Strengthening Father-Daughter Relationships

Research shows benefits for girls who have strong bonds with dads

Father and daughter laughing together while sitting on a porch
Paul Bradbury / Getty Images

From the moment little girls are born, fathers play a key role in the psychological development of their daughters. In fact, when fathers are present in their daughters' lives, girls grow up with a healthy sense of who they are. They also are more confident and self-assured and have a clearer understanding of what they want in life.

A father's influence also is apparent in a young girl's dating relationships. As daughters grow up, it is natural for boys to come in and out of their lives; but the one male who will always set the standard for these relationships is her father (or a father figure). For this reason, the father-daughter relationship not only plays an important role as your daughter is growing up but in her future as well.

The Benefits of Father-Daughter Relationships

When you connect with your daughter, the impact can be significant. In fact, research suggests that daughters who have secure and loving relationships with their fathers:

  • Are more assertive without being aggressive
  • Are more likely to be admitted to graduate school and get a degree
  • Feel better about themselves
  • Feel more confident in relationships with men in general
  • Have better grades in school

In addition to these lifelong positives, nurturing that kind of relationship can be a great experience right now. Aside from the bond you will build with your daughter, you also set the stage for her future success. Here are some ideas for creating a loving and secure relationship with your daughter.

Begin the Day She Is Born

To create a positive relationship with your daughter, start on the day she is born. Get involved in her life from the very beginning by taking an active role in caring for your baby girl. The more time you spend with her early on, the easier it will be to continue building the relationship later.

As a result, be sure you are helping change diapers, spending time cuddling, and giving baths from time to time. You also should support her mom in any way you can. In fact, research shows that from infancy girls are developing ideas and drawing conclusions about the men in their lives. Be sure you are the kind of man you want in your daughter's life from day one.

Teach Her New Things

It is wonderful when you teach your daughter to ride a bike, throw a softball, to read, or even to do chores. But often the best things you can teach her are the things society might consider "guy things." Skills like checking the oil in a car, putting bait on a fishing hook, building a computer program, using a hammer and nails, or even hitting a golf ball will serve your daughter well.

Plus, learning these new skills will give her the confidence she needs to tackle anything. Regardless of what you teach your daughter, remember just allowing her to come alongside you and learn something new will have a significant impact on her self-esteem. And, it will improve your overall relationship.

Be Her Confidante

Many girls love to talk. They also tend to be more vocal than boys growing up. You can build your relationship with your daughter by listening more and allowing her to confide in you. Pay attention to what she says when you are together. Listen to what she is thinking about, dreaming of, and wishing for in her life.

And most of all, keep her confidence. When your daughter shares something private or bares her soul, don't repeat the story. Violating her trust will damage your relationship and reduce the chances that she will share with you again.

Plan Fun Time

Every father-daughter relationship should include daddy-daughter dates. These moments together don't have to be anything elaborate. Simply checking out the latest toys at the toy store, going out for ice cream, or attending the library's storytime are great options for daddy-daughter dates.

As she gets older, you can do something active together like playing miniature golf, hiking, biking, or swimming. You also could take your daughter to a play, a baseball game, or even a concert. Building fun memories in a positive environment can make a big difference in your relationship.

Be Involved

The hallmark of every great father-daughter relationship is a father who is actively interested and involved in his daughter's life. Being involved is about more than asking about her day. Instead, it means finding out what she is interested in or excited about and sharing in it with her.

For instance, if your daughter loves the stars, take her to a planetarium. Buy her a telescope. Research stars and planets together and talk about them. Share any new research that is released. The key is that you find out what your daughter's passions are and then share in them with her.

It's also important that you attend her events and activities. Put them on your calendar and try not to cancel. Never underestimate how important it is for you to attend her band concerts, talent shows, and science fairs. And, if she plays a sport, attend her games and even pick her up from practice a time or two. Being involved in your daughter's life allows her to feel valued and important to you, which in the end builds her self-confidence and strengthens your bond with her.

Love Her Unconditionally

Every young girl needs to know that she is loved even when she messes up. When she makes poor choices be careful not to ridicule, shame, or demean her. Instead, help her learn and grow. Use these situations as opportunities to teach her something. Just be calm, patient, and loving in the process.

Loving unconditionally does not mean that you do not discipline her. Be clear about what she did wrong, but do not focus or dwell on it. Instead, suggest how she could handle the situation differently in the future and reinforce the idea that although you might be disappointed, you still love her very much.

Validate Her Often

Modern culture and the media often give young girls the wrong messages. For instance, it is common for girls to believe that they need to be a certain weight, wear the right makeup, and dress a certain way to be beautiful. But, you can diminish those messages by validating the way your daughter looks.

When you tell her she is beautiful, you are emphasizing that she is perfect just the way she is. She doesn't need to fit a certain mold to be acceptable and worthy.

You also can emphasize the importance of being beautiful inside too. Compliment her when she does something kind for another person. Praise her when she does something courageous. And, be sure to validate her other qualities such as being strong, smart, and empathetic. Girls need to know that their dads believe in them and that they see them as more than just a pretty face.

Write Notes and Letters

Just about every little girl loves cards, notes, and letters. Take the time to write your daughter regular notes and letters expressing your feelings. Let her know how you feel about her, and tell her how proud you are of her.

These personal expressions will mean a lot to your daughter and are a good way of showing love. They are tangible examples of your love for her and something she will likely hold on to for the rest of her life. Your notes do not have to be elaborate. Just share from your heart and you will be fine.

Be a Great Example of Manhood

The way you treat other women makes a big difference in how your daughter will see men later in her life. Be respectful, kind, generous, and loving toward her and her mother, as well as the other female friends and relatives in your lives. Simple courtesy and kindness will go a long way in helping her know what to expect of the men in her life.

The first relationship your daughter experiences is the one she witnesses between you and her mother. If a father is physically or emotionally abusive, she comes to believe that abuse is a normal part of a relationship. She also will be more likely to experience dating violence in her own life.

If you are kind and respectful toward her mother, even if you are no longer married, this shows her the type of treatment she should expect.

Finally, if you want your daughter to eventually marry a man who is honest, faithful, and hardworking, you need to exemplify those things in your own life. Your daughter will believe what you do far more than what you say.

A Word From Verywell

Making time for your daughter and building a strong father-daughter relationship will pay big dividends over time. By investing in her and empowering her to become the best version of herself, you will be laying a solid foundation for your daughter to build upon. Plus, you will develop a strong bond and create a lot of fun memories along the way.

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  1. Sağkal AS, Özdemir Y, Koruklu N. Direct and indirect effects of father-daughter relationship on adolescent girls' psychological outcomes: The role of basic psychological need satisfactionJ Adolesc. 2018;68:32–39. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2018.07.001