8 Practical Tips for Dads to Grow Strong Relationships With Their Daughters

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About Brendan Malone

Brendan Malone is a married father of four from New Zealand. He runs his own organisation called LifeNET, which focuses on leadership, values and ethical concern. As part of this work he regularly speaks to groups of men about the importance of living authentic masculinity. In the days after the devastating February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand he and a friend started a successful citizens' initiated earthquake relief effort that drew together thousands of volunteers and ended up suppling several hundred tons of food, water and other essential items to the hardest hit ares of the city via helicopters and road convoys. True to his Irish heritage, Brendan plays semi-regular Irish music gigs and boxes three nights a week for the fitness and challenge of it. Find Brendan blogging at The Leading Edge Blog, or on Twitter @LifeNETnz


  1. I think telling your daughter she is beautiful (frequently) reinforces the idea that her beauty is the only thing that is important for women. Tell her she is smart or funny, comment on her qualities that make her who she is, not about what she looks like. It’s like when I hear about a girl/young woman/woman dying tragically they always say “she was so beautiful” and usually near the beginning of the statement. It makes me cringe. I know my dad thinks my three sisters and I are beautiful, and has acknowledged it, but not every day or anything. As an adult sometimes he would tell me I looked nice as I was leaving for work. I think it’s kind of creepy for dads to constantly commenting on their daughters’ appearance. Daddy/daughter ‘dates’ seems a little creepy as well. If my dad called when him and I went to a store or out to lunch, to the park, wherever a “date” I would have been legitimately creeped out.

    • I agree with this – or rather, I agree in the sense that I don’t understand the focus on “beauty”, even in the all humans are beautiful sense. I find it just as important to tell my daughter that I think she’s smart, clever, strong, a great friend, a great person, and so on. And I do tell her all those things, just as I tell her I think she’s beautiful.

      I think it’s important that we help our children develop a positive and self-loving body image. Doing so takes much more (and mostly something different) than saying “you’re beautiful”.

      About the “date” thing, I guess I just don’t get this American focus on dates. I also don’t believe kids (esp. young kids) need you to set plan one-on-one time next Wednesday; they need one-on-one time right now, they need you to make yourself available as things develop. I take my children to the park, to the playground, out shopping, to brunch at a neighborhood café, at the drop of a hat. Or we make time to cuddle with a book, watching a movie, whatever. It’s not a date – it’s just time together. Frankly, making it a “date” make it sound as if having your dad be there for and with you is somehow special, a treat, something exceptional. I don’t want my children to think of time with me that way.

  2. Wonderful post, takes me back to the days when my girls were young. I can now enjoy them more as they are older because of the special memories we made. Thank you.

  3. Atypical obviously didn’t read the paragraph that was written underneath the title of the suggestion.

    • I obviously DID read the paragraphs. If I hadn’t I wouldn’t have formed the opinion that I did based off my own experiences, nor would I have felt the need to share my opinion. Did you read it?
      Regardless of “why” you’re telling your daughter that she is beautiful, you’re STILL doing it….and therefore reinforcing the idea that her “beauty” is the most important thing about her.

  4. Brad Brock says:

    Great article! I do many of these with my daughter, great tips

  5. Brendan, I like you post – thinking about how to be involved with your children is always a great thing. I particularly like your #8. If you bring your kids along in day-to-day activities, you achieve two things: you find you have much more time to be together, and you find that many of the chores are things you can enjoy doing rather than having them be chores. I do all the cooking in my family, and I always had a great time with the kids in the kitchen. And you’re example of shopping for presents is a great one. Ditto more mundane things like shopping for a new dishwasher or a lamp or whatever – kids love feeling they can contribute.

    Some of the things rub me the wrong way (nicknames? Not so much. Dates? No, thanks.) but the things is,you should find what works for you and *do* those things.

    About #3, it’s my experience that kids quickly come to resent questioning by adults, and take to answering “what did you do today” with “nothing much” or “I don’t remember”. Why? Because such questions have a sense of being superficial, unless they come from a place of involvement. It’s often works much better if you already have a general idea and can talk about specific things. I’ve also found that if I tell them about *my* day (something funny that happened at the supermarket, a big dog I saw, a cool new gadget a co-worker bought, all depending on age), they will reciprocate and tell me something in return. It’s all about being engaged rather than going through the motions. Because none of these things work if you do them to get the items ticked off you checklist.

    • John A. Kennedy says:

      Amen Lars. We are not gadgets and checklists don’t work on any of us, especially children. I think Brendan does a good job of reminding us to regularly make time to fully engage with our children. Conciously or unconciously, children are excellent B.S. detectors and they know when our minds are elsewhere.

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