Self-Esteem: The Father’s Precious Gift to his Daughter

Father's gift of self-esteemA father is the gateway to his daughter’s future relationships with boys and eventually men or women. What is this precious gift that a father could possibly give his daughter?

When we think of child-rearing we often think of supporting the family through steady employment or cooking healthy meals for them. Keeping them clothed and medically cared for. We also can think beyond the basics. For example, reading them bedtime stories or having certain traditions during bath time. Taking them on family vacations and helping them with homework.

However, the most precious gift a father can give his daughter is to help her see the special qualities she holds that go way beyond her external beauty. I’m talking about what makes her so special in his eyes. Those qualities that are so endearing about her. It is the responsibility and “gift” of the father to help her see how special she is — and will be to the outside world — that she may not see and value on her own. These are qualities that the “right” man or woman one day will also see and treasure in her. These are the building blocks of her self-esteem.

Examples of special qualities that build healthy self-esteem:

  1. Her compassion
  2. How her eyes light up when she laughs
  3. Her sense of honor and doing the “right” thing, even when it is difficult
  4. Her sense of humor that makes others laugh so often
  5. A strength inside her that moves her through difficult times
  6. Her belief in herself to try new things and to grow
  7. A belief in herself that she does not need to hold back and can be all she is meant to be
  8. That the right person for her will ALWAYS be there for her, as is her father, no matter what
  9. That we are all human and imperfect and that she is “enough” just as she is
  10. Her willingness to try new things
  11. How intelligent and/or capable she is of doing many things

These are just some of the possible qualities a father can identify and nourish in his daughter. There are many more possibilities to consider.

Another special gift from the father to the daughter is a must.  It is the father who teaches his daughter to recognize what respect for her looks like and to expect this from a man, and nothing less. Of course it is respect from people in general, but it is especially important in a romantic relationship. If she feels disrespected from a man, it is the wrong man.  She should never settle for anything less in a relationship.

Often a father struggles with how to relate to his daughter in her adolescence, as she begins to consider romantic relationships. But this is when this gift of respect becomes most important, and he must “hang in there” for her to fully accept the value of this gift.

These are exceptionally special gifts for various reasons:

  1. She will consciously look for positive qualities in a mate that she recognized in her mother, father or caretaker.
  2. She will unconsciously look for similarities in a mate that were unhealthy or hurtful in her father, mother or caretaker in the hope of “fixing” that emotional pain from childhood. Harville Hendrix, Ph.D coined the word “Imago” to describe this process in his book entitled Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples. You wouldn’t want your daughter to learn through negative and hurtful experiences if it could be avoided.
  3. The father figure represents his daughter’s future relationships with men. He is teaching his daughter what men are like and the differences between a “healthy” man and an “unhealthy” man. He does this by modeling what he wants a man to be like for his daughter.
  4. The daughter will be handing this down to her daughter, and in a different way, to her son.

Result of an absent or unavailable father in a father-daughter relationship:

  1. According to Victoria Secundo in her book  Women and Their Fathers: The Sexual and Romantic Impact of the First Man in Your Life,  there was found to be a difference in daughters of emotionally unavailable or aloof fathers. She found that these women will seek out intimate relationships with men, yet they do not trust that the man will be responsive. As a result, these women always remain “on guard” to protect themselves. The unavailability of the father for the daughter also affects her self-esteem, which is lowered because she feels she is not valued. In addition, she seems to gravitate toward the mother for bonding. This means she is losing valuable learning experiences of how men operate in positive ways. Important: We are discussing the perceptions of the daughter towards the father’s involvement. For example, a father could be unavailable because of his work hours. However, the child does not see him reaching for her at other times when he could have.
  2. An absent or emotionally unavailable father likely learned this way of relating from his parents. Similarly, a father who is critical of his daughter was likely criticized by one or both of his parents. These negative lessons can be handed down through generations, repeating what we experienced in our childhood. Sometimes we are not aware of this and sometimes because of our own self-esteem issues we repeat what we were shown.

For more information check out these references:

Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter When She’s Growing Up So Fast by Joe Kelly

Why The Father-Daughter Relationship Is So Important by Susan Scutti.

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know by Meg Meeker.

About Susan Saint-Welch

Susan Saint-Welch LMFT has counseled couples and individuals for many years on issues such as dating, marriage, family drama, coping with difficult times, improving self-image and living the life you love. She provides psychotherapy for clients in California and Dating, Couples and Life Coaching for clients outside California through secure video conferencing. She has published numerous articles regarding these issues on her website, on and on

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