By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S.
Shout it from the tops of the highest mountains. Announce it at all the NBA playoff games. Pipe it into every shopping mall in America. WE NEED YOU DAD!!! We may not say it as often as we should and we really like to pretend that our way is the only way. Nonetheless, we need you.
Yes, it takes a village to raise a child. But while we’re waiting for all those willing and able helping hands to make tomorrow’s school lunches and wash today’s laundry, let’s accept the help that’s been right here all the time – DAD! Remember, there’s no one right way to be a dad. Every dad can find ways to know his child and be a critical influence in his child’s life whether he is Mr. Mom, away in the military, or the Saturday morning breakfast dad.
My definition of a good father has two parts: A good father is someone who gets to know his child as a growing person with understanding and appreciation for his child’s unique gifts. Second, a good father shares his own personal experience and wisdom for the well-being of the child. As with most things in life, being a good dad is about being there. Not every father is lucky enough to be there physically day-in and day-out but all fathers can find a way to be there emotionally for their children. Children need fathers who are there – there to care, to guide, to inspire – there for them.
Dads bring a fresh set of eyes, hands, and experiences to family life. Children with two involved parents benefit from living with multiple points of view, different goals, and different expectations. Co-parenting can get tricky at times. Shared decision making is always more time consuming than dictatorships. But when parents can agree and disagree with mutual respect, children learn invaluable lessons about living in the real world. Children depend on adult role models to show them how to resolve conflict and to coexist with differences.
From infancy through adulthood, dads generally do things a little differently than moms. Of course, the following are generalizations and not necessarily true of everyone.
- Dads play more physically. Babies become more animated when they see their fathers approaching. Older children learn about strength and power (and yes, sometimes we remind dads to be a little less powerful!).
- Dads encourage emotional independence and a sense of self. For the first year of a baby’s life, mom and baby are one – they think and feel together. Dad approaches the baby as a separate person (think of how differently a mom and dad “hear” a baby’s cry). Dads may even approach school-age struggles with enlightened distance – allowing the child to learn life’s consequences.
- This separateness also works well with early language learning. Fathers may not have an intuitive understanding of a young child’s language which encourages the child to clearer and clearer communication. A little frustration is necessary in all learning.
- Dads may be greater risk-takers which helps a child learn from mistakes and set personal challenges. It may be from socialization or from those genetic differences in the brain. Either way, dads often view problems and solutions differently than mom.
The point is that children always learn more, and become more, with two loving parents looking out for their best interests. With Father’s Day approaching, take a few minutes now to think of how you want to share your best self with your sons and daughters. Do what you love�do it with your children!
Here’s a few ideas for some special dad adventures:
- With babies, dads are the best at infant massage, or try shower-time in dad’s strong hands and a morning dance-along to dad’s favorite music.
- With toddlers, dads can be so much better at those stressful baby swim classes, or try a nature walk – remember to bring the collecting bag and to display your found treasures. Storytime with dad always wins an active toddler’s attention.
- With preschoolers, try washing the car together or finding some great tools for a construction project. Dads can spot a #1 Apprentice far better than The Donald. Take your child to the office and let them imitate you in your world.
- With school-age children, dads are needed more than ever. Have you considered an Indian Princess group or camping? How about City Scavenger Hunts? Make list of things to be discovered around town and let your child lead the way (for example, find a pointy top building, a parking meter with time on it, a tree with carved initials, etc.) Grab the cameras. Compete with the neighbors. Or ask mom to award prizes based on how many items you find.
As you already know, it doesn’t really matter what you do. Just enjoy this time together and relish the fact that no one else in this world can ever be who you are in your child’s life. Happy Father’s Day!
Karen Deerwester is the owner of Family Time Coaching & Consulting, writing and lecturing on parenting and early childhood topics since 1984. Karen is also the Mommy & Me director at The Ruth and Edward Taubman Early Childhood Center at B�nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton.
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