Monday, 3 June 2019

DAD – the superhero without a cape!

Every father should remember that one day his child will follow his example, not his advice – Charles Kettering, Success.Com

With Father’s Day on 16 June, we turn our attention to the men in our lives and the key part they play in the developmental phases of our children.  Although many children grow up without a father in the house, it is very important for a child to have a male role model that they can relate to.

According to a blog by Ditta M Oliker, Ph.D., on Psychology Today (2011), the world has radically changed as we grew accustomed to the social, economic and technical advances of the 20th century.  These changes also forced a change in the basic structure and functioning of the family, with a consequent shift in the authority of the father. His influence was increasingly seen as minor, even negligible, and his importance was defined by how well he provided for the family.

She believes that the then-new field of psychology contributed to the diminished role of the father. Until then, not a lot of research was done on the importance on the role of the father, and his influence on the development and growth of his child was reported as "insignificant."  When referring to the term "parent", reference was often made to the mother and if the father was mentioned, was equivalent to other influences. Sadly, very little parent-child studies investigated the father's role, and when studies reported on the father's involvement it was as reported by the mother. In more than 2,000 parents who responded to questions about parenting in studies, not one father was interviewed.  There was a general conception that men were not interested in fatherhood!

According to Oliker, the pendulum slowly began to swing back in the 1970s, when new studies started to support the impact of fathers. “That change influenced me as a graduate student at the time to risk doing my Ph.D. thesis on father-son interactions and how those interactions may actually be an important influencing factor in an adolescent son's development. Fortunately for me, my study did find positive results of a father's influence on the moral reasoning of an adolescent son, allowing me to graduate on time”, she wrote in her blog.

Today the father is regarded as a very important person in the developmental phases of children and the impact a father has on a child will have lasting results. From a report in "Fathers and Their Impact on Children's Well-Being":

Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections.

It is so important that fathers also understand this role and know that even the way that fathers play with their children also has an important impact on a child's emotional and social development. Oliker claims that fathers spend a higher percentage of their one-to-one interactions with infants and pre-schoolers in stimulating, playful activity than do mothers. From these interactions, children learn how to regulate their feelings and behaviour.

Children with involved, caring fathers also have better educational outcomes. The influence of a father's involvement extends into adolescence and young adulthood. Numerous studies find that an active and nurturing style of fathering is associated with better verbal skills, intellectual functioning, and academic achievement among adolescents.  Unfortunately, no baby is issued with a script on how to raise this particular child and fathers (parents) make mistakes. We learn as they grow!

What makes a good father, then?  For one, he needs to realise that children are sent to our lives to make adults of grown-ups! Because nothing will make you more responsible, more aware of a secure future and quality living than when you hold that little child for the first time.  And nothing matters more than the well-being of the child.

So, what makes a father?

Faithful and forgiving.  If you drop something or come home late, your father will understand and have your back.  He will also take your side in any situation (until you get home!).  Fathers believe the best of all their children and will be there to support you at your first netball game, give advice when you want to ask a girl out or when you learn how to ride a bicycle.

Accountable and admirable.  Fathers are heroes – so many little girls want to marry men like their fathers and boys want to grow big and strong like their dads!  The man in the house is admired by his wife and children because of the way he treats people, his example and the way he remains accountable for actions.

Teacher and trustworthy. Fathers teach their children about life, about nature, about being human.  By taking the little one along when you chop wood, go shopping, fishing or camping, you teach them about survival, negotiation, treating other people fairly and about spending time in nature.  By showing up at the game when you promised to, by catching the child when he is jumping into a pool or by fixing a broken toy, you express that you are trustworthy.

Helper and honest.  Children often believe “dad can fix this” and you should be the helper, the one to try and make things right.  Sometimes it will be something you need to fix physically but often by listening and giving advice you are also fixing.  Fathers should be honest – children are more sensitive to lies than we give them credit for and therefore we should also trust our children and confide in them with honesty when possible.

Encouragement.  Fathers are the ones running up and down on the side of the field, urging the child on to do more, go faster.  He is the one telling you that a future and good career is important, but he is also there to dry the tears when things are not looking great.  Then he will encourage you to believe in the future and new opportunities!

Respected and role model. Children want to respect their fathers.  And remember that your child also does not have a checklist of what you are supposed to do and be – as long as the relationship between father and child is based on mutual respect, understanding and accommodating the generation gap a child will grow up with the concept that the father is the role model to which he will aspire, the man she is proud to call dad!

Do not try to be the perfect father.  Maybe just look at priorities again and see what in your schedule can be cancelled so you can make that all important first match, ballet concert or just an afternoon playing in the garden.  Small things we do with our children, make big impacts when they are adults!

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads, future dads, and grandfathers!

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