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OXFORD MILLS, Ont. /Troy Media/ – Fathers, don’t underestimate your power. You have the ability to influence a young life without saying a word.

Your child will be watching your every move – studying your facial expressions and second guessing everything you say, searching for hidden meaning.

You’re the No. 1 man in your child’s life at the beginning and although someone may some day take your place, those formative years are extremely important.

Your son will shape his identity in large part by studying yours. He’ll try on your expressions, your habits and mannerisms to see which ones fit and which don’t. Some things he will consciously try to mimic and other things will just happen organically, as a magical product of genetics.

He may walk like you, but will he share your weaknesses and strengths?

Your relationship will heavily influence whether your son matures into a man of character or struggles with personal failings all his life.

There will, of course, be myriad other factors shaping your son’s future. But they don’t diminish the power of your influence.

You can’t determine every aspect of your child’s future by your own behaviour. But it’s extremely important to watch not only what you model in front of your child but also what comes out of your mouth.

The relationship between a father and daughter is a particularly special and powerful one. The way you relate to her will help her to define her feeling of self-worth. Now if that isn’t a heavy load to bear, I don’t know what is.

I remember carefully examining everything my father said to me in terms of my looks, my dress, my intelligence and my talent. He helped me to grow into a confident, self-assured young woman, but he also provided a very realistic perspective on challenges I would face.

A high school science teacher for over 30 years, he told me, You are smart in ways that will get you nowhere in the world. That was when I won top marks for English.

I took it as a compliment but I got the message. He didn’t put the same value on writing ability as he did on math or science.

He also treated my sister differently than he treated me. I’ll never forget looking out the window and seeing him teaching her something about the car. They were huddled together, under the open hood.

When I asked him later why he didn’t show me, too, he said something like, Well, Cathy likes to learn how to do things on her own. That one left me puzzled for a while.

Dad didn’t say it often but I knew he loved me. I knew this because he looked forward to the time we spent together after school and seemed disappointed when my part-time job wouldn’t allow me to do that anymore.

He joked about my boyfriends but I always knew he cared. He teased me regularly about my hairstyles and wardrobe choices but in reality he was saying, I see you.

That’s all that really mattered.

My mother, sister and I were never left wishing he told us he loved us. He did that every day, by making us laugh, and giving us his time and attention. Mom said Dad told her, I love you on their wedding day and If it changes, he said, I’ll let you know. He was a man who chose his words carefully.

A dad not only has the power to change the way his daughter sees herself, he can also shape her choice in a future male partner. It’s only natural that we will choose someone who seems familiar. Someone who reminds us of Dad. We do this without even knowing it and often don’t realize it until something happens that makes the similarity obvious.

What kind of man will your daughter choose, even subconsciously? Are you teaching her that men are strong but sensitive, kind and generous? Or will she be drawn to someone who reminds her of you but isn’t necessarily the best choice in a life partner?

On this Father’s Day, as the daughter of a man who made me feel treasured, loved and cherished (without words), I ask you to carefully consider the influence you’re having on your child’s life.

Diana Fisher is a freelance writer living on a 200-acre farm along the Kemptville Creek in Oxford Mills, Ont.

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