co-authored with Jennifer Hayes O’Neill, LMSW, former Executive Director of the Early Childhood Counseling Center in California.
As a father of 3 daughters, and as someone who works with hundreds of kids a week in my (Jeff) day job, I can tell you that I KNOW kids come out better with an involved father in the picture.
But I wanted some facts to back up my feelings about the benefits of father involvement. So I asked my friend, and expert, Jennifer Hayes, to collaborate with me on this article.
Children with an involved father benefit from having fewer behavioral issues, greater self-esteem, and fewer incidents of depression. Involved fathers help foster these things by instilling a sense of adventure, embracing the outdoors, and keeping kids safe while helping them push their boundaries.
But that’s just the beginning of what makes an involved father so important, so let’s keep going!
What is the role of a father?
Let’s face it. Virtually any man can father a child. BUT, being a Dad goes light years beyond that, and is ultimately hugely important to a child’s life.
1 loving parent is better than none and better than 2 parents who fight constantly, and of course, there are also many same-sex couples who do an outstanding job of raising kids.
But, with the right man, the role of a father in a child’s life is of paramount importance.
Father’s often set boundaries, guidelines, and structure. They discipline, but they also instill a love of adventure and the outdoors. And let’s face it. Sometimes Dads just get downright silly too.
A recent study by the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect found that the benefits of father involement include:
- Better cognitive, language, and social development
- Improved academic achievement
- Stronger sense of self-esteem
- Lower incidents of depression
So Dads, don’t be afraid to guide your kids, love your kids, roll around in the dirt with them, teach your kids, and set them straight when they have a misstep.
They’re counting on you!
There are a lot of different parenting styles out there, but learning Which Parenting Style is Preferred by Child Psychologists might surprise you!
How fathers affect their sons?
As a father to 3 daughters, I (Jeff) don’t know what it’s like to have sons.
Luckily, I have a lot of friends with sons, and at the school where I work, we obviously work with a ton of boys from age 3 to teens.
So all that combined, I can tell you that a strong father who is active in his son’s life is critical.
For starters, they will model themselves after you. So how you treat others is how they will treat them. The way you treat your spouse is going to dictate how they will behave when they have relationships.
Whether sons or daughters, it’s sometimes challenging for Dads in the first 2 years as the babies need their Mom so much more for most of their basic needs. But as the son grows older, he’ll start to rely on his Dad more and more.
Of course, parenting, gender roles, and the way families operate has changed over the years and one family may not look like the next. I think that’s just fine as loving parents trump everything else.
But, that also doesn’t change some fundamental and biological traits that just naturally form between fathers and sons.
So whether the father works, works from home, stays home to support his wife’s career, the skills, traits, and integrity you instill in your son, both through your actions as well as your words, are vital.
Why are fathers so important to daughters?
Now daughters are something I (Jeff) can talk about!
I know firsthand just how important my actions, words, and inactions are to the well-being and development of my daughters.
Dads play a significant role in the emotional development of their daughters.
With daughters who grow up without their dad significantly in the picture, it’s non uncommon to see:
- Low self-esteem
- Body-image issues
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Higher levels of promiscuity
- More likely to develop eating disorders
By contrast, when Dads are actively and positively involved with their daughters, we see higher levels of athletic and academic performance, they are more likely to graduate from college, and tend to earn higher salaries.
It also goes without saying, that these daughters have a better self-image, are well-balanced, and have higher levels of self-esteem.
But don’t take our word for it.
A recent study published by the University of Leicester confirms the above and states that “the stronger the relationship between father and daughter . . . the lesser the chances of interpersonal problems”.
What role does a father play in a child’s life?
Of course, every person is different, and gender stereotypes are, well, stereotypes.
That being said, some generalizations are arrived at because of how common the traits are. In the case of dads, there are some definite comonalities that many dads share, such as:
- Showing children how to treat others
- Keeping kids safe while allowing them room to explore life
- Setting key boundaries, structure, and guidelines
- Helping sons to see the kind of man they should strive to be
- And helping daughters to see the kind of man they may one day want to marry
Once upon a time I was a general manager for Whole Foods Market in several stores across a few different states. I thought my number one job was to provide for my family financially.
That’s not uncommon for dads.
I thought as long as I was paying the bills and ensuring our basic needs were met that I was being a good husband and father. In short, I was wrong.
These days, I work a job with much more family-friendly hours. I’m there for my kids when they first wake up, and I tuck them into bed. I also often have weekends off.
Even though my wife is currently staying home with our toddler and not working outside the home, I also feel it’s crucial to assist around the house.
That teaches my daughters the importance of everyone pitching in and doing their part to make sure everything that needs to happen in our family gets done.
Dive in deeper on the crucial Role of Parents in a Child’s Life in one of the newer articles on this site.
