5 Loving Ways to Create a Strong Father-Daughter Relationship

Behind many a strong, confident, resilient woman is a great relationship with her dad. These five tips will help fathers form an unbreakable bond with their daughters that will help them flourish.

Cheryl Butler
5-minute read
Episode #584

Each parent/child relationship is special, but the father-daughter bond is significant. The term "daddy's little girl" evokes tender thoughts of a nurturing father wrapping his warm, strong arms and his full heart around his daughter to keep her safe and loved no matter what.

A father's role in a child's life is unparalleled, particularly for daughters. Studies have shown that young women who reported healthy relationships with their fathers were less likely to become clinically depressed or anxious, and overall, they reported better emotional and mental health.

Here are five ways you can create a loving relationship with your daughter, no matter what her age is, and help her emerge into a vibrant, irrepressible woman who can hold her own in today’s fast-paced world.

1. Take the Dad-Q test

Loving fathers aren't perfect; they're present. With so many families keeping such a harried pace, it's easy to lose sight of the little things that can make a big difference in your child's life. The Associated Counselors and Therapists have a free online self-assessment quiz for dads and daughters that can help busy dads take stock of their parenting.

Loving fathers aren't perfect; they're present.

Here are some examples of the types of activities dads can assess whether they do often, sometimes, or hardly ever.

  • I spend 1/2 hour, 1-on-1with her, doing something we both enjoy
  • I know what my daughter is concerned about today
  • I tell my daughter what her strengths are

There are approximately 30 questions geared at the father-daughter relationship. The gist of the quiz isn't to belittle fathers but to help strengthen their parenting skills. A father is the first man in a girl's life that she will have a close relationship with. When he's a positive role model, he sets the standard for her future interactions with men.

Take a moment for some self-reflection. Are there any habits you need to break? The Dad-Q test will give you some ideas about where you might want to refocus your attention so you can connect with your daughter in a positive way.

2. Shower your daughter with affection

In the HuffPost's article, The Important Role of Dad, Dr. Gail Gross, (a human behavior, parenting, and education expert) explained that a child's primary relationship with their father can affect all of their relationships from birth to death, including those with friends, lovers, and spouses.

Girls will look for men who hold the patterns of good old dad, for, after all, they know how 'to do that.' Therefore, if the father was kind, loving, and gentle, they will reach for those characteristics in men. Girls will look for, in others, what they have experienced and become familiar with in childhood.

Dr. Gail Gross

Dads who shower their daughters, no matter their age, with continued love and affection, are paving the way for her to seek this trait out in relationships with future partners. When she's a cranky toddler who needs a nap, Dad can hug her, tell her he loves her (even when she's overtired), and gently tuck her into her cozy bed with the assurance that he'll be waiting to play outside with her when she wakes. As a stressed teenager, he can reassure her that things will get better and remind her that she always has him to lean on.

3. Understand what your daughter longs for

Years ago, my ex-husband and I learned a tip from our pediatrician about what young girls need—she referred to it as the "longing list." Here are a few examples.

  • She longs for you to affirm her
  • She longs for you to be patient with her
  • She longs for you to validate her
  • She longs for you to choose her even when everything else calls for your attention
  • She longs for you to keep your promises

Look for new things you can add to your daughter's "longing list" and then deliver them. The more you tune into her needs and connect with her longings, the more empowered she will become as she grows into a young woman.

4. Love and respect her mom

Respect is one of the essential traits parents can instill in their children. My strongest parenting belief is that our family's home provides the foundation for the valuable skills, traits, and lessons we want to teach our kids. Children are sponges who soak up the world around them. That's doubly true for how they see Mom and Dad interact.

RELATED: How to Raise a Respectful Child by Being a Respectful Parent

Theodore Hesburgh said, "The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." As the divorced mom of eight kids, I couldn't agree more! If there's one crucial gift a father can give his daughter, it's treating her mom with kindness, love, and respect.

Children are sponges who soak up the world around them. That's doubly true for how they see Mom and Dad interact.

My ex-husband goes the extra mile in complimenting me in front of our kids, but particularly our daughters. We still have family meals together, and he always comments publicly about how delicious the food was (even when I know it wasn't his favorite). I appreciate his kind interactions in front of our girls because I know how good they feel when they witness these times together.

I read a compelling and heartwarming article by Clint Edwards—Fathers Need To Show Mothers Love Through Their Actions—that sums up this notion beautifully. Here's my favorite takeaway:

Fathers, I can say with complete sincerity that your marriage, your family, all of it, will get better—it will get warmer, and it will get more functional—if you show your love in actions.

Clint Edwards

Actions speak louder than words—an excellent reminder for dads raising daughters.


5. Make time for bonding

Bonding means making time to connect. Setting aside regular chunks of time to spend one-on-one with your daughter will mean the world to her and will have a significant impact on both of your lives. That's why it's important to set aside Daddy-Daughter days.

Take your daughter's lead if there are certain hobbies she enjoys. Let her pick the restaurant or shops she wants to visit. Or surprise her with an adventure and introduce her to your favorite hiking trails. The key is to schedule these outings consistently so the two of you can look forward to them no matter how busy life gets.

When an outing doesn't fit the schedule or budget, surprise her with positive notes of love and encouragement tucked away in her lunch bag or left on her nightstand. And be sure and tell her, repeatedly, how much she means to you. This YouTube video, 7 Things Every Daughter Needs to Hear From Her Dad, is a super reminder of the loving sentiments all daughters need to hear from their dads, all the time.

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.