Dads and daughters

Linda Nielsen bookWhat is the key to raising healthy and independent daughters? Linda Nielsen, professor of adolescent and educational psychology at Wake Forest and author of the book “Between Fathers & Daughters: Enriching and Rebuilding your Adult Relationship” offers ideas to help dads focus on the “M&Ms” of raising daughters: men, money, mother, meaning, myths and misconceptions. For several years, Nielsen has taught a “Fathers and Daughters” for Wake Forest students.


Teach your daughter to make wise choices and get the best out of her relationships with men, Nielsen recommends.

  • “Anger” and “Assertiveness.” Teach your daughter that it’s a good thing for her to express her anger and to be assertive about her opinions and her needs. It may sound counterintuitive to a peaceful household but let your daughter practice on you while she is growing up. Don’t withdraw from her when she is upset. By encouraging her to express herself you will enhance her future relationships with the men in her life.
  • “Be herself.” Teach your daughter to remain true to what she values. Show appreciation for her talents and interests and she will be less likely to try to change who she is to win a man’s love or approval in future.
  • “Communication.” Teach your daughter to communicate directly with the men in her life. Share this lesson by not allowing her to communicate with you through her mother or others in the family. Her brother, her boyfriend, and her boss will thank you later.


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Teach your daughter how to become financially self-reliant. You may personally benefit from this when she graduates from college and is able to resist the urge to move back home. To help your daughter grow up without believing that a man (her father, a boyfriend, or a husband) is the key to avoiding financial hardships or increasing her financial status, teach her a simple equation: Good Grades + Educational Interests = Higher Earning Potential. Not needing a man for monetary reasons will allow her the freedom and confidence to make wiser choices about relationships – choices based on love rather than on a man’s money or status.  


Get mother out of your father-daughter relationship. Spend time alone with your daughter. Give her, and yourself, the gift of private emails and phone calls. Stop communicating through mother.


Encourage meaningful, personal conversations with you – and teach yourself how to have more meaningful, personal conversations with her. She needs to be an “equal opportunity” daughter who gives dad the same chance she gives mom to form a deeper bond. More meaningful conversations enable her to come to you throughout her life for advice and comfort on personal topics. Your perspective as a man may come in handy later in life on any number of topics ranging from depression, divorce, marital problems, dating issues, abusive relationships, to child-rearing issues of her own children.

Myths and misconceptions

Teach her to let go of the myths and misconceptions she has about men. Don’t let negative stereotypes limit your relationship.  Talk with her about these sexist myths and misconceptions. For example show her that men are willing to talk about personal issues, men can be empathetic and nurturing, men can communicate well, and men do love their children just as much as women.

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