Fathers’ involvement is best gift

Fathers' involvement is best gift by David Lias Sunday is Father�s Day, which, for some reason, is used largely as time to market two things: lousy fashion and power tools. You�ve likely seen some of the commercials featuring dads at work on the Monday after their special day. One is wearing a horribly monogrammed necktie. The other is walking around wearing a cap sporting the words Dad-O-Mite.

We dads, it seems, still have a long ways to go.

The American Psychological Association published a study in 2001 that found the role of fathers in raising kids is seldom mentioned.

According to that same study, many behavioral scientists prior to the 1960s and 1970s assumed that fathers were relatively unimportant for the healthy development of their children in any case.

At the very most, fathers were thought to be peripheral to the job of parenting because children spent most of their time with their mothers. Some even argued that fathers have no biological aptitude for child care, though women were said to be genetically endowed for it.

That may explain why fathers weren�t always portrayed in a positive light in the popular press and in television during the 1950s and 1960s. Many times, dads were seen as being irrelevant, mindless, ineffectual, sometimes bumbling and incompetent.

Slowly, however, things began to change. TV shows like Make Room for Daddy, Father Knows Best, and The Cosby Show, showed that dads have the capacity to be warm, loving, involved and competent.

Perhaps it�s time for some of us dads to accept at least part of the blame for how society views fatherhood.

It just may be possible that we bring many of the assumptions of our ineffectiveness as role models for our children upon ourselves.

Don�t get me wrong. I know many fathers who are doing a terrific job. At the same time, I know I�ve always strived to be a great dad, but have often missed that goal.

As Father�s Day approaches, instead of waiting in anticipation for the cards and gifts we�ll receive, we should consider the gifts we can give to our families.

I�m certainly not going to deny the fact that I have found fatherhood, at times, to be downright mystifying. It�s not an easy job and no Dads for Dummies book accompanied the arrival of our two daughters.

Wayne Matthews, a human development specialist with the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at North Carolina State University, notes that one of the best things fathers can do is become more involved in the lives of their children.

Matthews urges societal acceptance of these ideas:

? At home � Share responsibilities of caring for children with their father. Setting up regular dates with dad gives kids and their father time to connect without interference and mom time to do something for herself.

? At work � Don�t assume that men have no family responsibilities. Meetings should be scheduled at times respectful of family obligations and co-workers should show respect not condescension for men who put their families first.

? At school � Fathers should be invited to be room coordinators, book readers, active participants in academic progress conferences (whether or not they live with their child).

? At the doctor�s office � Dad�s opinion counts too. Health care professionals need to recognize that dads today play an active role in the physical care of their children.

? At school programs � Whenever possible, children with parents who live apart should receive two invitations to school events. Faces shine twice as brightly when they see both parents in the audience.

? In legal situations � Dads� rights to see their children should be honored. Keeping a parent and child apart is painful to both of them. Only cases of mental, physical or sexual abuse warrant separating a child from her parent.

? In divorce � Feuding partners must be ever mindful of resolving conflicts without putting kids in the middle. This requires being objective about your children�s needs (and not confusing them with your own) and compromising when the situation warrants.

? In parent education classes � Educators should plan courses with more than mom in mind. Researchers have found that men have special needs in parenting: more guidance about connecting with their children and, in some cases, assistance with anger management.

? In fatherhood programs � It�s fun to have activities where dads can do things with their children and other men. It�s also healthy for men to have a separate forum to connect with other fathers about parenting issues that may be bothering them. Combination events with child care when dads meet without their children can help satisfy these twin needs.

? In marriage or family partnerships � Dad�s ability to contribute to his children needs support and respect from mom. He may not do everything to mom�s specifications, but he deserves encouragement for trying to be involved in his children�s lives. Encouraging rather than chastising is an effective way to help fathers �get it right.�

Some of these suggestions are rather easy to implement. Others probably could be a bit of a challenge.

At any rate, hopefully dads won�t be thinking of just the gifts they�ll be receiving on Sunday. They should also consider all of the ways they can contribute to the happiness and well-being of their kids.

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