Dad, do you remember the moment you first held your sweet newborn angel in your hand, and you swore to yourself, and to God, you would not let anything happen to her? That you would work to maintain your father-daughter bond for the rest of your life? Well, a strong father-daughter bonding strategy can ensure that your daughter’s relationship with you will survive the tumultuous teen years.
But it takes an active role on your part. Let’s talk about it.
As your baby girl was growing, the fun the two of you had was such good times, bike rides, swinging on swings, teaching her to do cool things like swimming and swinging a bat, and holding a pencil and writing her name.
Your bond was stronger than ever. She was daddy’s girl, and you lapped up the attention, devotion, and affection your sweet baby girl directed only to you. You were her favorite man!
Then a strange and horrible transition began to happen to your little girl. Around ten years old, maybe 11. A transformation beyond her control. She became aware of changes in her body, emotions, hormones, and all of the sudden things started to change.
Her self-awareness oddly changed something between the two of you. She started to feel disconnected from her father but had no idea why.
You started freaking out and asking your buddies at work about it, and story after horrible story began pouring in. They told you that this was normal, it was inevitable, your girl was leaving you for good and you were powerless to stop the tides of change.
Dads that always had a strong relationship with their daughters are heartbroken by this news.
Meanwhile, your daughter has started to feel distant emotionally, and she feels growing rebelliousness as a natural evolution of growing independence towards becoming an adult. The hormones altering her body and mind that no one even knows is working in the background, are responsible for shifts in her attitude and thinking and processing.
Awkwardness around her changing body is hard for her and for a dad who realizes his baby is becoming a woman and wants so desperately to stop the hands of time, so he doesn’t lose his baby girl.
The good news in all this is your friends were wrong. You can do something to stem the separation and division you both feel. You can pull your daughter back in. You can keep your bonds healthy, and you can have a friendship with your daughter in her teen years that will extend the rest of your lives.
The truth is, no matter what is going on in the background, how much she has already pushed you away, and how many times she has already hurt your feelings with her words and actions. Your teenager loves you, and your teenage daughter needs you, and your strong father-daughter bond, more than ever.
Girls still want to be close to their dads but don’t know what that is supposed to look like throughout the teenage years. Help them out by showing them they are still your girl no matter what is changing around and inside them.
Please realize just how crucial father-daughter bonding is to your child and your family. Girls do need their dads—all of their lives.
So how do you keep your father-daughter bonding game iron-clad?
We will explore the tips, tricks, and steps you can take to encourage your girl to give you a bit of the most precious assets she has, her time, attention, affection, trust, and respect.
In order to make that happen, you first have to give yours. So let’s start.
Father-Daughter Bonding Strategy 1 Give your daughters the gift of your TIME.
Nothing is more precious than time and intentionality.
Have intentional or spontaneous “daddy-daughter date nights.” I wrote about this for moms in a post called 7 Easy Mother-Daughter Date Ideas your Teenager will Love. Feel free to check out that post for some excellent ideas of things you can do with your girl.
I also have one for dads called 12 Daddy-Daughter Date Ideas that will delight your Teen.
Here are a few more Father-Daughter Bonding Activities that would work best with your teenage daughter.
Share what you love with your daughter
Let her grow an appreciation and get a glimpse into what makes your heart sing. What hobbies or interests hold a passion for you? And why do you want to share it with her?
Are you into golfing? Take her with you and show her how to play.
Are you into model trains? Invite her to join you at the next convention you go to see the awesome setups other builders concoct.
Are you into woodworking or sculpting? Are you passionate about racing or bowling? Do you love to go to the museum, are you into history? Is your hobby football, or watching baseball? Teach her the game and the stories of your favorite players.
Get my drift? Invite your daughter to learn why you love your hobbies so much and invite her to join you on your next hobby day out.
Share in her passions. Show your appreciation for what excites your daughter.
Now turn the tables. What does your daughter love the most? Is she into softball? Go to the field with her and work on her pop-flys while you toss some into the air.
Is she into art? Take her to a gallery or museum to bask in the beauty. Or go to a painting class together. Is she interested in tennis? Go down to the courts and play together, even if you stink, she will love spending time with you.
Maybe she is starting to run track for a team or pleasure, go for a jog together and share a memory from your high school days while you run up hills and get worn out.
