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I was was distant from her when she was a baby till 1.5 years old because of struggling through my own problems, and eventually separated from her mother for a year. And even though I have gotten extensive help for my issues and have worked to repair my marrige - my now 5-year-old is now acting out to get my attention. Help, how do I help her and I have a healthier relationship? I know I need to work extra hard to help her feel more secure and valued especially from me. But how do I do that? I had a rough childhood, and I know that I felt unimportant as one of my parents' 9 children, and I do not want to do that to my daughter. I just don't know what to actually do to start healing her and giving her what she needs.

Any suggestions and help welcome.

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There are many ways and I'd say that whatever you do has to feel natural and easy for you. It cannot be faked and must be real.

This is one idea I used. I'd look for little things to make an honest compliment about. Things she does -- not her looks or belongings. "I like how you helped take your dish to the sink." This will encourage her to please you. If you feel she really needs a boost -- write her a little note with the compliment and help her hang it on her wall.

Spend some one on one time with her. I highly recommend reading aloud with her. Your spouse can listen too -- but this is your way to make your child know she is important to you.

Take her with you when you can. Do the shopping with her. Take her swimming or on a walk or to the playground. It is not that you can't do these things as a family, but this is meant to build your relationship with her.

Try for a set amount of time where you are not doing anything except being with your daughter.

Tell her you LIKE her. Loving her and telling her that is great -- but knowing that you like her is special.

I loved this question and it sounds to me like you are a good dad. Everyone makes mistakes. It's one way we grow and improve, and teaches your child important things like how we learn and improve.

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First off, what courage to take an honest look at yourself! So many parents think problems only lie in their kids and often neglect the part they're playing and shaping their family.

Secondly, how impactful that you want to help your daughter feel the confidence you didn't feel growing up. You definitely hit the nail on the head - the two biggest needs children have are to feel a sense of belonging and significance. Without either, kids often act out in jealousy, anger, tantrums or worse, suppress their emotions. To make the conscious decision to help your daughter raise her self-esteem begins first with where you're beginning. We all have had less than ideal parents or at least moments of it. I can imagine that you have had other role models in your life that have helped shape the strong male you are today. What are those qualities that those people hold? What are key words of wisdom you have heard them share that play throughout your mind? These visions of who you look up to shape who you are as a parent. By focusing on aspects of who you want to be will also allow you to quiet the judgemental thoughts and help you instinctively connect with your daughter.

Now, all that I've mentioned, that is the real work. No matter how many skills you learn, if you don't shift your internal focus, you'll keep coming up against the same frustrations. With that said and with wanting some concrete suggestions, I would highly recommend making your time with your daughter as consistent as possible. The more consistent you are, the more she'll learn to trust that your words meet your actions. This will build a secure world for her to know that because her needs are being met she can develop a sense of internal control to build on her self-esteem. She will trust that she can come to you with problems and you will help guide her. I agree with the suggestions above, as well. It's so important to encourage versus praise her. Praise focuses on the superficial and the end goal. Encourage gives attention to her abilities and traits. To all that she brings into this world.

Hope this helps. Best of luck!

Stephanie Owen, LMFT

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It's great to hear that a father understands the value and importance of reestablishing that special daughter/father bond that was broken.

Here's the bottom-line. I'll give you a few bullet points below, then will explain. I hope this helps:

  1. From here on out - ALWAYS be there for her. Regardless of whatever you have to do on a personal level (go out with friends, night club, drinking, relaxing, etc.) - remember, your child ALWAYS comes first. Be there for her regardless.
  2. If you commit to her, DON'T let her down. This will show her that when you make a commitment to her, she knows she can count on you.
  3. Be completely honest and fair to her.
  4. Enjoy being with her, watching her grow and help guide her when she needs your direction.
  5. Patience is extremely important. This is absolutely critical as a parent. If you can't offer patience, you need to do whatever possible to work on it and correct the issue. Patience is too important and an absolute necessity.
  6. Be a parent. Remember, you're not trying to 'make good' by being her 'best friend' - you're NOT and you never will be her best friend. You are her Father. A Father understands that it's extremely important to teach his children the important facts of life, to show support, love and understanding. Yet, the Father must also be ready to discipline correctly, consistently and fairly, while maintaining a controlled composure.
  7. Have fun with her! Take her to the park, Father/Daughter breakfast, the zoo, etc.... these are memories that you're making and she'll remember. Remember, creating a memorable experience doesn't need to cost money, it just needs to be 'special' one on one time... Listen to her, watch her look around at the world and try to see through her eyes.
  8. Again, always be there for her - no matter what.

Very best to you and the little one!

tTurn3

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From your question, I'm not convinced whether this is really a problem in her general life or mostly just in her relationship with you. I would suggest, though, even if it is a broader problem, just focus on the two of you to start. Two suggestions:

  1. Immerse yourself in blogs, books, videos, &c. about building a positive self-image and learning effective, constructive encouragement. There's a lot of discussion on this now, and it particularly focuses on turning the focus onto what the child has control over (what she does rather than what she is, challenges she attempted rather than how much she produced) and onto the child having the power to build her own confidence (how she feels about it rather than how you feel about it, what she likes and what she wants to try differently next time rather than what you think, even if you think it's great but she's dissatisfied).
  2. Give her as much so-called MBST as you can. That's a term from Positive Parenting that means Mind-Body-Soul Time. It means that it's entirely kid-directed and you're focused entirely on them and on what you're doing together. It can be playing pretend or talking or reading or cuddling or drawing... Depending on your daughter's personality, this could look like a lot of different things. For my daughter, I often ask her to teach me something, because she loves to do that. I sit down with her, no phone, no distracting thoughts about other stuff, not watching the clock, and I follow her directions and ask questions about things. She likes to teach me how to draw things--sometimes they're very abstract. And remember that, if you sit down for MBST and you feel antsy or uncomfortable, that's often just your own brain trying to resist relaxing, because good MBST leaves you feeling pretty refreshed and cool.

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