There’s a lot of talk about father-daughter relationships. How a father can teach his daughter about love, about what a good partner looks like, about how to respect herself. These are all very important, of course. But, what about father-son relationships? Isn’t it just as important for a father to teach his son about love and what a respectful relationship looks like? Of course it is! With Father’s Day right around the corner, we want to share lessons on how dads can teach their children (sons AND daughters) all about healthy relationships. Whether you have a daughter or a son, the cornerstones of love and respect look the same.
We all know by now that children learn best from seeing and doing. Modeling your own healthy and respectful relationships is the best place to start to teach your child. Beginning with your own marriage or relationship, treat your partner with respect and love, especially in front of your children. While it can be good for kids to see you work out a disagreement in a healthy and respectful way, try to save the serious or upsetting talks for when the kids are out of earshot.
Communication is key in any relationship. Always, always keep the lines of communication open with both your children as well as your significant other. Make sure your daughter or son sees you and mom (or your partner) communicating respectfully and effectively with each other. Do the same for your kids. Encourage communication by listening to what they have to say, acknowledging their feelings, and offering advice when wanted. Knowing they have a non-judgmental ear to express their feelings or concerns will increase the likelihood that they’ll come talk to you about important issues as well.
Show Them Love
Everyone needs love. A simple hug or “I love you” can go so much further than you might realize. Even on the hardest of days, show them love. Especially on the hardest days, show them love. Showing your children how much you love them by telling them, being there when they most need it or offering a hug when they’re feeling down can go a long way. It’s also great for children to see their parents expressing their love for each other with kindness or a hug and kiss. And always make sure they know that real love is unconditional.
Lead By Example
If you want your child to be respectful of everyone, then lead by example. Whether it’s the mail person, the grocery clerk, a family member or your spouse, always treat everyone with respect and encourage your son or daughter to do the same. You never know someone else’s story, so even when you’re cut off by a speeding car in rush hour, try to keep the anger at bay and respond with kindness. Your children are learning from you with everything you do and say.
Body confidence starts with knowledge. From the very beginning, teach your children correct names for body parts. This can also help down the road if they are ever faced with an uncomfortable situation or need to confide in you about something important. A penis is a penis, a vagina is a vagina. Full stop. Let your son or daughter know their body is theirs and theirs only, and it’s perfect the way it is. Young girls especially are faced with so much scrutiny from others and media pressure when it comes to outside appearances. Be the voice they need to hear by explaining that beauty is not limited to looks. Kindness, compassion, confidence, knowledge: values like these are also what makes a person beautiful. Instilling confidence in your son or daughter will also go a long way in ensuring they embark on mutually respectful and loving relationships in the future.
We all want our children to grow up to be happy, caring individuals who are also in healthy, respectful relationships. While we know by now that domestic violence doesn’t discriminate, we can help by encouraging both our sons and daughters to teach others with respect and love and always demand they in turn are treated the same.
If you’re worried that someone you know or care about is in a potentially abusive relationship, please never hesitate to reach out. Find out the common warning signs of abuse and how you can help.