Maybe she is into gymnastics, and there is no way you are going to attempt the pole vault. HAHA. Don’t worry, why not see when the USA Gymnastics team will be in the area or when a college tournament is happening near you and surprise her with tickets for the two of you.
Find what she loves and find a creative way to do those things together. Try to see her passions through her eyes and gain an appreciation of it for yourself. Even if you do it wrong, she will love that you tried.
Try out these daddy-daughter date ideas on your next daddy-daughter date day.
Father-Daughter Bonding Strategy 2 Give the gift of your ATTENTION
Remember when your little girl was a toddler, and she would act out to get your attention? The tantrums and mischief don’t look quite the same, but they kind of do if you pull back the curtain a bit. Give your daughter the precious gift of your attention.
Attention when she speaks to you, attention when she comes into a room. Not sarcastic attention. No one wants negative attention directed at them. Just genuine interest in what she has to say or what she is doing.
There will be plenty of days and moments when she will be so wrapped up in her teenage world that she won’t remember you exist. Don’t take offense to that.
You are a security blanket that is there when she needs you. Now say, she needs you, and you don’t pay her any mind. How is that going to make her feel? A chink in the armor. Not good.
So let’s try these tricks to give your girl the right kind of attention so she will be glad to see you.
When you come home from work…
Act like you are so excited to see your girls even when you are exhausted. And do not give them a guilt trip if they don’t run to you anymore. Instead, show them how excited you are to be home and run and find them and give them a kiss, hug, and ask them to open up to you about their day.
Your daughter might not have anything juicy to report. That’s fine. But she might just be waiting for you to come home so she can open up about something significant that happened that she didn’t think she could share with mom.
Be open and receptive. Knowing this is a routine will provide an opportunity someday if she can come to trust you. More on that later in Father-Daughter Bonding Strategy 4.
Take up a project together
Volunteering together is a wonderful way to do something worthwhile together and is a tremendous bonding experience.
Maybe take on a home project together where you can teach her a few useful life skills, like how to paint a room, or how to wash the car. Things she can take with her on her journey of life.
Speaking of life lessons, why don’t you teach your daughter how to cook or if she is good at it and you’re not, why not let her show you how to cook? It would be a fun and fulfilling father-daughter bonding activity.
Another excellent way to bond with your daughter is to talk to her about your favorite family traditions. Explain to her why the tradition means so much to you. And let her help you plan the next one when it comes around again.
Father-Daughter Bonding Strategy 3 Give the gift of your AFFECTION
Everyone wants to be loved, and affection can come in many different forms. Showing affection to your teen is like walking a minefield.
The teen years are tricky, and dads still think their daughters are their little girls with little girl bodies. But when a girl starts transforming into a woman, she is aware of every awkward hand placement, feeling, and vibe.
She’s just your baby, you’ve seen her naked thousands of times. You were probably there when she was pulled out of her mother. I mean, how many times have you cleaned her bottom from dirty diapers, drawn up baths, helped get her dressed? You are sworn to protect her from harm. She is your baby. You would never hurt her or knowingly do anything inappropriate to her.
She may be your baby, but she is not A baby anymore.
So, this is where you need to be careful and respectful of those heightened concerns of hers. Girls her age are aware of the horrific stories of girls who have experienced the trauma of a violation of their innocence. It is every girl’s worst nightmare.
You do not even want to come close to crossing any boundaries your child has put up of ways physical affection can now be deemed uncomfortable for her. If she ever says, “don’t touch me there,” or “don’t hug me that way,” or pulls away, or anything like that, stop and listen.
Do not get defensive. We know you didn’t mean to trigger your daughter. You’re just hugging her like she’s been hugged by you thousands of times before in her lifetime. What is different now?
She’s changing. Her body is changing; her boundaries and self-awareness are changing. Remember what she said or didn’t say. Honor that wish. Show her respect in this way, and she will trust that you always have her best interest at heart and will always protect her from harm.
This in no way means you cannot show your daughter affection, and I think this is where a lot of dads get lost. Just because you can’t, and shouldn’t, throw your arm across your daughter’s chest anymore when giving her a bear hug (because obviously, boobs are growing there now, dad!) does not mean you cannot show her affection in other respectful ways. Let’s explore this a bit.
