Anyone can father a child, but being a dad takes a lifetime. Fathers play a role in every child’s life that cannot be filled by others. This role can have a large impact on a child and help shape him or her into the person they become. Fathers, like mothers, are pillars in the development of a child’s emotional well-being. Children look to their fathers to lay down the rules and enforce them. They also look to their fathers to provide a feeling of security, both physical and emotional. Children want to make their fathers proud, and an involved father promotes inner growth and strength. Studies have shown that when fathers are affectionate and supportive, it greatly affects a child’s cognitive and social development. It also instills an overall sense of well-being and self confidence.
Fathers not only influence what we are inside, but how we have relationships with people as we grow. The way a father treats his child will influence what he or she looks for in other people. Friends, lovers, and spouses will all be chosen based on how the child perceived the meaning of the relationship with his or her father. The patterns a father sets in the relationships with his children will dictate how his children relate with other people. Fathers sometimes underestimate their role. Loving, actively involved fathers contribute to their children's well-being and development, strengthening their self‑esteem. For example this could be done by helping them discover the world through games and books.
As human beings, we grow up by imitating the behavior of those around us; that’s how we learn to function in the world. If a father is caring and treats people with respect, the young child will grow up much the same. Fathers who are actively involved in their children’s lives contribute to their emotional health, overall wellness, social development and self-respect. Dedicated and responsible fathering during infancy and early childhood also contributes to emotional security, as well as improved math and verbal skills.
Babies can attach and bond with fathers just as they can with moms. Dads can play an important role in supporting a mother’s breastfeeding, and many hospitals offer programs and resources for expectant fathers. Fathers who respond to their babies’ cries, hold and hug them a lot, and participate in their basic care (e.g., feeding, changing diapers) tend to have a positive effect on their children’s self-confidence and behavior. Studies show that when fathers are more involved in infancy, their kids are less likely to show symptoms of mental health problems at age 9.
Fathers are more likely than mothers to be a baby’s play partner. Fathers’ play tends to be more active and energetic than mothers’ play with infants. This may help children to explore and be independent. They're the ones who go above and beyond for their families and are considerate of how other people feel or what they might need. They take initiative, and don't give up even if something doesn't work out on the first try. Good dads are involved in family life and regularly show their gratitude.
Influence is an important issue in parent-child relationships. Fathers, as well as mothers, want their children to listen to them and to obey their limits. Occasionally parents have to exert control over their children's behavior. They may allow no debate over whether a child can stick gum on furniture, play with matches, or sit on the car while someone is underneath changing the oil. Young children with fathers who praise them when they behave well or accomplish something, hug and kiss them often, and comfort them when they are sad or scared are more likely to do well in school compared to children who have uninvolved fathers.
While parents have to be reasonably firm at times, there are occasions when they might yield to their children's wishes and grant permission for safe, enjoyable activities. Giving children privacy, letting them choose their own clothes, and allowing them to make their own purchases with their allowances are examples of giving influence to children. Studies suggest that loving, encouraging fathers who respond calmly when their children misbehave or get upset raise boys who are less aggressive and girls who are less negative with their friends.
Father involvement in early childhood also leads to positive child development, including advanced language development. While mothers tend to use words children already know, fathers are more likely to introduce new words. Teenagers who receive praise from their fathers are more likely to do well in school and have good attendance, regardless of economic status. Many recent national studies show that father involvement in adolescence lessens the risk for mental health problems or risky behaviors. They also show that involved fathers raise boys with less behavioral problems and girls with less psychological problems. In reality, although a mother’s love is important and special, having an active father figure plays an equally important role in the healthy development of a child.
Dad might be a bit of a goofball, but an active father can help increase your child’s emotional intelligence and problem-solving capabilities. Studies show that children with fathers who were actively involved throughout the 1st year of their child’s life perform better on cognitive development assessments and demonstrate an increased capacity for curiosity and exploration. Children raised with active dads tend to score higher on verbal and math tests and are less likely to drop out of school or commit juvenile crimes.
The emotional support provided by a father to his child is a priceless gift. By helping kids to understand how much they are valued and loved, children with supportive fathers are more likely to have high self-esteem and are generally happier and more confident. They also demonstrate a greater tolerance for stress/frustration, less hesitation/fear in new situations and an increased ability to resist peer pressure and stand up for themselves.
Fathers provide a positive male role model for their children and help to promote/reinforce good behaviors. As a result, children with more involved fathers tend to have fewer behavioral and impulse control problems, longer attention spans and a higher level of sociability. These children also tend to be more compassionate and generous, with an increased awareness of the needs and rights of others. Children are naturally full of questions and mothers and fathers approach those questions in different ways. Active parents with different approaches to parenting can be a great way to expose children to a broad range of thinking and problem-solving. Active fathers have a unique opportunity to share their perspective on life and teach their kids valuable life skills. It’s the most obvious thing to say, but that doesn’t make it any less important – having an active father makes a child feel loved. Having dad as a steady source of love and encouragement helps ensure that children grow up happy and healthy, with high self-esteem.
(The author is a regular columnist and can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)