updated 20 Aug 2014, 16:57
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Dads, teach your daughters about boys/men
by Brigitte Rozario

Fathers can teach their daughters how they should be treated by boys and men

The father-daughter relationship is a unique and special one. This is where the child first learns about males and how they should be treated by them.

Author and trainer Ahmad Fakhri Hamzah feels Malaysians in general have not been very open about this topic; nor have they been taking it seriously.

"The reason why it is such an important topic is because this is the first male-female relationship from the daughter's perspective.

"So unless both the daughter and father have that strong realisation, it can be a rocky ride," explains the father of five sons and one daughter.

Dealing with 'girly' stuff

Often, dads feel it's okay to let their wife deal with the daughter and the "girly" issues as they feel more comfortable dealing with sons and the boys' challenges.

"The father might think, I know nuts about girls, so why must I deal with something with which I don't know much about?

"The impact is really far reaching, from my perspective," says Ahmad.

He believes that the current cases of girls eloping with their boyfriends is a reflection of a girl's under-nurtured relationship with her father.

"Apart from just trying to be what you should be as a father, if you take one step back and look at it, it is also about understanding women. Men in general have not known women and they have taken women for granted. I think both parties are naïve about each other's skills," says Ahmad.

Communication is key

Communication and spending time with daughters is vital, says Ahmad. He admits to having about six to seven channels of communication with his daughter, including Facebook and her blog. Each channel is used for different types of communication and for different reasons.

"I believe in fathers 'dating' their daughters, with permission from the mother. Having said that, I do also have my one-on-one time with my boys individually. The entire concept is about the father giving undivided attention, making it a special moment for them to remember and for fathers to focus on that child.

"When my daughter Alia has the opportunity, we would stop at the bookshops or art shops because she likes crafts. We once spent three hours in Ikea just walking through the lanes and shopping. This is something that men in general are not able to do because men are so focused on buying exactly what they are there for and then leaving. Women in general are different, they might want to shop a bit more and browse. You've got to have the time to entertain that. It's about giving that space to them to walk in the shops and enjoy your time together," explains Ahmad.

According to Ahmad, if dads don't help their daughters understand how they should be treated with respect by men, in their naïvety, the girls can easily be swayed by sweet words from unscrupulous people.

He believes that there needs to be conscious effort by fathers to spend time with their daughters because the girls are learning to understand men. This, he says, is something that cannot be passed to the mother to handle.

The mother's perspective will be different from the father's.

New perspective

He highlights an example of differing perspectives, between men and women, when playing a game of chess with his daughter. Ahmad thought the queen was the most powerful piece because she can move anywhere and in any direction but Alia said no, it is not that the queen is the most powerful; she just has to work harder.

"I think the father has the opportunity to teach his daughters about how they should be treated and respected by boys and men. Parents have the advantage of knowledge and experience from life. The daughter's education is about why boys and men behave a certain way and why they think on a different level.

"Boys are very competitive and structured. There should be a captain and rules. Even though they may hit each other hard, when the game is over, it's all over. But, this is not so for girls. If you cross them, they may not talk to you for a while.

"You have got to be able to educate your daughter in terms of how to handle boys and how to motivate them. One way to motivate boys is to make it competitive as they tend to be more task-oriented.

"With girls you need to take care of the relationship and the emotional aspects," explains Ahmad.

What girls want

He illustrates an example of how dads often don't see things from their daughters' perspective.

Men think that when a woman/girl wants to talk to them, irrespective of whether it's the wife or daughter, she is looking for solutions from them. This is when men decide to jump in and offer solutions. Ahmad says that very often all women want is a sympathetic ear and a shoulder to cry on.

He cites an example of his daughter relating to him how her presentation faltered because of a problem with the projector. Instead of just listening, Ahmad then launched into a sequence of questions on her preparations, seeking to get to the root of the problem.

This led his daughter to burst into tears.

It was then that he realised she had not been looking for answers, just the listening ear of a dad.

With only one daughter and five sons, it would have been so easy to dote on his daughter. Being aware of that, Ahmad chose not to make too big a difference in how he has treated his sons and daughter as the children would notice the double standards.

The father-daughter recipe

Ahmad lists out six points that fathers should keep in mind with regards to their relationship with their daughters:

- Trust - the father is the protector.

- Accept and Appreciate - just because your firstborn is a girl and you have all daughters is no reason to toughen up your eldest and treat her like a boy.

- Listen and be Loving - girls aren't always looking for solutions; sometimes they just want you to listen.

- Engage - communicate with them, help them see other perspectives and find solutions on their own.

- Respect - from the daughter's perspective, the father should be someone who stands taller than any man because, at the end of the day, the father is someone who is dependable, reliable, and obviously the person she is comfortable with.

He lists out the stages of a child's life as such:

0-6 years: Play with me - This is when boys and girls would have an attachment predominantly with the mother.

7-14 years: Teach me / Discipline me - The son wants to be a man so the father has to "download" the information to him. They want the role model for how to be a man and if they can't find someone they are familiar with, they will find their own model. Unlike daughters, with sons at this stage, you may want to give more instruction.

15-21: Be my friend

22 and beyond: A partnership

Equipping girls

Ahmad believes that if the father has done his job, then the daughter will be more equipped to look for a partner with characteristics similar to her father's. But if the father has not played that effective role, then she will look for the one who has the sweetest voice, thinking she's finally found someone who really cares about her.

Life and relationships can be quite a minefield for girls if they do not have some background understanding to boys/ men. The nature of most fathers is that they speak less, more so, because they might not want to be dragged into emotional issues but would rather remain objective.

"At the end of the day, you won't be able to provide all of the scenarios of what they are going to go through in life. What you want to do is provide them with the ability to cope in all these situations. You are there to listen to them but not to solve the problems. You, as a dad, just provide the path, opportunity and options.

"As a parent, instead of trying to solve the problem, engage with them to help them find the right solution," he adds.

Do's and don'ts

Here are his final tips for fathers:

- Don't take daughters for granted.

- Don't treat them like children when they have grown up.

- Don't isolate them - if you play with the boys because you naturally enjoy playing football, don't ignore the girls and leave it up to the mother to play with them. Take time to connect with your girls, too. The fact that the father is taking time to connect with the girls speaks volumes on the kind of models that girls will look for in life. Seeing your father enter the kitchen to help your mother is an image that stays in their minds. It helps the girls (and boys) to think that it's not a divide and rule situation where the men don't help out in the kitchen.

- While you treat daughters differently from sons, don't make the difference so big. Just because there's only one girl in the family is no reason to dote and splurge on her. If you do that, you create sibling rivalry and you will have been the source of it.

- Don't compare your children because each child is unique. Your job is to harness their strengths and support the areas for improvement.

- Don't send them mixed messages with the mum backing the girls and the dad supporting the boys. It doesn't work.

- Follow their passion when spending time with them; just because it's a daughter doesn't necessarily mean she enjoys shopping. There's nothing to stop you from supporting them. The earlier you harness their passion and discover who they are, the better. It will help their self-confidence and help them know in which direction they are going.

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