Having been raised by my dad until the age of ten, I grew up without a female role model. When my father passed away, it all went downhill. But though I didn’t believe it would be, when my daughter was born, it hit me: having daughters is one of the greatest joys I ever could imagine.
I’m still so far from working out how to raise these girls. I’m always researching, learning, figuring things out, and messing up along the way. Thankfully, my wonderful wife does an incredible job of giving constant direction and feedback.
That being said, I’ve definitely learned a lot so far in this parenting process. Here are eight of my biggest lessons to date.
Lesson One: Teach Persistence. Expect Effort, Not Perfection.
In my experience, allowing my daughters to struggle, fail, and learn is so important. They have to know how to be able to pivot from one thing that isn’t working to another that might. As long as they know they can always rely on me, they feel empowered to push through, even when things get tough.
And it’s not just my personal experience; the research is very consistent about this: we should be praising effort, not the natural ability that our daughters may or may not be lucky enough to have in any particular realm.
A 2019 study by the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed that our children’s persistence is affected by our actions, successes, failures, and words. When we put in effort and talk with them about the value of doing so, young kids’ persistence is at its highest.
Lesson Two: Dream Big
Growing up without my parents, dreaming just wasn’t realistic. I had to focus on reality because it was on me to always figure out the next concrete step in life. But what I want my daughters to know is that there is a whole world out there full of possibilities. I want to give them permission to think bigger, dream higher, go beyond perceived boundaries, and use their imagination to be and do whatever they want to.
Lesson Three: Purpose and Service
As much as I love my girls, it’s important for me to teach them that not everything is about them. They should know that their actions have an impact on others, and that having and serving a purpose is vital. Whether it’s as simple as teaching them to give a little here and there, it all comes down to leading by example. I have to use my own actions to model the fact that giving to others is worthwhile.
Lesson Four: Optimism
Just like every parent, I want my children to be happy. Part of that is teaching optimism and resilience. That way, my girls will know that they’re allowed to take risks. They’ll set high expectations for themselves, but with a realistic approach. They will know to expect to struggle in the pursuit of greatness — and they’ll embrace that challenge.
Lesson Five: Self-Discipline
Parenting doesn’t mean that it’s always down to me to throw around rules and punishments, yeses and nos, “can”s and “can’t”s. In fact, the goal is not to have to do that. By helping my daughters understand the reasoning behind rules in the home and laws outside the home, I’ll teach them the self-discipline necessary to make their own good choices. They’ll learn problem-solving skills and see that actions have consequences.
Lesson Six: Do Each Other’s Hair and Nails
No little girl should have to sacrifice feeling groomed and clean and beautiful because her dad doesn’t know what’s what when it comes to things like hairbrushes and nail polish. Grooming is a big part of the daily routine, and a great opportunity for bonding and showing my girls that I care. It’s a time to be present together, to step up to a challenge, and to have irreplaceable quality time.
Lesson Seven: Eat Dinner Together
Speaking of quality bonding time, I want to have as many family meals with my girls as possible. The benefits of doing so are proven. From promoting language and social skills to developing patience and dexterity, it will help teach my daughters important life lessons. I’ll be able to model healthy eating habits that will serve my girls for life. And studies show that the more we eat together, the better my daughters’ mental health and grades will be. Sounds like a win to me.
Lesson Eight: Make New Traditions
Having grown up with very few family traditions, I’ve had a lot of time to realize just how important traditions are. To me, it’s normal not to have any special family customs, but my daughters need it. So bring on the game nights, family dinners, movies, and vacations. It’s all about making new memories. This time is so special. I don’t want any of us to forget it.