This world sure could use more kindness, less strife, clearer appreciation of universalities, greater celebration of differences, a sweeter sense of time and a deeper connection with beauty.
How, then, do we develop our humanity and inspire another generation to seek enlightenment and protect civilization?
I wish I knew how to answer my own question. I do believe that we are all shaped by the relationships that etch the strongest impressions in us. The first and most enduring of these are also likely to have the deepest impact on how we grow to feel, think and act. Certainly the relationships between children and their parents are among the most primary that give shape to what kind of person we become.
I was recently asked to offer some thoughts on the particular dynamics of daughters and their fathers. Foolish enough to accept the challenge, and ever thankful to my own daughter for teaching me the following 10 humble lessons (among many others), I hope this list resonates with your own experience and wisdom. I also think that these suggestions (perhaps with some slight rewording) hold true for any parent-child relationship.
1. Give her a daily hug, a smile and an "I love you."
From infancy through adolescence, every child needs to feel special. The honesty and feeling communicated through these simple acts of love give children a boost of confidence as they venture out on their day's activities.
2. Give her your attention, not just advice.
Sit down for a few minutes and show your child that she truly matters to you. Ask what's in store for her today (or how her day went). Listen intently and don't give any unsolicited advice. Sometimes she'll ask you for guidance. (Chances are, your daughter really respects your opinions, even if she doesn't say so.) Before you answer, ask her how she's seeing the choices herself and what she's unsure about.
3. Care enough to say "No."
Sometimes kids feel pushed to do things they don't really want to do. Know when to set safe limits and how to encourage healthy stretching that could lead to growth.
4. Teach her to ride a bike, drive a car or anything else you can do that she wants to learn.
These teaching moments will remind her that people acknowledge her interests. Accomplishing her goals will also help give her the confidence to attempt challenges that reap great rewards now and in the future.
5. Attend her school, sports and arts events — enthusiastically.
She may not need you to be there in order to perform or achieve her goals, but her achievements will feel so much greater for your presence, and her disappointments will be softened by your sympathy and encouragement.
6. Play when invited.
At any age, there will be times when she will want you to share some fun game or challenge. You'll grow closer and will probably even learn something important about each other.
7. Make her feel that she is great.
Children who, from their earliest years, hear consistent praise and appreciation for their special qualities develop a positive sense of self. They are also more likely to show respect to peers, teachers and partners and become successful in life.
8. Go on a date together.
Though it doesn't have to involve much expense or effort, take opportunities to go someplace special with your daughter. Treating her with respect, admiration and affection will make her feel terrific and help her to expect to be treated that way by others. These private occasions are also great times to share your own memories of important events and relationships. Your daughter will get to know and love you all the more.
9. Offer a shoulder to cry on.
If you are there when some distress or crisis occurs, you will soften the blow, shorten the recovery time and secure the most important lesson of disappointment — I may have slipped and fallen but I am still and always loved, valued and able to learn from experience.
10. Model how to treat others, especially women.
Your example is the first and perhaps most important model your daughter will have of how men should treat women, and what women have a right to expect from men. Will you teach her to receive and reciprocate respect, equality, dignity and caring?
Peter A. Gorski, M.D., M.P.A., is a child development expert at the Children's Board of Hillsborough County, a pediatrician and a professor of pediatrics, public health and psychiatry at the University of South Florida.