How your father treats your mother (and other women) & why it's so important.
“Daughters will see what their dads believe about women by how they value and respect women, or by how they fail to do so,” states Austin, editor of Fatherhood: Philosophy for Everyone: The Dao of Daddy. Most notably, however, a daughter picks up on cues for future relationships by watching how her father treats her mother (Rosenberg & Wilcox, 2006).
One of the most important influences a father can have on his child is indirect—fathers influence their children in large part through the quality of their relationship with the mother of their children.
"A father who has a good relationship with the mother of their children is more likely to be involved and to spend time with their children and to have children who are psychologically and emotionally healthier. Similarly, a mother who feels affirmed by her children's father and who enjoys the benefits of a happy relationship is more likely to be a [healthier] mother. Indeed, the quality of the relationship affects the parenting behavior of both parents. They are more responsive, affectionate, and confident with their infants; more self-controlled in dealing with defiant toddlers; and better confidants for teenagers seeking advice and emotional support." (Rosenberg & Wilcox)
In short, a positive relationship between mother and father models positive future relationships for children. “Girls with involved, respectful fathers see how they should expect men to treat them and are less likely to become involved in violent or unhealthy relationships,” according to Gable, Crnic, and Belsky (1994, pp. 380-386).
Problematically, when a father plays the role of “hero” in his daughter’s life, yet simultaneously mistreats her mother, the daughter (as a grown woman) will most likely look for the same sort of “hero” in her own marriage. The father’s relationship to the mother or significant other is a “template” for the daughter’s future relationships with men or significant others (Hartwell-Walker, 2012).
“We just fall into another father’s house,”
says Marion Woodman (1992, p. 31).
Hartwell-Walker (2012) writes, “Regardless of whether he wants the responsibility, a father’s relationship to the world and to women sets down a template that will be played out for another generation. . . . What all this means for a father or father figure is that he counts. He counts a lot.”
At the top of Hartwell-Walker’s list of 10 basic principles for fathering: “Love her mother.” She adds this caveat, mindful of the high divorce rate, “If you can’t love her mother, find something to respect and admire in her anyway.” In Murdock’s epilogue to Fathers’ Daughters, which she titles “To the Fathers of the Future,” Murdock shares the words of a woman named Emily, who petitions fathers, “Please tell them to love their wives. It would have been so much easier for me if my father had loved me less, and loved my mother more” (Murdock, 1994, p. 198).
“Whether or not he is married to or still together with his daughter’s mom, showing respect to her mother is essential. ...
He must also value women as human beings, and not as persons to be used.” The father’s attitude about women and femininity is the same attitude the daughter will cultivate about herself (Hartwell-Walker, 2012). Therefore, fathers should remember that their daughters are listening and watching what they say and do, and the father’s ability to model a healthy respect for women, as well as his capacity to celebrate the mind of his daughter, cannot be underscored.
"What matters in the father-daughter relationship is that Dad seeks to live a life of integrity and honesty, avoiding hypocrisy and admitting his own shortcomings, so that she has a realistic and positive example of how to deal with the world. He should try to model a reflective approach to life's big questions so that she can seek to do the same. . . . When necessary, dads should apologize and ask for forgiveness, as this both shows respect and love to our daughters and heals the hurts that are inevitable in daily life together." (McGolerick, 2012, n.p.)
© 2014, Karina McGovern Chace, from "Fathers in the Sand: The Transformative Emergence of Archetypal Images through Sandplay.
[artwork by Snezhana Soosh🌿.]