There is a balancing act here. There will come a time when you need to ask to hold hands with your daughter, or “Can I get a hug?” versus just taking one. The transition involves inviting physical affection and respecting the answer. And it teaches her an extremely valuable lesson: “men (including my father) should ask for permission to touch me, and I have to power to grant it or not.”
This is an essential boundary that young women need to establish for themselves as they become women. And an important boundary all people should learn in respecting one another.
Think of it this way, when you ask to hold your daughter’s hand as you walk down the street and she grants it, how awesome do you feel now? Versus trying to grab her hand and feeling rejected when she pulls it away.
It’s a big difference in the emotional experience of that time together and how strong your father-daughter bond feels to you at that time. We want no chinks in the armor.
Share with her your commitment to always protect her, to never violate her trust in you, and that your desire for hugs and kisses from her is as innocent now as they were when she was three years old.
Now hear this, it is very important.
If your daughter has suffered any violation of her physical space in her lifetime, asking permission is ESPECIALLY CRITICAL. She must know that YOU have no intention of violating her and that she can trust you implicitly to protect her.
Asking for permission to show affection allows her to make the decision and approach you in a safe manner that helps her feel in control. This above all is one of the most important safeguards for her sense of well-being. Feeling control over her body.
There is more to showing affection than just physical affection.
Some people feel affection in receiving a card, or note, or gift. Some people feel affection when words of affirmation and acceptance are expressed to them. Some people feel affection through acts of kindness or acts of service. Some people feel affection through quality time spent together.
If you need more insight on which form of affection best describes your daughter, check out the book (audiobook is really good too for your commute to work) The Five Love Languages of Teenagers. Highly recommend it.
Discover which method of affection fills up your daughter’s love tank the most and shower her with those throughout the months and years that she is still with you. It will do wonders to help her know that she is loved, that she is appreciated, and that she is important to you and worthy of love.
There is nothing more protective than that. Because a young woman who knows she is loved, important, and worthy will become a woman who will look and expect to be treated that way from her future spouse. She will be less likely to put up with abusive nonsense from her life partner. This is a beautiful way to protect her now and in the future.
The affection piece is the one bond that can suffer the most in the teen years and can cause the most significant divide. Do not allow misunderstandings to come in the way of your relationship with your daughter. Communicate effectively and honestly, and you both might make it through.
Father-Daughter Bonding Strategy 4 Give the gift of your TRUST
Alright, this is a big one. The father-daughter bonding strategy of trust. What would it take for you to fully trust your daughter? What does it mean to you that she is doing the right thing?
On the flip side, how can your daughter know that she can trust you?
Trust needs to be a mutual feeling for a relationship to thrive and survive. In the teenage years, trust can make or break the link between fathers and daughters.
When a daughter breaks her father’s trust, it creates a chink in the armor that takes a lot to heal. Dad’s sort of know deep down that their girls are in a learning phase and will make mistakes and get things wrong.
When a father breaks his daughter’s trust can be devastating to the relationship because, honestly, she feels like he is the adult and should know better. And really, she is right in a lot of ways about that.
So open honest communication is the most effective way to convey your intentions and expectations on the rules as your daughter’s heads into her teenage years.
Talk to her about what is right in your eyes on all the big subjects. Focus particularly on the life lessons that if she gets them wrong, will mean terrible consequences for her.
Talk to her about your thoughts on drugs and alcohol and their effects on her growing mind and body. On what dependency can look like and the consequences it will have on her entire future.
Let her know everything you think about it, so she will think twice when someone cavalierly offers her a joint or a drink or a pill. That it should be a red flag to her that person is not looking out for her long term well-being and is untrustworthy.
Talk to your daughter about the internet and what trouble can lurk there behind a screen-name. Talk to her about healthy boundaries about electronics and why it is not a good choice or habit to get into the long-term.
Talk to her about relationship boundaries. Talk to her about how a boy should treat her about what to look for in a husband’s prospect. Talk to her about protecting her body from harm, her heart from breaking, and her mind from expecting too much too soon from boys that may not be feeling the same maturity of emotions that she does, and how to protect herself from getting hurt.
