Children benefit from having two parents in their lives. Whether their dad is still in the family home, or whether their parents have separated, dads have a unique role in parenting their children. I’m going to say from the outset -mums are great! They do a fantastic job raising their children. However there are so many benefits of having a dad actively involved in a child’s life, it’s worth looking at the benefits and remembering why it’s good for children to spend regular time with their dad.
1. For fun. Dads play differently with children, using more physical and vigorous play. They have more physical contact and spend a larger proportion of their time playing. The way dads play with their children enhances their coordination and ability to regulate their own strength.
2. For balance. Children benefit from having two parents who have different opinions and personalities. Having parents with different strengths, weaknesses and points of view helps children grow up more rounded.
3. To understand men. Children can only experience ‘maleness’ from seeing male role-models. And you child’s dad is ideally suited to be that role model. This is especially important for boys after the age of 6. This could be the male tendencies to protect, provide, educate and set firm limits. And showing children that real men can be independent, do housework and hug and kiss their children too! And they see how men dress differently, eat differently and grow stubble on their chins!
4. For behaviour. Research shows that children with ‘good enough’ dads in their lives are more likely to behave well. Dads often have more of a role as a disciplinarian, and as long as discipline is firm and fair, children will thrive. Whereas mums tend to adjust the discipline to the child’s state of mind, dads are more predictable and consistent with discipline.
5. For their education. Dads tend to have a strong interest in their child’s education. Children statistically get better results at school when they see their dad regularly. Dads teach their children the importance of education and how to be successful. In fact, one of the most important factors in how well girls achieve academically is their father’s belief in them. And when fathers are involved in their education, children are more likely to get A’s, enjoy school, and join in with extracurricular activities. Children with an actively involved dad score higher on tests of verbal and mathematical ability, and show greater problem-solving abilities and social skills.
6. For friendships. Children who have an involved dad are more likely to grow up with better social skills. And have stronger and closer friendships with less conflict. Because dads are less likely than mums to be swayed by what their children want, children who have a dad around are better at give and take. And more able to take turns with other children.
7. For their mental health. Children who have an actively involved dad have a lower incidence of depression, suicide, self-harm and other mental health problems than those who don’t. On the other hand, children who hate their dad will have far more mental and emotional problems as they grow older. (‘Hate’ isn’t a natural emotion – children have to be taught to hate.)
8. For self-esteem. A dad’s time and attention is a big factor in how children think of themselves. Spending time with a dad can boost a child’s sense of their own worth. The more dads interact with their kids, the more of an influence they have. Many children crave to hear their dads say ‘I’m proud of you!’ Conversely, when children don’t have a dad around, they suffer from guilt, upset and self-doubt even into adulthood.
9. For confidence and strength. Children tend to be more resilient and more confident when their dads are actively involved in their lives. Dads tend to instil more of a sense of adventure.
10. For their future relationships with partners. Children who have a good relationship with their dads and mums are more likely to have good relationships with their partners when they’re older. In addition, dads teach their sons how to treat women and they teach their daughters how to expect to be treated.
11. For their best chance of stable relationships. Children benefit most from seeing a good relationship between their mum and dad. If parents have split up, the next best thing is for them to see their own parents communicating well together and to see their mum and dad have good stable relationships with another loving adult. Children learn so much from seeing first-hand loving relationships.
12. For understanding the role of a dad. Children watch their dads to learn about what that role involves. If children have an active, involved dad, boys learn how to be dads when they’re older, and girls are more likely to choose a man who is likely to be a good dad to their children.
13. For security. Children with a dad around are usually better off financially. Also, dads can help their children feel safe and secure. They can provide a safe home environment and pass on useful hints and tips to their children about how to behave when teased or threatened. Dads can both protect their children and show them how to protect themselves.
14. For choosing the right path. Children with a strong positive relationship with their dad have a lower chance of becoming criminals or abusing drugs. They are less likely to engage in early sexual activity or to drop out of school.
15. For the ability to persevere. A dad, who listens to their child, has a close relationship and sets appropriate rules, can directly affect their child’s ability to be persistent. And this has a big impact on how likely a child is to engage with school.
16. For competitiveness. Dads tend to try to push their children just that little bit harder. They have strong hopes for their children. Teenage boys particularly need a dad to keep their competitive urge at bay when they try to be the ‘alpha male’ in the family. It’s a good way for a teenage boy to learn about his position in the family and channel their strength in positive ways.
17. For wisdom. Dads have a lot of experiences and life skills to pass on to their children. They can help guide and influence their growing sons and daughters and help them navigate tricky situations. And when their children make mistakes, they can help them learn from them and get back on track.
18. For their future career. Children who grow up with fathers who stay involved in their lives end up with better jobs and careers than those who don’t. And are more likely to become economically self-sufficient.
19. For respect of authority. Children who have a strong father learn how to cope with figures in authority, such as teachers and the police. They learn to respect rules and are less likely to be involved in risky behaviours.
20. For happiness. Having a loving dad around is an important predictor of a child’s future well-being, happiness and life satisfaction.
It’s good every so often to recognise how important dads are in children’s lives. Credit to you, gentlemen for the important role you have in raising children!