Fathers are super heroes when it comes to raising confident, secure daughters! Involved fathers can even help prevent the sexual exploitation of their daughters.
That’s the message that Dr. Tim Rarick shares at the United Nations, at national conferences on sexual exploitation and in his classes at BYU-Idaho.
He not only studies father-daughter relationships, but he has real-life experience – he is a dad to 3 daughters and a son.
This post is an abridged and edited version of ideas from Dr. Rarick’s presentation for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s White Ribbon Against Pornography Week in October 2017. Shared with permission.
Did you know fathers are a secret weapon for fighting sexual exploitation?
The importance of the father-daughter relationship is something that is extremely missed in the anti-sexual exploitation movement.
It’s only been in the last 10 or 15 years that we’ve been starting to study fathers and their unique contributions. Of course, I am in no way minimizing mothers! But there is a power (sometimes I call it a superpower) that many fathers don’t realize they have.
I think we’re really good working from the outside in as we combat sexual exploitation, but the role of fathers is all about the inside out.
Both mothers and fathers make unique contributions to their sons and their daughters. What fathers can do for their daughters is different from what mothers can do for their daughters, and the same goes for sons.
Many single moms are doing a wonderful job raising children. They balance feeding their family, taking care of their social and emotional needs and everything else. Single moms everywhere are raising strong, healthy children as they divide parenting or even when a father is not involved.
I also want to recognize what committed fathers can do.
Fathers don’t always do things the same way as mothers, but that doesn’t mean that one parent is less valuable than the other. We shouldn’t assume that dad’s ways of parenting are inferior because he’s a man. I think men get that message a lot when fatherhood is made fun of in sitcoms, ads and other media.
Daughters who have a loving, respectful, active relationships with their father often have an advantage over other girls. The daughter is now being empowered from the inside out. Linda Nielsen, who is the expert on these kinds of relationships, says that studies have shown that dad has a larger contribution on the daughter’s self-esteem than the mom does. The father also has a greater impact on his daughter’s ability to trust, enjoy, and relate well to the men in her life.
When Dads are involved with daughters, girls are far less likely to be sexually active as teens, less likely to struggle with self-worth, and much more likely to develop healthy relationships with men throughout her life. And they are 7 times less likely to become pregnant as teenagers!
We love how this Dove #RealDadMoments video celebrates the wonderful influence of fathers in their children’s lives.
What are the superpowers of involved fathers?
The amazing influence of dads on daughters is not complicated, although it takes commitment. Great things are rarely easy – that is why involved fathers deserve praise and gratitude! Fortunately, every dad who wants to have a lasting influence for good has these tools available.
1. They spend time
When children of varying ages are asked what they appreciate most about their fathers, the most common response is “He spends time with me.”
“In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time.” Dieter Uchtdorf
While special activities are fun and memorable, just being together to work in the yard, go shopping, eat dinner, or read a book are simple ways to build powerful bonds.
2. They lavish attention and affection
Dads often provide the necessities of life. That might include food, water, clothing, a modest home, and a good education. This is a good start, but don’t forget this universal human need: love.
Daughters need to hear that their father loves them. Compliments have a big impact – not only that dad thinks they are beautiful, but that he sees them as smart, creative, capable, strong and so many more powerful qualities! When fathers’ respect their daughters’ thoughts and actions, girls grow in confidence.
When girls become teenagers, that’s a time when dads sometimes distance themselves from daughters. Dads may feel, “Now my daughter is developing sexually and it makes me uncomfortable.” Uninformed parents don’t know what to do about it. But recognizing this dynamic can help dads decide to stay connected during the teen years when daughters will really need their guidance and love.
3. They teach social skills
Girls love to hear from fathers about dating, love, and building healthy relationships. Daughters who have a strong, positive relationship with fathers are more likely to form healthy relationships with men, and far more likely to develop a healthier view of intimacy and sexuality. Again, hitting the problem from the inside out so girls develop a healthier, stronger view of self.
4. They protect and defend
Super dads guard against intrusion of threats both from without and within the home. While they protect daughters from dangerous people and physical threats, today they also teach girls to be safe interacting online, to use technology wisely and to choose good entertainment.
Children benefit when both fathers and mothers teach their children what to do when they see pornography. Good Pictures Bad Pictures makes it easy!
Taking time for a fun one-on-one activity is one way that many dads direct some time, attention and affection to their growing daughters. Dr. Rarick shares this story:
After a lovely evening of going to dinner and a dance with my 11-year-old daughter Molly, she wrote me this note that I will always treasure:
I LOVED going to the Daddy Daughter Dance with you!! I love you so much! I did NOT think it would be so much fun! That was the best night EVER! Also thanks for taking us to Pizza Pie Cafe. That night could not have got any better. I just love spending time with you. I cannot express how much I felt my love for you, my gratitude, and my happiness! Words can’t say it. I love you! P.S. No one can dance like you.”
Fathers: the secret weapon against sexual exploitation
We could have a stranglehold on the porn industry. What if we didn’t feed it anymore because girls had the confidence to refuse to go into it? I know that’s oversimplifying it, but that’s my vision. Raising strong, healthy daughters needs to be seen as battling sexual exploitation.
Families are where real love and connection is fostered. Unfortunately, girls who don’t have that strong bond with their fathers are vulnerable to seeking attention from abusers, traffickers or pimps who are pretending to be somebody who cares about them.
Now, that that’s a common story I’ve seen. They get drawn into it because they think they’re going to make money or be a star. It comes back to wanting this attention. These girls who are struggling don’t have the skills to navigate the social media terrain. They’re just easy prey. No wonder they’re being exploited. I call it family exploitation.
When young girls have been victimized in the past by family members, they are more likely to believe that it is acceptable for strangers to exploit and abuse them. Why? Because they have developed a distorted form of love. They were never taught how to connect with themselves and with others. And girls with absent or disengaged fathers can have a distorted view of themselves in which they define their worth by using their bodies to get the attention they crave.
Fathers who follow the four ways to bond with their daughters will reap the rewards of connection and cherished memories over a lifetime. Time, attention and affection, social skills, and protection are gifts every dad can give. Their daughters will have a powerful start on a healthy, happy life in a challenging world.
That’s why anything that is pro-fatherhood is also anti-porn!
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