The role of a Father

Last month, we celebrated Father’s day. Something I’m still getting used to, as I grew up in a culture that didn’t make a big fuss about mother’s day and completely ignored father’s day. Somehow, I think this is a reflection of the way fathers have been perceived in our society, up until recently.

I believe that up until my generation, fathers were considered and expected to be the providers and the disciplinarians. Their emotional involvement in their children’s life was minimal. It was the mom who knew what grade they were in, what projects they had in school and who were their best friends. Dad might have come to some games on the weekend, but mainly, mom was the nurturer, the child raiser.

Today, things are changing. With more and more working moms, more and more kids go to daycare at a young age and the child rearing tends to be more equally spread between both parents. We also see more and more stay-at-home dads who embrace that role very well.

Because of the mom’s increased involvement outside the home, the father’s role has become more crucial. If the child is loosing the time and connection with the mother to the professional world out there, somebody has to make up for that, and I see it as an opportunity for the father to step in. I am not saying in any way that it is wrong for the mother to work, but I believe that children need their parents’involvement in their life and that they should both offer as much as they can to their growing children.

Those of you who grew up with a father who was present but not very involved, or with an absent father, might think: so what, I made it and I’m OK. The truth is, the role of a father is extremely important in the healthy development of a child, and has been downplayed for a long time. Yes, it is different from the role of a mother, but it is just as crucial.

During the first three years, the mother tends to be the main character in a child’s life. She carries the baby, feeds him, changes him, and sometimes stays home with him until preschool. She is the nurturer in this period of dependence of the child on her.

The dad’s role is to guide the child into the world. To teach him how to become independent, responsible. For that to happen, the dad needs to come into the symbiotic relationship that mother and infant share, and lead the child out into the world to help her develop her skills and talents.

The father needs to teach his child by showing her, and doing with her, the things that the child needs to learn. This requires quality time spent together, involvement, interest. If that fails to happen, the child could remain insecure in her abilities to face the world as an individual.

A special message to moms and dads:

Moms, let it go. Entrust that part of your child’s education to their father. Let them do it their way. It may be a little messier, a little louder, a little more wild in the house when dad takes over, but your child needs those unique interactions as much as they need your tenderness, reassurance and nurturing. Let them take risks together, allow them to be adventurous.

Dads, you have a very important role to play in the very important story of you child’s life. Don’t underestimate it or downplay it. Be proud of it and give it your all. Don’t try to be a mom, you’re a dad. Your job is very specific and unique. Do it your way, not hers.

Here are some important ways a father needs to be involved in his children’s life:

— Be present, not only physically, but emotionally

– –  Be involved: know who his friends are, what his interests and passions are, go watch his games or her ballet, take her out on dates, take him on outings that are of interest to him, help them with homework, play with them, have conversations with them.

-Teach them about life: by showing them, being an example, a teacher, a mentor, but also by doing with them.

-Give them a vision, a sense of purpose: by encouraging them, challenging them, noticing their gifts and abilities and pushing them in those areas.

Enjoy the journey, and don’t hesitate to use resources out there for help and inspiration:

“Wild at heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul” by John Eldredge

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