How to Raise a World-Changing Daughter

by Michelle Watson, PhD, LPC

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I want to be a world changer!

Stated more specifically (and with a lot more words!): I want to leave a lasting legacy of equipping fathers with better tools to intentionally and consistently pursue their daughter’s hearts, resulting in a culture that is influenced by healthy women who love with passion and lead with strength.

With that goal in mind, you can imagine my piqued interest when I saw the cover of Time Magazine a while back where the entire periodical was dedicated to one primary theme:


Donning the cover was a beautiful African American woman by the name of Ava DuVernay who was noted to be the first black woman to direct a film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Though I’d never heard of her, I was thrilled that she was being honored publicly as a significant female influencer.

And under Ava’s picture, there was a list of numerous other women who were highlighted as firsts in their respective fields, ranging from military heroines to those with financial success to brilliant entrepreneurs to accomplished athletes to governmental officials and on it went. Among those noted as powerful change-makers were Oprah Winfrey, Aretha Franklin, Barbara Walters, Sheryl Sandberg, Selena Gomez, Serena Williams, Madeline Albright, and on it went.

As I opened each page in the magazine, I was inspired by courageous women who ranged in ages from 16 to 87, all who didn’t let the glass ceiling hold them back. I was intrigued to read that many of these women credited those who sought to stop them in their pursuits as being motivators in their stories. (Yes, you read that right! Most of these women described their naysayers as being paramount to their rising above ridicule or failure).

Additionally, though some of them talked about struggling to find their place “in a man’s world,” it was incredible to hear how many of them were championed by men in their lives.

But beyond talking about the impact of supportive men in general, many of these world changers noted that their dads played a huge role in their success.

For some reason, that piece of information caught me by surprise. And even though I spend much of my time focusing on the dad-daughter relationship, I wasn’t expecting these high achievers and national icons to talk about their fathers’ influence. Yet I was beyond excited to read about powerful women whose dads celebrated them!

Here are two stories in the article that emphasize the power of a dad’s support:

1. Philanthropist Melinda Gates is the first woman to give away more than $40 billion. She said, “If your dad believes in you, that’s important to young girls because if your dad thinks you can be good at math and science, good at business, good at anything, it lifts your confidence and your self-esteem.”

2. Loretta Lynch is the first black woman to become U.S. Attorney General and she recalls how her father, a Baptist minister, defied convention when he invited women to preach at his pulpit. Clearly this was not the norm back in the 60’s and 70’s. Here is what she had to say about her dad: “My father was always fighting a fight for someone…. I saw my father advocate for women to serve in leadership positions in his church. For him, talent could not go unrewarded. So from him I got the view that there were no limitations just because I was a girl…. The aspirations and dreams he had for my brothers were the same ones he had for me.

I want to highlight one other statement in this article that is foundational for helping your daughter become a world changer. I trust that it will inspire you to be your daughter’s greatest champion while sitting in her cheering section, encouraging her to take greater risks:

What’s remarkable about many of these women is their ability to remain empathic and accessible in the face of resistance and ridicule…. Our goal with this extraordinary project is for every woman and girl to find someone who moves her, to find someone whose presence in the highest reaches of success says to her that it is safe to climb, come on up, the view is spectacular!

Dad, if you want to raise a confident daughter who believes in herself and steps forward to change the world around her for good, be assured that you are part of that equation and your input really does matter in the big scheme of things.

Be the someone who moves your daughter forward with the gift of your presence by inviting her to join you in climbing higher.

Here’s your challenge today: Look for something specific in your daughter that you can celebrate, something that makes her smile and light up, even if she’s not good at it yet. Especially if she’s not good at it yet. (She has to start somewhere, right?). Then strategize with her about ways to reinforce that gift or conquer that mountain together.

I can hardly wait to hear stories from your daughters about how you joined them at the summit and enjoyed the view side by side!

More articles from Michelle here.

Bonus: Listen to a recent interview with my high school friend, Dr. Lori Salierno-Maldonado, about how her dad raised her to be a world-changer. Just click below and prepare to be inspired. This is an episode from my radio program and podcast, The Dad Whisperer. You can also check out past shows on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play or at


Dr. Michelle Watson is a licensed professional counselor in Portland, Oregon, founder of The Abba Project, a 9-month group forum for dads of daughters (ages 13 to 30), and author of Dad, Here’s What I Really Need from You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter’s Heart, available on Amazon and Audible. Her next book, Let’s Talk: Conversation Starters for Dads and Daughters will be released in August 2020. She also hosts a weekly radio program in Portland called “The Dad Whisperer,” which you can access as a podcast on her website and on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play Music. Visit for more information and to sign up for her weekly Dad-Daughter Friday blogs. You can also follow or send feedback on Facebook and Twitter. 

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