The role that fathers play in the lives of their children has undergone many changes over the past three decades as dads have become more involved and active parents. Research has demonstrated that young children with involved fathers tend to be more outgoing, adaptable, and secure. As children get older, this translates into better academic performance and less acting-out behaviors. Because many current fathers had relatively uninvolved fathers of their own, they may find venturing into the emotional lives of their children a bit intimidating.
Laying the groundwork for intimacy must occur when children are young if they are to feel parents are interested and accessible when they later reach middle school and high school. For girls, Dads help them understand the male viewpoint, and a man’s attitudes about women can have a powerful impact on his daughter’s self-concept. Encourage your daughters to be strong and independent, and let them know that you value and respect women.
With boys, fathers serve as models of masculine behavior . If men always present a strong, tough image, their sons may be reluctant to share feelings with them lest they cause disappointment. Dads, share your own struggles and failures with your sons. Allow them to know that making mistakes is a part of learning, and that men can be vulnerable. The pay-off will come throughout the lives of your children as they feel able to invite you to share their feelings and concerns.
Even as fathers’ roles are evolving, there often remains a tendency for men to view women as “parenting experts” and defer to them. Dads, I encourage you to become involved in the small but important details of your children’s lives. Know the names of their teachers and friends, volunteer for field trips and class parties, and visit Trinity to enjoy lunch with your children. Know their friends and the parents of their friends. Be interested in the daily events in their lives, and let them know how important they are to you. Find time to just hang-out with your children. Share your work activities with them and allow them to visit your workplace and see what you do.
One of the most important things that a father can do is model respect for women and healthy male-female relationships. The models that you provide will do much to shape your child’s attitudes toward and perceptions of men and women.