wants Deja and Jade to hold as the standard for their future husbands. "My daughters must see how I spend quality time with their mother and with them. … Time is our most precious commodity. If money is lost, it can be earned again, but once a minute has passed, it can never be regained," says Smith.

As each Valentine’s Day comes and goes, a father watches his little princess grow up a little more. And then suddenly, she’s gone — into the arms of another Prince Charming. Meeker says that if Dad has done his job well, his daughter will have chosen another good man to love her.

But she offers this bit of hope, telling Dad the new man in his daughter’s life "will never replace you in her heart, because you were there first. … and that’s the ultimate reward for being a good dad."

Lee McCracken author, freelance writer and former associate editor for Charlotte Parent magazine.