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Why do men want 'strong' daughters but 'sweet' wives?
A recent survey shows the gap between the qualities men want in their wives and the qualities men want in their daughters. - photo by Erin Stewart
There is no doubt in my mind that my husband has an enormous influence on who and what our daughters will become.

Yes, I have an impact, too, because I set an example and spend my days with our two daughters. But there is something undeniably special in the daddy-daughter bond. That bond will largely shape how our girls value themselves and expect to be treated by their future husbands.

A recent study in The Shriver Report is making news because it highlights the disparity between what men want in a wife and what they want their daughters to become.

For example, 66 percent of the men surveyed said independence was an important quality for their daughters, but only 34 percent said they wanted their wives to be independent. Almost half of the men also want their daughters to be strong, but only a quarter of them wanted strong wives. Instead, qualities such as sweet ranked high for wives.

Physical attractiveness garnered 45 percent of the vote for wives but only 11 percent for daughters.

So how does a man rear strong, independent, intelligent daughters who place little emphasis on outward beauty? For me, the answer is simple: Value and praise those same qualities in her mother.

If a girl sees Dad rolling his eyes when Mom expresses her opinions, then she will quickly learn not to speak up either. But if she sees a father who fosters and praises independence in his wife, then his daughter will grow up wanting to be assertive and strong as well.

Lets take a look at some of the qualities men ranked in this survey, and how fostering these traits in Mom might directly influence a daughter.

Intelligence: I was heartened to see that intelligence was the No. 1-ranked quality for both wives and daughters. To men who want to rear intelligent daughters, ask yourself: Do you make a point to listen to your wifes ideas, especially in front of your children? Do you compliment her intelligence? Do you reinforce to your children that their mother is an intelligent, capable woman, or do you mock her mistakes and put down her suggestions?

Independence: Independence and being sweet were ranked equally for wifely qualities, but independence far outranked sweetness for daughters. Its an unfortunate disparity because men want their peers and wives a bit on the submissive side but somehow think they can rear daughters who are going to feel comfortable taking control in a mans world. If you want independent daughters, ask yourself: Do I support my wifes decisions, or do I second-guess her in front of the children? Do I praise my female co-workers for their tenacity, or do I label them as man-haters? Do I make disparaging comments about successful, independent women who threaten my confidence?

Attractiveness: Physical beauty was among the lowest-ranked qualities for daughters, while it was second-highest for a wife. This makes sense biologically, of course, and I doubt any fathers are actively rooting for their daughters to be unattractive. Rather, I imagine they dont want their daughters self-esteem to be based on physical beauty. If thats the goal, then fathers should consider how they approach beauty in their homes. Ask yourself: Do I only remark on my wife and daughters appearance when they are all fixed up, or do I make a point of telling them they are pretty when they arent trying to be? Do I give attention to other women simply because of their physical traits? And perhaps most importantly: Am I making it clear in my home that my wife is still attractive to me or more so with stretch marks and laugh lines?

Dads have an amazing opportunity and responsibility to shape their daughters self-worth. The bottom line is, if a father wants a strong, independent, self-assured daughter, he must love her mother for having those same traits. Shower the women in your life with compliments that arent about their looks but are about their brains, tenacity and quiet strength.

Praise your children and wife genuinely and regularly for the qualities you value most, and pretty soon, your daughters will value them, too.
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