A few years ago, I asked one of my good friends an interesting question. I was still reeling from my experience in family court and wondered why anyone would think that I wasn’t essential for the proper rearing of my two children. The assumption seemed to be that after a divorce, the mother gets the children, pays child support, ‘visits’ his kids every other weekend and everything was just fine.
Well, it wasn’t just fine with me and I wasn’t going to allow that to happen to me. I did what I had to do and I am a prime example of what ALL fathers can do when confronted with unilateral divorce. I knew how much my mother and father meant to me and I was not going to allow any court system, under any circumstances to separate me from my kids. It just wasn’t going to happen.
I asked myself, and then most of my friends, what do fathers bring to the table that mothers generally don’t? What is it about fathers that makes us different that mothers? It appears as if many people just don’t know the answer to questions like this.
After five years of thinking this through and doing some research, I uncovered so much information that I have decided to spend the rest of my life dismantling the misconceptions and myths about men, fathers and masculinity that have been infiltrating our culture.
Here are just a few reasons today’s fathers tend to make distinctive contributions to their children’s lives:
1) Fathers play differently:
Psychologist John Snarey wrote in his book, How Fathers Care for the Next Generation: “children who roughhouse with their fathers… quickly learn that biting, kicking, and other forms of physical violence are not acceptable.” One of the best ways for fathers to bond with their children is through rough and tumble play. Studies have shown that there are definite differences in the ways father and mothers play with their children. Fathers generally use a more physical style of play that benefits children in a variety of ways, including enhanced cognitive ability.
2) Fathers provide emotional stability:
When fathers are involved, children develop a sense of emotional stability. A strong trusting relationship is developed over the years and children genrally don’t fear abandonment. Fathers that listen and support their children when they experience joy, sadness, fear and frustration raise children who have higher self-esteem than children whose fathers are less involved.
3) Fathers encourage risk taking:
Children need a balance of protection and reasonable risk taking. Fathers often encouraged to take risks. Go to any playground and observe the difference in what mothers do and what fathers do. Who is encouraging kids to swing or climb just a little higher, ride their bike just a little faster, throw just a little harder,or get up immediately after falling to the ground? Who is encouraging kids to be careful? I see it every single day. Mothers tend to protect and dads encourage kids to push the limits.
4) Fathers promote a healthy gender identity:
Lets just face a glaring fact – men and women are different. Fathers can help their children, especially boys, develop a healthy sense of what it means to be male. We eat differently. We dress differently. We deal with life’s challenges differently than women. Boys and girls benefit from having healthy role models of both sexes. Several studies have shown that mothers and fathers socialize their children in different ways and girls and boys who grow up with a father in the home are more familiar and secure with the world of men.
5) Fathers communicate differently:
Mothers tend to find themselves generally in a more nurturing role. Father’s talk tends to be more brief, direct and to the point. Fathers also make greater use of subtle body language. Mothers tend to be more descriptive, personal and verbally encouraging. Children who don’t experience both styles of conversation as they grow may be at a disadvantage as they grow older because they will not have experienced each style out in the world as a child.
6) Fathers discipline differently:
Educational psychologist Carol Gilligan tells us that fathers stress justice, fairness and duty (based on rules), while mothers stress sympathy, care and help (based on relationships). Fathers tend to observe and enforce rules systematically and sternly, teaching children the consequences of right and wrong. Mothers tend toward grace and sympathy, providing a sense of hopefulness. Active fathers play an important role in teaching their children proper behavior by setting and enforcing healthy limits. this creates a healthy and proper balance with the discipline style of the mother.
7) Provides your child with greater financial resources.
Families with an active father in the home are better off financially. Two incomes are always better than one. Children raised with fathers are more likely to have direct access to resources that support healthy development, such as food, clothing, shelter and quality medical care. The unfortunate reality is that income in homes with single mothers is, on average, less than half of that of married couples with children. Father-absent children are more likely to live below the poverty line than children in homes with both parents.
8) Physical protection
Fathers provide a visible source of protection and strength.Fathers protect against harm. Children will learn to trust the safety of a father’s presence.
As noted sociologist David Popenoe explains,
Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home. Involved fathers – especially biological fathers – bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.8
The Review of General Psychology wrote:
Many studies conclude that children with highly involved fathers, in relation to children with less involved fathers, tend to be more cognitively and socially competent, less inclined toward gender stereotyping, more empathetic, and psychologically better adjusted
Fathers are essential to the lives of children. It is baffling why people still feel that fathers are not necessary.