The Importance of Spending Time with Your Growing Girl

A Playbook for Fatherhood
Courtesy Chay Baxley


She’ll always be Daddy’s Little Girl. But you can’t fight reality — she’s growing up. So it’s vitally important that you allow your relationship to grow with her. 

And not just for your sake.

Experts agree your daughter’s future happiness could rely heavily on the content and magnitude of your interactions with her today. Preserving and encouraging the development of your father-daughter bond throughout your child’s life is fundamental to her successful passage into adulthood — or, at least into a successful, happy adulthood. 

That’s a lot of responsibility. So let’s take a step back for a moment and focus on the basics.

In short, girls are tricky. They always have been. And just because you assisted in the creation of this particular girl, doesn’t mean she’s any easier to read, or that you should always know the right thing to say. Put those fears aside. Truth is, you don’t have to be perfect to be a great dad. You just have to be there.

Evolutionarily speaking, women tend to model their relationships with men after the ones they’ve shared with their fathers. If your verbal and physical interactions with your daughter are positive and loving, she’s more likely to project those attributes onto relationships — romantic or otherwise — in her adult life. Plus, spending a little extra one-on-one time together will let your daughter know she has worth and that she shouldn’t tolerate people who make her feel differently.

“When a child is born, their foundation is their mother and their father,” said Jane Johnson, director of prevention for the Florida Department of Children and Families. “If they don’t feel good in that relationship, it’s difficult for them to feel good in any other relationships as they develop later on.”

But it’s not just the moments you share with your daughter that can leave their mark, father-mother interactions also play a key role and can make lasting impressions on a child’s worldview. An overall negative recollection of parental relations can have detrimental effects on children’s social interactions and self-esteem.

“A daughter sees her role with men in her life through the relationship she had with her father,” said Johnson. “If she sees her father demeaning her mother or not being respectful, the message she can take with her either consciously or unconsciously is that ‘women don’t deserve the respect of men’ or, that ‘it’s OK to let men disrespect me or talk down to me’.”

 Basically, try to make sure her future Prince Charming has big shoes to fill by being a prince yourself. Because years from now, when your daughter’s reminiscing, she’ll be less likely to remember what activities the two of you did together, than how you did them. 

Your time together doesn’t need to be extravagant to be noteworthy. Even something as simple as running errands around town can be transformed into an opportunity to spend quality time together. 

In fact, a drive is the perfect environment to discuss whatever’s on your mind, whether it’s of great importance or little consequence. You can use this neutral setting to broach tough subjects like drug and alcohol consumption, peer pressure and relationship advice. Or, just flip through the stations until you find the perfect song for a duo. Either way, it’s time well spent.

Of course, children’s advocates like Johana P. Hatcher, prevention manager at DCF, are always in favor of having a heart-to-heart. 

“Talk,” emphasized Hatcher. “Talk about your daughter’s everyday activities. Her schooling, her career interests, where she wants to be and what she likes and dislikes. And perhaps more importantly, the father needs to share those things as well. It’s a two-way road to communication.” Talking is an activity that well-read dads like Phil Meyer, a professional magician, leader of the Killearn Lakes Elementary chapter of All Pro Dad and proud father of two girls, are always practicing. 

“As the kids have grown up, I’ve seen that the one thing they want more than anything is simply time and attention,” said Meyer. “The more time and attention I spend with my girls, the more they appreciate it and the closer our bond is.”

Joining an organization like All Pro Dad, which meets at schools or a nearby venue for monthly breakfast, is a great place to start. Not only will you be letting your daughter know that she’s worth carving a chunk out of your day to spend time with, but you’ll be meeting on her turf — an equalizing environment and potential conversation starter. 

Fitting everything in isn’t always easy. Sure, there’ll be meetings missed, ballet practices you forget about and track meets you just can’t make. But making the effort is an action experts and “pro dads” alike will tell you is a good place to start.

“It’s hard sometimes, we all get busy, have hectic schedules,” said Meyer. “But time and attention is the key.”


A Date with Daddy

  • Plan an evening where you and your daughter prepare a meal for the rest of the family. If all goes according to plan, you’ll get to enjoy a delicious treat. If not, your daughter will get a lesson in failing gracefully and tips on selecting the best take-out.
  • Keep gender roles neutral by taking her on a mountain bike ride through a well-trailed part of the woods.
  • Turn your outing into an all-day event by taking a drive to a town by the coast. Studies show some of the best conversations arise from road trips. Don’t forget to pack your fishing poles!
  • Dinner and a movie. It’s a classic. Why mess with success?
  • Teach her about something you’re passionate about. Whether it be sailing, tinkering with cars, painting, football or something else. Sharing your true interests will make for deeper conversation. 
  • Try asking her what she’d like to do. We bet she’ll have a few ideas.