Dads and Father Figures – Are We Selling Ourselves Short?: Warrior Wellbeing Article
Modern society can at times, undervalue the role of the father in our children’s lives. We tend to sell ourselves short, and the risk is that we are seen as nothing much more than sperm donors in the process of parenting. We’re far more than just a second parent in the household. No other person is as likely to bring the positive outcomes that an involved dad can. Our parenting style is significantly different to the mother’s, not to mention the male role modelling that is so important to both our sons’ and daughters’ development.
This is not saying that one parent is better than the other, in fact what is obvious is that both parenting styles are the Yin and Yang of child development and balance each other out. Whilst these are generalisations, the research backs it up. Where mums tend to preach equity, which creates a sense of security, dads model and encourage competition which helps develop independence. Dad’s quite often stress rules, fairness and justice which develops the child’s objectivity and sense of what’s right or wrong. While mothers are the primary source of sympathy and caregiving, dads are often a driver of empathy, or the ability for the child to see the world through someone else’s eyes. This might be because fathers tend to see the child in relation to the world vs the mothers view of the world in relation to the child.
Dads will show their love for their children in riskier ways and this is important. Letting them push on to the deep end of the pool (whilst we’re still watching) encourages confidence, independence and safe risk taking. Rough and tumble play is also an imperative part of socialisation, which children need to develop between the ages of two and four. They learn what hurts and what doesn’t. They learn that stretching, wrestling, pushing and pulling can be done in a friendly and “knockabout” manner, which is as important as learning that a thumb to the eyeball or a kick to the groin will never be taken as friendly.
The father’s physical play also helps to socialise the child with regards to reading situations and understanding mood. A child who hasn’t learnt to pick up and respond to these cues will find themselves struggling to create, maintain or to move in various friendship circles and may find themselves an outcast or victim of bullying in later years.
Whether we are encouraging our children to take life on by the horns (through safe risk-taking); honing their moral compass (through setting out rules and expectations); or just providing a role model of what a good man should be (for our sons to emulate and so our daughters have a yard-stick to measure future relationships by) we have an invaluable and ever changing part to play in our children’s lives.
For more men’s health & wellbeing information, check out our Working with Warriors® Podcast Series which was launched on the 19th June 2020 and is based on conversations around men’s wellbeing and health from our Working with Warriors® education sessions. The short podcasts, regarding a man’s approach to his wellbeing and health, are now available to listen via our website or on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and numerous other podcast directories.
Glen and the Team
The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401
Phone: 08 9690 2277