Prior to the industrial revolution, fathers often worked side by side with their sons and instructed their children in spiritual values. Soon, fathers left their farms and headed to the factories. Fourteen- to 16-hour workdays set the stage for the absentee father. Eventually, fathers came to be regarded as merely breadwinners who fulfilled their paternal duties by providing. But, could that image be changing again?
Research shows that tweens and teens need the firm leadership a father provides. A child performs better in school if his father takes an interest in his education. Children have more confidence when their fathers spend time with them and show them affection. Kids learn from watching their fathers’ decisions and listening to logical explanations.
Work pressures and other commitments may make it easy for some men to feel they don’t have the time. However, a 2002 study found that men born after 1965 spent 50 percent more time per workday with their children than boomer fathers (an average of 3.4 hours, versus 2.2 hours). That same year a workplace survey conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management discovered that men ranked the need to balance work and home life higher than their female colleagues.
Involved fathers find the time to attend their children’s games and recitals. They pull themselves away from the TV to show their children how to change a tire and balance a checkbook. They set firm limits and encourage their kids to do their best — even when they fail.
Take a look at the questions below.
- What did you need from your father that he gave you?
- What did you need but didn’t receive?
- How did his positive input help you to succeed?
- How did the negative aspects possibly set a series of consequences into motion that you may still experience?
The answers to these questions may reveal what your children desperately long for. Now it’s up to you to provide it. It may make your pocketbook a little thinner, but the benefits could be priceless.
“Kids spell love T-I-M-E”, says Dr. Ken Canfield, Founder and President, National Center for Fathering. He goes on to say, “The time a father spends with his children is important for at least three reasons. First, spending time together enables a father to get to know and to be known by his child. A father can best discover his child’s virtues and vices, hopes and fears, and aspirations and ideals by spending lots of time with his child. Second, a father who spends lots of time with his child tends to be better at caring. Time spent together makes a father more sensitive to his child’s needs for love, attention, direction, and discipline. And third, as the quotation above illustrates, children often do see.”
Fathers’ nurturing may be less openly expressive than mothers’. In fact, one unique way that fathers nurture their children—especially toddlers and teenagers—is by remaining calm when the child is upset or acting out. Studies suggest that fathers who respond calmly when their children misbehave, get upset or otherwise lose control have children who are more popular, boys who are less aggressive, and girls who are less negative with their friends. Fathers exercise a critical role in providing their children with a mental map of how to respond to conflict and other difficult situations. The art of self-control is essential.
Being a role model is not an easy task. In the way that fathers treat other people, spend their time and money, and handle the joys and stresses of life, they provide a template of living for their children that often proves critical in guiding the behavior of their children, for better or worse. As discussed earlier, a father’s treatment of the opposite sex, his ability to control his own emotions, and his approach to work all play a formative role in shaping his sons’ and daughters’ approach to romantic relationships and marriage, interpersonal relationships, and school and work.