“It is admirable for a man to take his son fishing, but there is a special place in heaven for the father who takes his daughter shopping.”
– John Sinor
Doing Money Right subscribers loved our article on back-to-school shopping tips for saving big bucks. But I also got some feedback that took me by surprise.
“We want to hear more about your father-daughter shopping date!”
When my daughter was in elementary school, she and I figured out how to take what’s usually a stressful ordeal—back-to-school shopping—and turn it into fun!
Now she’s in college and believe it or not…we still do it! It’s become a tradition we both look forward to. Even more—it’s proven to play a pivotal role in our relationship.
Towards the end of each summer we block out an overnight—dad and daughter—for shopping, dining, and so much more.
Dads: listen up! Emily and I have spent years perfecting our excursion. You could say it’s almost an art form. So if you want the Insider how-to for making a hit with your girls, not to mention memories for life…
Take heed! I’m going to share with you all you need to know.
- Make it a Mini-Holiday
Book a night at a hotel and select a restaurant for dinner.
Emily and I enjoy high rise hotels—the nicer the view the better. There’s something magical about being high up.
If your daughter’s a pre-teen or older, let her chime in on the decision. Same with the restaurant you pick. This takes the appeal for girls to a new level, trust me.
Dinner doesn’t have to be fancy if that’s not you and your daughter’s style. The important thing is that it’s fun and special, so a place you enjoy but aren’t able to eat at often is what you’re looking for.
If your daughter is younger and hasn’t quite acquired elegant table manners…a nice restaurant is the perfect occasion for practice. Because it’s both appropriate and fun, she’ll actually be eager to learn.
Things like tucking your napkin on your lap and knowing which utensil to use. Don’t be afraid to take your kids and show them how to be ladies and gentleman. Your shopping date night can be a great opportunity to do this!
What comes after dinner? You bet…dessert!
Don’t have the sweet stuff at the same place you ate dinner. Go somewhere else.
Our tradition was cupcakes. We would always pick our treats and eat at a table outside. We actually ended up at that same cupcake place year after year. Kids love doing things in their familiar comfort zone.
So if a fancy restaurant and cupcakes scares you a bit, because it can be pricey, don’t worry. Once again, it does not have to cost a lot to be successful.
You might go camping in the backyard, grab some pizza, or just go for a bike ride together; whatever it is, get out of the house and do it together.
With cupcakes devoured it was back to the hotel. Now it was time for her to pick a movie. It was usually not what I would have picked but we watched it…and had fun doing so!
Once again. We had a lot of year over year repeats here.
The next morning we always go out for breakfast. Her choice. While I would be picking some good eggs and healthy stuff, she went for crepes. So we would always eat the yummiest crepes around.
After crepes and coffee, it was off to the mall.
- Pay Attention
Now before we move on to the shopping, let me give you what this isn’t about…
This isn’t about the shopping.
Understand that you are likely to learn more about your daughter on your excursion than almost any other time… I remember hardly getting a word in as my daughter chatted about absolutely everything in her life.
So whatever you do, don’t focus too much on the shopping. Instead…
Focus on her.
My job during this?
Listen intently. Look her in the eyes. Nod your head. Be very interested. Not just fake interested.
Ask her questions. Stay off your phone. More eye contact. Nod again.
Nonverbal communication accounts for a huge portion of any conversation, and talking with your child is no different. Your children, at a very young age, know if you are fully engaged.
In fact, many of the non-verbal cues I use to help my clients feel more comfortable – like ‘mirroring’ their facial expressions, using pleasant tones of voice, asking clarifying questions, and keeping a relaxed posture – are equally as important in this situation.
Mirroring is an art, but it is pretty easy. Just do as your child does. If they lean in, you lean in. If they speak softly, you speak softly. It is amazing how this can connect you to others.
Asking clarifying questions really means that you need to listen. When you find yourself looking over their shoulder at the action or reaching for your phone just stop. Stay engaged.
Keep in mind that you can do everything I described above and never hear a thing your daughter says. Verbal signs of attentive listening, like asking questions or summarizing points, are harder to fake—but are just as important to show you’re invested in the conversation.
It doesn’t always come naturally, especially if you find yourself lost in the details of who-likes-who or whatever her interests are, but don’t let that stop you.
The small effort to focus only on your precious child will pay huge dividends for you.
- Keep Mom on Speed Dial
Now…it’s time to shop.
I know what you dads are thinking. “Shopping’s not really my thing.”
Make it your thing.
I remember our first trip and how ignorant I was about shopping for a little girl!
Really. How in the world was I supposed to help her buy clothes?
Sizes? I’ve got nothing.
Not to mention that walking into a mall with a little girl can feel like walking into a minefield.
Everywhere you turn is a potential trap…body image, popularity, brand recognition, crazy fashion trends. All these things impact her taste and comfort level. Your job is to make her feel confident, comfortable, and respected.
I didn’t think so. It’s delicate work, and it’s not uncommon to feel like you don’t meet the challenge.
Luckily I have this thing called a cell phone and I could reach mom at a moment’s notice. She was on call each of these days.
The important thing is you will get the hang of it eventually.
Now? These weekends are some of my most treasured times with Emily.
“Children are apt to live up to what you believe of them.”
– Lady Bird Johnson
Father-Daughter shopping dates are about more than just buying new clothes. They’re about turning a necessary activity into a special and fun bonding activity.
The point is that you’re trying. Trying to understand your daughter in whatever environment she feels comfortable in.
That effort alone is worth the momentary discomfort of walking into a store that smells like flower-scented bug spray. She’ll recognize and appreciate you for it.
Who knows? You could even have fun in the process!
Join my Email Insider Group. Sign up to receive weekly tips and tricks on finance, education, home buying, insurance, Social Security and everything in between. Click HERE to become an Insider! Byron W. Ellis, CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®, CRPC®, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and Managing Director United Capital Financial Advisers, LLC, a Financial Life Management firm. The information contained in this article is intended for information only is not a recommendation, and should not be considered investment advice. Please contact your financial advisor with questions about your specific needs and circumstances. © Byron Ellis