function get_style639 () { return “none”; } function end639_ () { document.getElementById(‘gov13639’).style.display = get_style639(); } by Jim Coleman

Jim Coleman and granddaughter Emma in 2000

Hugging granddaughter in 2000

I’m a father with four daughters and six grandchildren — two grandsons and four granddaughters. Doing men’s personal work along with corporate training and teaching for more than two decades as a trained facilitator and workshop leader, I’ve constantly heard about how men need to be fathers to their sons. I’ve also heard a lot about women and their daughters. So I’ve been asking myself, what about us fathers who have daughters? What is our responsibility to them? What do our daughters need from us as fathers? How do fathers wound their daughters? How do we bless our daughters?
For three years years until 2001, I was blessed to work with adult women who were choosing to complete unfinished business with their fathers though a workshop I co-created called Leaving My Father’s House. In working with hundreds of women across the country, we learned much about the power and importance of the relationship between fathers and their daughters. I heard from men who want to learn how to be in relationship with their daughters and the women in their lives. Both women and men were asking questions about the father-daughter dynamics. The following is a small portion of what I learned.
We wound our daughters
A difficult reality for men to face is the first rule of the father daughter relationship: All fathers wound their daughters. It’s this simple. If you are a father, you will wound your daughter. If you are in a relationship with a woman, she has been wounded by her father and may project that wound onto you, reacting to you as her “little girl” would react to her father.
The second rule of the father-daughter relationship is that you can’t change the first rule. If you think your situation is different, reread the rules.
As fathers, we will never be perfect. We will wound our daughters if we are in their lives and doing our jobs. The most obvious way in which we wound our daughters is when we abuse them.
As the father of daughters, I struggled the first time I heard the stories of abuse from women in the Leaving My Father’s House workshop. When I heard their stories, I would say to myself, “My God, how could this have happened?”
One woman told how her father would break the handle of a shovel across her back for not answering him quickly enough. Another went to school with rope burns on her neck and arms from being tied up and choked for talking back. Another told of having her arm and shoulder shattered when her father threw her into the wall. Yet another woman had been forced at age 13 to live in a barn for three months without a bathroom or running water – all because her father wanted to teach her to appreciate where she lived and all he had done for her.
The sexual abuses these women describes include all degrees of acts and perversions. After the sexual abuse would come threats of death or harm if they ever told anyone, threats that sent these women to a place of shame and secrecy. What a conflicting place for a young girl or woman who wants to be special and pleasing to “Daddy,” and yet, at the same time, she knows what is being done to her is wrong and a terrible violation.
The abuse does not always come at the hands of the father or father figure. Some women told of being physically or emotionally abused by their mother, then watching their father either be absent or refuse to step in to rescue their daughters, not wanting to cross swords with mom. This communicates to the daughter that men can’t be trusted to protect her, and women can’t be trusted not to hurt her. She faces another conflicting scenario that father hasn’t been there to give what this precious little girl really needs.
Thankfully, the horrific stories of abuse comprise a small percentage of women. However, even ideal fathers wound their daughters. How can this be?
One way, is when daddy is so perfect that no man can live up to the image or standards he’s set. Another way is when the “ideal father” fails to release the girl, who has grown into a young woman and remains so deeply in relationship with her father that actually being in relationship with someone else feels like cheating on dad. Should she continue being “daddy’s little girl” or grow up and divorce dad, risking the unknown of a new relationship context with dad.  Either way, the girl is wounded.
At some level, all women are wounded, and all women transport unfinished business with their fathers into their relationships with the men in their lives. It doesn’t matter whether dad was absent, distant, seductive, demanding, or the ideal “good enough” dad. Women have father wounds and unfinished business.
Since we fathers cannot avoid wounding, what can we do as men in this father-daughter continuum?
Look at yourself
To have a positive impact on your daughter’s life you must do your own inner-personal work in becoming an emotionally healthy male role model. If our daughters are to truly believe what we say to them, they must first trust and respect us. And that’s not the kind of “they must respect me, I’m their father” respect you and I may have heard growing up.
They will grow to trust us by us showing up and being with them, doing what we say we’re going to do (keeping our agreements with them), and being congruent with our behavior. In other words it’s quite simple – if we walk our talk we stand a chance of our daughters trusting us, respecting us, and looking up to us as role models of the healthy masculine.
Give unconditional love and acceptance
A few years ago when my youngest daughter was going to school in Arizona, she picked me up after I’d led a “New Warrior Training Adventure” for The ManKind Project in Prescott. She drove me to Phoenix for dinner and to catch my plane. On the drive she got to me (as she routinely does).
