Lori Cheung is a professional photographer, and, as such, she’s used to seeing things clearly. She describes her father, Herb, as a real life Winnie the Pooh; someone who is kind and gentle, quick with a smile and a kind word. In talking with Cheung, it’s obvious that she’s taken on her father’s personality. She’s caring, open, and quick to laugh. She’s her father’s daughter.
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We spoke with Cheung about her father, how their relationship has developed and changed through the years, and about the 10 lessons parents face when raising daughters.
1. Fathers are the most important men in their daughter’s life – A daughter should view her father as the standard and example of how she deserves to be treated by the boys and men in her future. As she grows up, the way she is treated by her father and how he interacts with her (and other females) will serve as a model for what she should look for in a future mate and what she should accept from other men.
2. Talk to your daughter about body development – Girls develop earlier than boys. It’s important to talk with your daughter and help her understand that the changes she’s going through are normal. It’s especially important to assure those who are early or late bloomers that not everyone matures at the same time.
3. Girls mature emotionally earlier than boys – Girls start to “get it” (i.e. understand their world) before boys do. By the time a girl hits nine or ten, parents need to pay closer attention to their daughters because they may need more emotional support.
4. Provide your daughter with good role models - Cheung says that her father was her role model. Asian parents tend to encourage pursuit of math, science, medicine, or law. However, Cheung’s father was a photographer and encouraged her to pursue the arts. It was because of his support that Cheung felt comfortable leaving her job as an environmentalist to open her own photography studio.
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5. Daddy and me time – As she was growing up, Cheung spent time gardening with her father. Planting fruits and vegetables with her father are some of her fondest childhood memories. She says that the reason those memories are so precious is because it was one-on-one time with the most important man in her world. Find a hobby that both you and your daughter can enjoy and make it special.
6. Girls are cuddlier than boys – Generally speaking, girls are cuddlier than boys. They like to be held when you’re watching TV, and they love to have their hair brushed or put into ponytails. Cheung says that frequently she and her father would just sit and hold hands. It gave her a sense of security to know he was there and she was loved.
7. Read between the lines - Any man who has a wife or girlfriend knows that if you ask a woman a question that isn’t precise, you may not get the information you’re looking for. It’s that Men Are From Mars/Women Are From Venus thing. Communication with daughters can be similar. For example, you could ask, “Are you hungry for lunch?” and get an affirmative answer.
“Would you like a turkey sandwich?”
“Would you like soup?”
“You just told me you were hungry.”
“I am, but I want peanut butter not turkey.”
“Why didn’t you just tell me you wanted peanut butter?”
“You didn’t ask.”
Learn to read between the lines with your daughter.
8. Don't pressure your daughter to fit in - Go to any mall and you’ll see a wide spectrum of girls who all dress and behave differently. Some girls who are ten look and act as if they’re 15. They wear makeup, talk on cell phones, text endlessly, and have more disposable income than some adults. Don’t be swayed by what you see out in public. Stick to your value system, and direct your daughter’s energy to activities that you believe are positive.
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9. Girls aren’t boys – I’m a sports fan. I love any kind of sport because I love competition. I have three daughters, and all three of them hate sports. I’ve tried to enlighten them about the human drama of competition, but they want nothing to do with it. It took time for me to realize that girls and boys are different. Some girls might like sports, but not mine. Rather than forcing them to watch or play sports, I had to adapt to the things they like to do – arts, crafts, music and dance. I had to adjust to them and not the other way around.
10. They’ll bend but won’t break – Parents sometimes get the idea that their little girls are like porcelain dolls and they need to be wrapped in bubble wrap or else something horrible will happen. Parents tend to coddle their girls or even spoil them. It’s important to recognize this, and as your daughter grows older, encourage her to become independent. Teaching her independence will prepare her for life’s bumps and bruises.
For Cheung, her father, and those parents who are raising daughters, when in doubt about what to do or say, let Pooh guide you:
Piglet: “How do you spell love?”
Pooh: “You don’t spell it, you feel it.”