Talk to her about your expectations for her education and how important you think her education will be to prepare her for a successful and stable future. Talk to her about how you expect her to prioritize her education above all else. Above friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, work, sports, everything. There will be time for all the rest in the margins around her dedication to her schoolwork.
Talk with your daughter about what you expect. Let her know your expectation of safe boundaries. Do this without screams and yells. Explain to her the reasons why, and how those boundaries could help in protecting her.
Then ask your daughter what it means for her to be able to trust you. What does that look like? What would cause a chink in her trust armor? Is it a specific behavior, or when you jump to the wrong conclusions, or maybe when you don’t trust that she is doing the right thing. Talk about her trust in you, and how that works and what could cause a divide.
Assure your daughter that you will always have her back and she can call on you without questions or questioning in any situation. This is critical.
Let’s say she is at a party and finds herself in a bad place or with people she did not expect would be there when she accepted the invitation. She needs to get out of there, but she doesn’t want the 2nd degree when she calls for help.
She needs to know that you are there at any time to rescue her from a sticky situation without putting pressure on her until she is ready to explain on her terms. Make a deal like this so you both know that she can trust you to protect her, and you can trust her to make the right decisions.
When you talk, don’t judge
Share your opinions and point of view but have a judgment-free zone so she will open up to you in the future.
Do talk, even about the tough things
No matter how much you are both cringing inside, do not sidestep the tough stuff to “leave that to mom.” She needs and secretly wants to know what you think about several hard decisions she is making in private, and knowing where you stand is SOOOO grounding for her.
She may not agree, but if she does and it is not the popular cultural opinion, she can blame you if she is trying to get out of a jam. Be that for her.
There should be no tip-toeing around the meaty things of life, or you will find yourself confronting it from the worst possible angle. Be direct and open while she is still young so you can protect her from making some big mistakes that will have a lifelong impact
Always explain your why and give examples.
Leave room for her to speak on what’s in her heart. What might be troubling her, what big decisions she is contemplating, and how to come to you for any advice she needs.
Then trust her to do the right thing. And she will make mistakes. Just like you did growing up. Give her grace and a safe place to land. Talk it over and see what she learned from the lesson.
If you need more advice about how to communicate well with your teenage daughter, give this article from the Child Mind Institute a go.
Father-Daughter Bonding Strategy 5 Give the gift of your RESPECT
RESPECT, what does it mean? We talked a lot about respect in all the areas above because a full relationship is nothing without respect. You must respect your daughter as an individual, as she must respect you.
The process of balancing out respect is interesting for parents (especially dads) and their teenagers. On the one hand, as they grow into adults, they will need to be shown more respect by you, or they will resent the imbalance of power in the relationship.
On the other hand, growing individuality can spark up the most disrespectful of actions and attitudes. We need to check this and keep balance. After all, you are their parent. You are also their friend, to an extent, but you are their parent above all. Your children should respect you, even in their adulthood.
So how can we foster a balance of mutual respect for each other?
Open communication. Trust. Love and concern. Dedication and commitment to being present for each other and helping each other out. These are all critical to having mutual respect, trust, and a great relationship.
Daughters need their dads.
If you follow these five steps to solidify your father-daughter bond, it will mean your relationship with your daughter will stand the test of time.
Just know that your relationship with your daughter is one of the most important if not the most important of her life. It will create the foundation of all her future relationships, friendships, lovers, and life partners.
It is a huge responsibility. Not unlike the one you took when you promised to love and protect your daughter so many years ago.
Good luck dad, you got this!
- How to Enjoy Authentic Mother-Daughter Bonding Time
- 7 Easy Mother-Daughter Date Ideas Your Teenager Will Love
- 12 Daddy-Daughter Date Ideas that will Delight Your Teen
- The 20 Most Popular Family Tradition Ideas To Share With Your Teen Now
- The 30 Most Inspiring Places to Volunteer for Teens
- 9 Practical Steps to Better Financial Literacy for Teens
Chandra is the chocolate-chip loving mother of 2 teenage girls who started over again with a baby boy in her 40’s! She is the author of The Mom’s Playbook to Conquering Softball Season. She gives other moms the tools they need to prepare their daughters for real life. Her content is centered on helping girls grow up to be well-rounded, equipped, expressive, confident, intelligent, capable, kind and independent.