As Father’s Day approaches it’s worth thinking how good fathering matters.
It matters to mothers.
A supportive father makes a mother’s life easier.
It matters to girls.
Good fathering has been linked to higher confidence levels in girls, particularly during the tricky adolescent years. The notion of a father who is present, available and attentive affords a sense of security to a girl, which is necessary for healthy development.
Dads are also the first introduction to the world of men for girls so it’s important that fathers treat their daughters with gentleness and respect, but also encourage them to be assertive.
In a sense, fathers teach their daughters how they should expect to be treated by males as they get older.
It matters to boys.
Good fathering matters to boys.
They learn their first lessons of manhood from their dads. Early primary-aged boys usually want to spend a great deal of time with their dads. Steve Biddulph, author of Raising Boys, describes this phenomenon as ‘father-hunger’ and suggests that dads need to be around their sons in the primary school years so they can ‘download the software’ of how to be male.
The father-son relationship during adolescence can be problematic. While teen boys seem to be hard-wired to challenge their fathers, most desperately want their dads to be proud of them. Teen boys need a dad who can be firm when needed as they don’t always make great decisions.
They need a dad who remembers the awkwardness and insecurity of being a teenage boy themselves. And they relate best to dads who don’t take themselves too seriously. The judicious use of humour, particularly with boys, is a great fathering strategy.
And it matters to men.
Of course, involved fathering matters to men. Most health scales state a healthy relationship with their children is a predictor of good health and longevity for men, as well as of life satisfaction levels. I suspect there is something relaxing and de-stressing for a man to get into a child’s space and time. There is a big kid in most men just busting to get out.
This Father’s Day give yourself a pat on the back for being present in your child’s life. You might even want to think how you can be a better dad over the next 12 months.
Here are five fathering tips (whether you live with the children’s mother or not) to help you in that process:
1. Go on dates with your daughters. (VIP Saturday presenter Bruce Sullivan taught me this one.)
2. Have adventures with your sons. (VIP Saturday presenter Bruce Sullivan taught me this one too.)
3. Support your partner’s parenting.
4. Change as your child changes.
5. Discipline with firmness and compassion.
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