By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT
It is a myth. Don’t believe it. Don’t buy into it, fellow fathers. It is just not true. Mothers are not, by nature, better parents than fathers. In fact, good fathers are just as important as good mothers to the well-being of their children and in some areas have a greater impact on their children than mothers do. This is not to say, of course, mothers don’t contribute an enormous amount to the health and welfare of their children. However, the myth that fathers are only assistants to mothers, that they fill in when Mommy is not around needs to be contradicted in ways that both mothers and fathers understand. Stronger, more involved fathers can only help mothers be stronger as well. It is an issue important to all of us parents – regardless of our gender.
Despite what we read in “parenting” magazines, the role of fathers is crucial to our children. Most of the research on fathers has focused on the love we give our children, our acceptance of our children and our involvement with our children. According to a number of studies, if your child feels loved by you, Dad, accepted by you and feels you are involved in their life, then they are much more likely to be healthier, happier, and more satisfied with life – no matter what kind of mother they have.
This means that if love and accept our children unconditionally, consistently (not sporadically) showing them how we feel about them, consistently being involved in what they are doing, our children have a much better chance of being happier and healthier as children, but also as adults. Healthier, happier people have healthier relationships and are better parents. By our actions now, we have a chance to create healthy traditions in our family that will be a gift for future generations to come. Our children are depending on us to help ensure their future and all they need from us is our love, acceptance and involvement.
It is important to fully understand the idea of involvement when it comes to your children. Most fathers understand how important love and acceptance are to children, but not as many fully comprehend what involvement really means. If I work, many fathers ask, and have to spend time away from my kids, how can I be involved enough with them? Involvement is often measured not by how much time you spend with your children, but the quality of time you spend with them.
Involvement means interacting with your children. It means asking them how they are doing, what did they do that day when you weren’t around. It means meeting their needs when you can, like dressing them, changing them, taking them to bed. It means when you are around, you are an important part of their lives, that you are involved with them and their care. Even if the amount of time is only on the weekend or a few hours a week, the quality of your time with them is what makes a difference.
Interestingly, the research on father love and involvement seems to indicate good fathers are like an ace up the sleeve of their children. Children with good mothers have a pretty good chance of being healthy and happy, but if they don’t have a good father, if they don’t feel loved or accepted by their father they are more likely to have eating disorders, to be unhappy, to use drugs, to perform poorly in school. The lack of a good father can have devastating effects for children. However, with good fathers the opposite is more likely. Good fathers can help children excel in academics, develop higher levels of social competence, and even better life satisfaction among many other benefits.
I think this has to do with the lack of good fathers out there; good fathers make their children stand out more. Ironically, if we follow this line of thought, as fathers continue to get better at parenting the value of good fathers will be harder to see in the research. Why? Because there will be significantly fewer people with eating disorders, fewer unhappy and unsatisfied people, and fewer children with academic difficulties.
We fathers can make a gigantic difference in the lives of our children. We have the power to parent for good, for their health and happiness. What we do will not only make their lives better, but will make the lives of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren healthier and happier as well.
We have the power, fellow fathers. Go and use it well.