There are ways to raise your daughter so that she never gets involved with an abusive man.

The environment little girls grow up in is crucial for instilling the inner strength to avoid toxic men.

It’s been said that we are a product of our childhood environment, so certainly, there must be a way to “abuse-proof” your daughter against involvement with violent men — which includes avoiding being drawn to them in the first place.

Steps Parents Can Take to Abuse-Proof Their Daughters

“Treat your daughters with respect,” begins Tina B. Tessina, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist in Southern California who counsels individuals and couples as well as abused women, and is author of over a dozen books including “It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction.”

Being treated with respect in the home teaches young girls that they deserve to be respected by their eventual boyfriends.

They will also more easily recognize when they’re being mistreated.

The next step is to teach our daughters to be self-sufficient. That’s a major one. Not depending on a man to take care of her is a major deterrent to an abusive relationship.

“Focus on her character, intelligence and competence  –  not her cuteness, beauty or attractiveness to boys,” continues Dr. Tessina.

An example of this might be as follows: Your 16-year-old daughter expresses an interest in the sport of powerlifting.

You can either encourage this, shame her for it because “girls don’t do those kinds of things,” or fall somewhere in between.

Or maybe your 12-year-old daughter announces one day she wants to be an orthopedic surgeon.

Are you going to tell her to ditch her dream because less than five percent of board-certified orthopedic surgeons are women?

Though few people know this fact from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, you get the point.

“Teach her to value her own self: her intelligence, her competence, her kindness and caring, her strength,” says Dr. Tessina.

She urges parents to show love and respect for each other so that your daughter grows up “with the image of your own relationship as her pattern to follow.”

What if you’re a single parent?

Dr. Tessina says to make sure your daughter witnesses couples “in positive interaction.”

Make sure she’s around good men (your brothers, uncles, cousins, friends, your father).

This way she can learn what kind of people men should be and how to recognize potential for abuse.

Other Ways to Abuse-Proof Your Daughter

Dr. Tessina says to discuss with your daughter things like song lyrics, TV shows and abusive celebrity behavior (e.g., Rihanna and Chris Brown).

“Don’t leave your daughter to absorb pop culture without a discerning voice explaining what works in life and what doesn’t.

“Make sure she’s exposed to good role models in school, in your family, in the neighborhood and in the media. Teach her to value character over notoriety and wealth.”

Martial arts training (combined with a healthy home envirionment) is yet another tool to help build a self-esteem that can’t be chipped away by a toxic man.

How does a parent teach a daughter to “sniff out” a potentially abusive young man?

“The opposite of abuse is respect,” says Dr. Tessina.  “If she is around respectful people most of the time; disrespectful people appear strange and unpleasant.”

In other words, respectful people are normalized, and toxic people are marginalized.

Parents should not punish their daughters for speaking their mind or expressing opinions, though there should be parameters within which to speak (e.g., no foul language).

And yet another way to abuse-proof a daughter so that she never stays with an abusive, controlling man is to encourage her to think independently.

This way, she won’t be drawn to a man who wants to control her.

Give your daughter plenty of opportunities to make choices in life (she can choose her bedroom colors and hairstyle, but she can’t choose the color of your new car or your hairstyle).

Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, TV, video and podcasts, and has been in private practice for over 30 years.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
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