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Young Girls Need Their Fathers

Cynthia Tucker
Universal Press Syndicate

Girls need their daddies. My father was there to mend my broken dolls, photograph me in bows and bonnet on Easter Sundays, and chase away my suitors at promptly 10 p.m. So I have long understood the crucial role fathers play in their daughters' lives.

Now a wrenching case in New York state underscores the desperate need that girls have for attention from men. The arrest of 20-year-old Nushawn Williams - suspected of infecting with HIV many female sexual partners, including young girls - has uncovered a sad and sordid tale of adolescent girls thrilled to be in the company Of this sexual predator, who lavished attention on his young lovers even as he passed on a deadly virus.

News reports quote several of his young victims saying that Williams cooked for them and took them shopping. The friend of one 15-year-old victim told The New York Times that he treated her like Princess Di. The comparison is sobering. It is hard to imagine the circumstances girls who would see royal treatment in the affections of Williams, a violent small-time drug dealer who was practically homeless. But the lure of Williams' dangerous attention serves as a pointed reminder that girls desperate for the approval of men will take it wherever they find it.

The conventional wisdom takes into account the statistics that show boys who grow up without loving and responsible fathers are more likely to go astray. (Count Williams among those cursed with two negligent parents: His father apparently abandoned him to the care of his drug-addicted mother.) But there has been less attention given to the lives of young women who grow up without the loving guidance of good fathers. Nicky Marone, author of "How to Father a Successful Daughter," is among those who believe the :father-daughter relationship deserves more attention. She recommends that fathers praise their daughters' achievements and their attractiveness. Fathers are invaluable, she says, in developing their daughters'
self-esteem.

Former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, father of three grown daughters as well as a son, believes attentive fathers can keep their daughters from becoming sexually active too soon. "I always told my daughters they were pretty, so they weren't desperate to hear it from the first boy who came along," he has said.

Absent or neglectful fathers are not a problem just for the poor. Indeed, there are unexpected lessons in the family lessons in the family life of Bill  McCartney, founder of Promise Keepers, which preaches that men should treasure their families. McCartney's wife has recounted the isolation she and her children felt in the years in which her husband was obsessively building his football coaching career. It was during that time that McCartney's unmarried daughter bore two children with football players on McCartney's University of Colorado team.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Kristyn McCartney would have avoided those relationships had her father been more attentive. And there may be girls among Nushawn Williams' victims whose fathers tried to teach them Values and show them love.

But the odds that a girl will grow up into an emotionally healthy young woman are better when she has a loving and attentive father in her life.

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