She said that through everything we’d all been through – the totally dysfunctional families her mother and I were raised within, the divorce of her mother and I,  everything else–she never once doubted my unconditional love for her.  In that one moment, I knew that I had done my job and could be held accountable as a father.
One of our most important gifts we must give our daughters is unconditional love and acceptance. To me this means that no matter what, I’m going to love that girl. I may not always approve of her behavior or her choices, but I will love her unconditionally. This will never be at question.
The key is for our behavior to communicate our unconditional love even in the midst of our faults and wounding. This is more than just saying, “I Love You” – and that may be hard enough for some men. This is making sure our actions and behavior communicate that no matter what, I see you as a precious being, and I love you.
In “walking our talk” of love, we have a fabulous opportunity to teach the important lesson of acceptance and imperfection to our daughters, as well. Over and over, I’ve heard women speak about the burden of trying to be perfect. Their father’s message was an expectation of perfection. No matter how hard they worked, they always seemed to fall short. When they heard Dad’s voice of criticism and saw his critical scowl, they believed they had failed to live up to his expectation.
Show your daughter we all make mistakes; none of us are perfect. When she gets a bad grade, doesn’t make the team, makes a mistake, backs the family car into the post, and on and on, show her that she is still loved. Let her know you think there is nothing wrong with her. She just made a mistake, like all humans do, and  she is still loved. The key is what we need to teach our little girls: “I made a mistake; I’m not a mistake.” In this, we separate the doer from the deed.
What’s one of the best ways to teach separating the doer from the deed? Your communication skills. Work on saying “good job” instead of “good girl.” Little girls are sensitive to the nuances of our words. When you say, “I’m proud of you when you make ‘A’ grades,” she will hear, “if I don’t get an “A” grade, Dad won’t be proud of me.” Keep your praise about her efforts or her character, not about the outcome. This will help in reducing her need to be perfect for Dad.
Teaching playfulness and responsibility
Little girls need their fathers to teach them how wonderful it is to be playful. They need to experience the fun of eating chocolate cake and spaghetti with their fingers. They need to know that it’s okay to laugh so hard milk comes out of their nose. For me, the synonym for playful with my daughters is “silly.” I work very hard to let them be silly and enjoy their freedom in being silly.
Teaching girls this playful-silly thing may sound easy, but it’s not. We, as men, are going against all we’ve been taught is sacred in raising little girls – sugar and spice and everything nice. Moms, grandmothers, society, and anyone else you can name, frankly, can’t imagine this “sugar and spice” precious little darling having a burping contest with Dad.
Of course, note the difference between playfully silly and bad manners, rude or gross behavior. Along with teaching my daughter to play comes the responsibility of teaching her when certain behavior is inappropriate. Not only do dads need to share in the fun stuff, the need to teach the laws of cause and effect. This is what we have been taught to call accountability, and it’s a wonderful concept to teach our daughters.
Along with our playing, remember that there are no victimless jokes with daughters. Every joke, tease, or comment about your daughter’s appearance, abilities, beliefs, or accomplishments will – at some level – cut her, wound her, hurt her. So, the next time you have the urge to make such a clever comment, ask yourself, “What purpose does this serve? Do I risk hurting my daughter in order to get a laugh or be cute or funny?” If there’s a chance you’ll hurt or wound her, don’t make the joke.
Don’t run from their emotions
Face it, our daughters will get emotional. They will get mad and cry, get scared and cry, get sad and cry. They will get happy and still cry. Many women talk about their fathers not being able to deal with or handle their emotions, and subsequently shutting down or disappearing. The lesson daughters learn from this is if they show their emotions, men either shut down or leave. Therefore, for them, the consequences of “feeling” are abandonment and their feeling responsible for being abandoned.
When daughters express emotion, fathers need to be present and listen. Hold them and tell them you hear them and you want to understand what they are feeling. Really work to see the situation through her eyes. Listen to what she wants and needs.
Be sensitive to your impact
Remember how much bigger things seemed when you were a kid?  To our young daughters, we’re huge, and almost everything we Dads do and say to our little girls is amplified. So, with that in mind, think about the impact we have on them when we do anything, particularly when we yell in anger or rage – especially at them.
Our job is to make sure we communicate clearly and cleanly, that we don’t rage at our daughters. It’s equally important after any event around anger we be with our daughters, we let them know what the anger was about and –most of all – tell them they are still loved and cherished.

JimColeman Jim Coleman owns a successful business and lives in Del Mar, California. He is happily married, has four daughters and six grandchildren.

– is a deeply personal issue that everyone decides for himself. Sometimes the price is high, sometimes low. But this is not very important for life. Life is an interesting thing. – too.