When researching my book Ten Things Girls Need Most, I talked to hundreds of women in groups about how their childhoods had been, and what made them good or bad.
There were many things they shared, but the most intense and emotionally charged of all was their relationship with their dads.
I could not believe how many women had felt hurt and damaged by the inability of dads to show their love, be present, and let daughters know that they really mattered.
Some dads even conveyed that girls were less important than boys.
The wounds from this were lifelong, and very hard to heal.
Every girl, from babyhood onwards, loves and adores their dad and longs for him to be what she needs.
They want warmth, gentleness, a sense of fun, affection, and for him to be interested in her and encouraging of her.
The most important thing a dad can give a girl is the feeling that she is special.
Not his “princess” based on her looks or being somehow better than anyone else, and not because she gets high marks or gold medals for sport, but because she is his daughter, and he loves her just for that.
He would do anything, and go anywhere, to make sure she is safe, and well, and taken care of.
If she is in need or trouble, he will be there.
Girls who sense this are not egotistical or selfish, they just have a deep inner contentment.
Being a good dad is not dramatic or heroic, most of the time it’s the ordinary things.
He shows up. He keeps his promises. He is strong, not in the sense of muscular strength, but being true to his word, reliable, and there.
How he treats her mother of course is another way that she sees his attitudes to the woman she will become.
One way to convey specialness is to have regular dad and daughter times - going for a meal or to a movie, just the two of them, but it can be just a trip to the shops and a hot chocolate on a saturday morning.
Of course, dad and son times are just as important.
It’s the one-on-one aspect that says: you are unique, I want to catch up and also have fun just with you.
Because nine out of ten girls will grow up to be interested in the opposite sex, a dad who is respectful, asks her views, respects her privacy, but is still affectionate when that is sought, teaches his daughter to expect that in the men she chooses all through her life.
He sets the benchmark, and less than great boys need not apply.
The things girls hate are shouting, being preached at, being put down or made fun of, and of course, being mean or sarcastic.
Some dads have real trouble just being easy and friendly.
They miss out on one of life’s greatest joys - that a girl who is loved and respected loves you back. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.
Steve Biddulph is an author and retired psychologist.