With more modern families getting fewer children today, it is not surprising that many families comprise of only girls. My elder brother has two daughters and two sons from a previous marriage while I have only daughters. In my circle of friends, I know a few couples that only have daughters. Gone are the days when a woman kept giving birth in search of a baby boy. Society, especially men, is accepting the truth that girls are as good as boys.
I have also noticed that a lot more women are opting to stay single with or without children. They are comfortable pursuing a career or cause and, therefore, not getting tied down in a lifelong commitment with a man in marriage. What does this portend for the future? One, it means that girls can no longer be brought up with the traditional worldview where they were seen as future helpers of men.
This traditional mentality purported that women were a support system for the men in society. The men were the lords to be served by women. Boys were therefore taught all the tough things while women did what was considered as the soft stuff. For instance, young men were in charge of the security of the tribe while young women knitted with their mothers and prepared food for the warriors.
But this paradigm shift means that girls can no longer rely on the boys for security and handling of the tough bits of life. For instance, if a family has only girls it means they will have to learn to carry out all the chores including those traditionally thought to be for boys. And if a woman decides to remain single for life, it also means she will basically be the man of the house besides playing her role as a woman.
For fathers bringing up girls of the future I see a challenge in striving to bring up an all-rounded girl. In her book, Embracing Your Father, Dr. Linda Nelson addresses areas in which fathers play a greater role in the lives of their daughters than their mothers. Some of these areas include creating a loving and trusting relationship with a man, expressing anger comfortably and appropriately – especially with men, dealing well with people in authority, being self-confident and self-reliant, and maintaining a balanced lifestyle, which promotes good mental health. So, to bring up self-reliant girls who can stand their ground in the universe, I have compiled a few rules that can be of help.
Read with your daughter books with great heroes.This will help a lot more if the heroes are girls in which case you will help her see herself as the hero who conquers all and who saves her pets in a big thunderstorm. She will grow up to be believe in herself.
Inspire your daughter using examples of women role models who have excelled in male-dominated fields or activities. This is not to push her towards traditionally male dominated fields but to prevent you or others from crushing her aspirations by telling her what a girl can or cannot do.
Teach your daughter that women deserve men’s respect. The tricky bit with this is that children learn more by observation, meaning they will learn the truth about this statement by observing how you treat all the women in your life including their mother. Be respectful of their mother and other women and your daughter will learn to expect proper treatment from the men in her life as a right and not a favour to be dished out depending on her willingness to bend to men’s demands.
Be a man of integrity and your daughter will acquire this trait as she grows up. Without this virtue, any kind of success is a fake and cannot last.
Introduce your daughter to male chores like repairing a car, tightening a lose bolt, painting and knowing where the toolbox is stored. It doesn’t hurt knowing even if one can always pay to have a problem fixed.
Teach your daughter that boys don’t think only about sex. Girls should not fear or avoid boys. It is important to teach your girls that a ‘No’ must be seen to be, and be, ‘No’. If they stick to this rule, they will always be in control while in the company of boys. It has long been proven that girls of absentee fathers have a high probability of falling into early pregnancies and so your presence as a father especially in your daughters’ early years is paramount.
Finally, allow your daughter to be a girl, to wear girly clothes and also let her play in the mud. This cannot be over-emphasized. Let girls be girls or tomboys when they choose to.
Published in September 2014