Are fathers necessary for child development?
I’ve noticed a thing. It’s not unusual for fathers to tell me they don’t matter to their kids. I don’t think they really feel this, but they say it.
Dads. I’m here to tell you. You matter. Deeply.
Look. Here’s the research. Your sons will use you to decide what a man is. Your daughters will use you to decide how the men in their lives should treat them. Think about that for a minute. Especially the part about your daughters.
That’s not just me saying it. That’s the research.
Kids who have a solid relationship with their fathers do better in school, get better jobs, are more likely to find and keep healthy relationships, and generally, are more confident in the world.
Dads. You matter. I’m sorry the world has led you to believe you are the second-tier parent. Dudes, you’re not. You bring a different skill set to parenting that balances what moms bring. Your kids need your Dadness. They need the benefits of father involvement.
Here are five ways you can bring it and connect with your child Dad-Style.
1. Throw down the gauntlet
Dads are great at teaching competition.
You see the value in the lessons learned on the field of play. You are not afraid of competition and, when it’s done well, you get how valuable it is for building true confidence.
Dads often know all about sportsmanship, being a team player, how to win and, just as important, how to lose. You also get how those lessons translate to the rest of life. These are true dad wisdom that will help your kids in life, and one of the best benefits of father involvement.
2. A little mud never hurt anyone
I like a good mud run as much as anyone, but all in all, men tend to be good with being dirty in a way that women find, ummm, sort of disgusting.
But there is no greater joy as a kid than getting messy, muddy, and dirty.
Turns out, this is good for them. Not just joy wise, but also health wise. In case you missed the news, according to WebMD (and lots of other sources), the docs have found that kids who are exposed to nature build stronger immune systems and are less likely to develop allergies, asthma, and autoimmune disease. Go figure.
So, get dirty with your kids. It’s good for them and they will sincerely love this.
It’s also a great way to get the kids off their screens and interacting with the real world. Not sure how that helps? Check out all the benefits of Limiting Screen Time.
3. Bring it on
Moms can be fun, but dads bring it in a whole different way.
You’re amazing at pushing the limits and introducing some risk and challenge into the fun. This is incredibly important for kids’ development – physically and emotionally.
There is nothing like conquering the mountain to make you feel like you can take on the world. Overcoming a physical and mental test helps our kids learn that they can master life. There is no faster way to build your kid’s confidence than to help them take on a challenge and succeed.
4. The grosser the better
Kids, especially our cute little boys, freaking LOVE to be gross.
There is nothing funnier than a fart or a booger joke.
Sorry dads, but you are much better at this than moms. Honestly, it’s OK to embrace this with your kid. Be your grossest self.
This is primo kid gold. Laughing hysterically over stupid stuff bonds us with our kids, and they will long remember the feeling of being stupid silly with you.
5. Your kids want memories, not money
Here’s the deal, all the happiness research has shown that it’s not things that make us happy, it’s experiences.
So, while I know it’s important to bring home the bacon, your kids love you for how you make them feel, not what you buy them.
Trust me on this.
I’ve had kids sit in my office and tell me they feel super conflicted when their parents are divorced, and their dad just buys them lots of stuff rather than spending time with them. They tell me they like the stuff, but they’d rather have Dad’s attention and time. They’d give up the stuff for the benefits of father involvement.
Seriously. They say this.
They would give the stuff up. Our kids just want us. They want us to talk to them, play with them, and spend time with them. They want to build stuff with you and watch a funny movie with you. You do this in a different way than moms do it. So, don’t just leave it to the moms to hang out.
The time you spend with your child, or the time you don’t, matters to them.
Ready to dive in even deeper? Check out the most popular parenting post on Middle Class Dad. The 23 Qualities of a Good Father.
Did we cover everything you wanted to know about the benefits of father involvement?
In this article, we took an in-depth look into the world of parenting.
In that, we examined the role fathers play in the lives of their kids. Specifically, we took a look at the crucial benefits of father involvement in the lives of their kids and just how important that is.
Dads, in all sincerity, if you take nothing else away from this, I want you to take this.
Your relationship with your kids has deep meaning to them and an enormous impact on how they will see themselves for the rest of their lives. If you believe they will conquer the world, they will believe that. If you believe they are beautiful and are made to be treasured, they will believe that.
You have so much power in your hands. Hold your children well and be an involved father.
What is the most important aspect of parenting to you?
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About the co-author of this post.
Jennifer Hayes O’Neill, LMSW has worked in the mental health field since 1982 and received her Master’s degree in Social Work from California State University. She began working as a therapist in 1997. For 10 years she served as Clinical Director and the Executive Director of the Early Childhood Counseling Center in California. She has been in private practice, currently in Michigan, since 2006. She has a blog on her web page at Resilient Life Parenting. Follow her on Facebook!
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