By: Vincent Weaver
In the first two parts of this series, we looked at a father’s prominent (and irreplaceable) role in the family. We also looked at how the family structure has changed in many cases, and the fact that there is a serious downside to fathers not being involved in their children’s lives.
So, what are the positive effects of fatherly involvement, and what might that involvement look like? Here are just some of the ways that an involved, committed father can have profoundly positive effects on their daughters and sons:
- · Greater self-control of aggressive tendencies (especially in boys)
- · Increased intellectual and academic achievement (more so for boys)
- · Improved climate for development of healthy gender identity (& reduced risk of Gender Identity Disorder)
- · Increased potential for more satisfying and stable marriages
- · Greater sense of self-confidence and independence
- · Increased capacity for positive, intimate relationships
o Sons know better how to relate to and how to treat women
o Daughters know better how to relate to men
o Sons – physical aggression, non-compliance, criminal behavior.
o Daughters – running away, promiscuity, accomplices in crime.
Furthermore, a committed father can help his child’s healthy development in three broad categories – as Provider, Protector, and Nurturer. A “Provider” goes beyond the obvious of bringing food, clothing, and shelter to the family. (Though, even this can’t be taken for granted these days.) A dad who is regularly involved with his child provides emotional security, too. A child really benefits from knowing their dad is there for them “no matter what”. That type of security will have an effect on their being able to understand intimacy – and on being able to engage in trusting relationships in the future. Men are wired to be more prone to taking risks, as well, and this can help foster creative abilities in their children. (Granted, this can also drive moms crazy, at times.)
An involved father as “Protector” might conjure up images of a “knight in shining armor”. This is very fitting, actually! The dad protects his family from physical, emotional, and spiritual harm. Like Christ, he should be willing to sacrifice for his family – possibly even giving his life for them – to fight off the “dragons” of our day. (Such “dragons” might be the negative cultural influences we encounter every day, or simply bad habits that we can fall into as a family.) He role models what it means to be a man – both as father and husband. A son who sees his dad acting chivalrous – opening doors for his wife (and for women, in general), offering his coat when it’s cold, and standing when a lady enters or leaves a room – comes to understand that sacrificial respect for women that men are called to live out. A daughter who sees this behavior comes to understand how she should expect to be treated, and has a more clear sense of the dignity and true worth she has as an image of God.
Though often associated with something moms do, it’s imperative that a dad be a “Nurturer”, too. Appropriate physical affection and play by fathers with children is vital for both sons and daughters to experience. (As kids become teens, they may act like they don’t want hugs or kisses or hand-holding from you, but they do need this. Follow their lead to get a sense of their preferred type and timing of affection, and be generous with this type of nurturing.) Simply spending time with your child is the most important thing about nurturing. Running an errand? Take one of your kids with you. Doing a chore around the house? Get one of your kids involved. But, take the time to do some things every week that THEY like to do, as well. (Yes, some of these things will not be of interest to you, but the message you send by making this effort is, ‘You really matter to me. I enjoy spending time with you.’)
Finally, something many dads don’t do enough of is let their kids know they want them to talk to them about their sexuality. Fathers need to let their kids know this is okay – that they can ask questions. This is where having that relationship with your child becomes so important. If your child perceives a connection with you – you will have more influence over their decisions – including those decisions related to sexual morality. Unsure how to begin such conversations? Consider attending a Family Honor program soon. We provide a format for this that opens the door, equips parents with helpful tools, and gives parents the confidence and competence needed to continue these discussions long after the program ends. Click here for our 2013-14 program schedule. Note: MANY additional programs will be added in the coming months, so check back with us regularly!
Next time, we’ll look at some success stories of dads who have decided to step up to the plate and really take their role seriously. It’s never too late to be a dad, after all!
Marc Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of Parenting) Mahwah, NF, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1995.
Wade Horn, Father Facts, National Fatherhood Initiative, Washington, 1995.
Henry B. Biller, Fathers and Families, Westport, Connecticut, Auburn House, 1993.