“My father used to say that it’s never too late to do anything you wanted to do. And he said, ‘You never know what you can accomplish until you try.” Michael Jordan.
“It is a wise father that knows his own child.” William Shakespeare.
A famous baseball player, Harmon Killebrew, is credited with saying, “My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, “You’re tearing up the grass.” “We’re not raising grass,” Dad would reply. “We’re raising children.”
I grew up without my father.
Dr. Kyle Pruett, an author and professor of child psychiatry at Yale University, writes, “Fathers do not mother, they father…Fathers do things differently.” Both parenting approaches are essential in raising healthy, productive children in safe and stable environments.
As a result of a high divorce rate and an increase in single-parent homes, there has been a tendency to think that fathers are unimportant compared to mothers. In the past, more research was done on the role of the mother compared to the part of the father. More research has been done on fathers’ role in the psychological development of their sons and daughters. In addition, it has been found that children raised without a father experience many more problems than those from intact families.
There are lots of families in which the father is present. What is essential is how they influence their children. For instance, abusive fathers have nothing but a negative impact on their children and wives. It holds for fathers who are alcoholic, drug addicted, or criminal. In addition, fathers who are present but uninvolved with their families do not positively impact their children.
What is most important to the family is that the father actively engages with their children positively.
What is meant by a father’s active engagement?”
According to some of the research, “active involvement is defined in terms of:
Engagement or directly interacting
Accessibility or being available
Responsibility or providing resources
Actively involved fathers have close and affectionate relationships with their children; they:
spend time with them
Talk to them about important things
They are the person their children want to be as adults.”
That last sentence, “and they are the kind of person their children want to be as adults,” is significant. The father is a role model for boys and girls for the way a man is supposed to be. As a positive role model, the father reveals the male person as loving, hard-working, responsible, available, and dependable. Of course, a father does not work alone in the family context. It is the way mom and dad interact with each other and with the children that helps shape the people they will become.
Dads have a parenting style significantly different from a mother’s. That difference is essential for healthy child development. David Popenoe, Life Without Father, (New York: The Free Press, 1996), p. 163.
One of the most vital aspects of a dad’s contribution to his kids’ lives lies precisely in what Dr. Popenoe calls his “significantly different parenting style.” Men and women are different. As a result, mothers and fathers parent their children differently.
Dads, for instance, love their children “more dangerously.” That’s because they play “rougher.” They provide kids with a broader diversity of social experiences. They also introduce them to a wider variety of methods of dealing with life. They stress rules, justice, fairness, and duty in discipline. In this way, they teach children the objectivity and consequences of right and wrong. They give kids insight into the world of men. They prepare them for life’s challenges and show the meaning of respect between the sexes by example. Dads often get their adolescent children their first jobs as after-school activities.
Fathers encourage competition, engendering independence. Mothers promote equity, creating a sense of security. Dads emphasize conceptual communication, which helps kids expand their vocabulary and intellectual capacities. Moms are significant in sympathy, care, and help, thus showing the importance of relationships.
When fathers take the time to build relationships with their kids, they help them develop their identity, confidence, and perseverance.
Here are four of the most essential things that dads teach:
Dr. Kyle Pruett, a researcher on the importance of dads for healthy child development, explains that infants learn to tell the difference between mom and dad. Dad’s voice is more profound, his hands are more extensive and rougher, his play is more physical and stimulating, and he smells and acts differently. Dads teach their sons that they differ from moms and sisters. Dads point sons toward adulthood.
A boy’s confidence develops primarily through his father because Dads are likelier to encourage their sons to take chances. Take two simple experiences from infancy and later childhood.
Fathers are likelier to throw their babies into the air. It is a significant confidence-building ritual. The first time it happens, the child is scared to death. But gravity happens, and they fall back down into the safety of Dad’s hands. What fathers do for their daughters and sons is to help them develop confidence.
Moms seldom encourage their kids to climb trees. As mothers, they tend to focus on safety. Dads are more likely to push limits. “Hey, try going up to that next limb. Don’t be scared, and I’ll talk you through it.” When kids take the chance and succeed, they learn they have what it takes to do hard things. This connection is essential for every child, gaining the confidence they will need later in solving problems, searching for a job, and relating to the opposite sex.
We know the father’s absence or lack of involvement with the children has negative consequences. Absent or uninvolved fathers lead to psychological issues in sons and daughters, including insecurity, inadequacy, and a distorted understanding of love. It affects the child’s ability to form healthy relationships and experience genuine, loving relationships.
A growing body of research underscores the myriad ways in which the absence or lack of knowledge of one’s father can influence a child’s emotional and psychological development. The absence of a father leads to feelings of abandonment and rejection in a child. Not knowing one’s father might make children question their self-worth, leading to low self-esteem. Moreover, the void left by a missing paternal figure leads to feelings of emptiness, sadness, and longing. Some children may internalize the absence, thinking they are to blame or were not ‘good enough’ to keep their father around.
People who grew up without a father experience a greater likelihood of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse. Several studies have shown a correlation between the absence of a father and an increased risk of aggressive behavior. This aggression is sometimes viewed as a coping mechanism or a way to mask underlying feelings of vulnerability.
Children with an absent father grow up without the sense of security a dad provides. A dad’s presence and love give us a greater understanding of our identity and sense of belonging. When it’s absent, it can leave our world feeling shattered and unstable. Due to this fact, children with absent fathers suffer from anxiety and depression in far more significant numbers than children with a present mom and dad.
My wife and I had twin daughters; this was a great celebration time. However, the dad role was challenging because I needed a role model. Nevertheless, there were things I did and got right. I taught them how to ride their bikes. As a child, I never had a bike and had to learn as a young man.
I wanted a bike just like the ones my friends rode. But my mom, a single mother, was fearful that I would have an accident. I do not know for sure, but I always believed that a Dad would intervene, get me a bike, and teach me how to ride.
We might have gone to baseball and football games in NYC a lot more often than I could.
I had no father to take me fishing and camping. I had no father to teach me how to play softball, baseball, and bat swing. I had no father to teach me how to fight and stand up to bullies. I had no father to teach me how to bowl, play golf, and play tennis. I am not referring to teaching but competing with me. Worst of all, he could not teach me basketball. All of these became significant handicaps.
One day, I ran into my teacher on the way to school. He put his arm on my shoulder as we chatted along the way. It felt so good that it’s difficult to describe. I yearned for a father, my father, but my family completely alienated him from me. Finally, when I was 38, my brother found him, and I met my father. A big hulking man. I saw the weights he lifted and wished he could have taught, but it was too late. But, when I asked him why I never saw him, his response was vague. He mumbled something that made no sense. He probably would not have been involved had he been present during my childhood.
I needed a father to explain girls and the subtleties of dating.
As a result of these gaps, I felt socially awkward into my twenties. I have always felt socially awkward and never did in school as well as I should have. As Dr. Pruett pointed out, I also felt depressed.