You must have heard this: “A woman is born to look after kids and family, and a man to earn money.”
However, things have changed now. Today, both men and women earn equally, and also share responsibilities in raising their children. Now the role of fathers in child development has a new meaning.
But, one thing still hasn’t changed. That is the MENTALITY of our society. They taunt men who see after their kids or feed them in their mother’s absence as Mr Moms. (See the title is still Mom).
People do not consider such things as being a part of the parent’s role, which the father is.
Dr Nadia, a paediatrician beautifully highlights this in her post.
And I fully agree with her. When fathers take care or feed their kids, why we take it as if they do something out of their duty domain? Why don’t we treat them as equal counterparts to the female parent?
Well, maybe because we still undermine the importance or the role of fathers in child development.
So, here’s a glimpse of what importance a father holds in any child’s life.
Role of fathers in child development at different stages
1. Newborn babies
Bonding between a baby and a mother starts in the womb itself. But, a father bonds when the baby is out in this world.
When a father responds to his baby’s cries and signals, when he takes care of him in the mother’s absence, the baby develops a fondness towards him; he looks up to him as a source of comfort and happiness.
Involved fathers provide security and certainty in their baby’s life and stimulate a healthy development of his brain. Children with involved fathers in babyhood grow into happy and successful adults.
Curiosity and a need to explore new things is the normal inclination in every toddler.
Fathers at this stage act as a guide to help their child explore new things but within limits. These limits are set and decided by the fathers for their child’s safety.
Fathers also become the favourite playmates for their toddlers. By indulging in rough-play with their children, they boost their confidence and help them solve their own problems.
This way, the toddlers learn to explore their own strengths, develop problem-solving skills, and learn to build strong social and emotional ties.
3. School-going children
Once the child steps into a school, it’s an opportunity for him to learn more about the real world. And the path will be full of challenges.
Fathers play a significant role here by encouraging children to accept these challenges, overcome them, and be successful in every sphere of life. They inspire them to be confident, independent, self-sufficient, and children look up to their fathers for their approval.
There is more to a father’s importance…
Fathers also foster emotional development and discipline in their child’s life at every stage.
I. Emotional Development
The way a child develops emotionally, the relationships he will have in future depend a lot upon his/her father. Fathers provide stability and discipline in the children’s lives.
The way a father behaves with his children, with his wife, and others leave a deep impression on a child’s mind, and they are likely to pick up the same.
For example, if a son sees his dad being respectful and affectionate towards others, he is likely to develop the same traits in his personality as he grows up. If the father is cruel, beats up his wife and children, the child gets the impression that’s okay to do so and will turn into an aggressive individual.
Daughters of such fathers will grow up thinking most men are this way and develop hatred towards them.
It’s not just the fathers, but both parents play an equal role in shaping the emotional level and thus, the personality of their children.
But, I have specifically stressed on fathers because studies show that children who are well-bonded and have involved and loving fathers have less behavioural problems, and a low inclination to anti-social behaviour.
Children with involved fathers also show better cognitive development, educational achievement, and self-esteem.
Fathers prove to be more effective disciplinarians than mothers.
This is because women are gentler in their forms of discipline, but men usually instil the rules and expect them to obey. Though this may not be true always, but women usually give-in to their child’s demands easily, while fathers use logic to make their kids obey the rules.
If you closely observe the teens and young adults involved in drug/alcohol abuse, juvenile crimes, and other anti-social behaviour, most of them didn’t have a father devoted to their right upbringing.
Thus, it can be concluded that fathers are important for the security, healthy brain development, cognitive development, emotional well-being, and instilling discipline in their child’s life.
Now, when you have understood this, let’s see how to achieve this by playing different roles.
Different roles of fathers in child development
Parenting is a team effort. Not talking about the tasks or the responsibilities. That’s entirely up to you how you share it with your partner.
But, I am talking about ‘real parenting’ which is much beyond these tasks. It involves promoting and supporting the physical, social, intellectual, and emotional development of a child from infancy to adulthood.
And you can achieve this only when you assume different roles for your child.
So, what are the different roles a father needs to play to effectively raise his child?
1. A Playmate
Mothers also play with a child, but dads make excellent playmates, especially for rougher and physical games like horse play, cricket, football, etc. Even a teenager looks up to his dad for a company to play video games.
This is where the seeds of friendship between a father and son are first sown.
Playing with your child gives you an excellent opportunity to spend quality time with him and teach valuable life lessons like sharing and dealing with winning and losing.
*TIP: Don’t make your child win the game deliberately each time thinking he is just a kid. This way you won’t make him ready to accept failures in life.
2. A Coach or a Teacher
Well, that’s not limited to only academics. A father is also the first life coach of a child who teaches him about the real world.
Mothers are much softer with their kids, but it’s a father only who teaches a child to recognise his strengths, push his boundaries, and excel in life. It’s he who prepares the child for the “toughness” of the real world.
A child will never forget how you taught him to cycle, to hold a pencil, to get up after a fall. He never forgets how you care for him after an injury.
*TIP: Maintain a balance between pushing your child to excel and letting him what he is.
3. A Protector
Mothers and fathers are equally protective of their child, but for protecting the family and children from a physical danger, fathers are more active.
Further, a father also teaches his child to deal with danger and protect themselves and others.
*TIP: Don’t be over-protective about your child to the extent you prevent him from being independent.
4. A Companion
A child shares a different emotional equation with dads than mothers.
He wishes you to accompany him on all special occasions like his birthdays, parents-teachers’ meetings, sports meet, etc. This is because you, the father can be his companion, partner-in crime, his co-conspirator and brother-in-arms.
*TIP: Spend quality time with your child EVERY DAY to build and strengthen a friendly bond amongst yourself.
5. A Role model
A father is a perfect role model for his child, be a son or a daughter. A son always looks up to his father and wishes to be like him – kind, genuine, confident, and successful.
A daughter looks up to her dad as the first perfect man in her life. She expects other men to treat her with same love and respect as her father. She even looks for the same characteristics in her husband.
*TIP: Your children learn from your words and behaviour each moment. So, set a good example for them.
6. A Provider
This is natural. Every man earns to provide for his family. However, a father also teaches his children the importance of money, earning, how to live within definite means, and be responsible and independent financially.
*TIP: Don’t pamper and spoil your child by handing him money whenever he asks for anything. If ever you give him money, keep a check where he spends it.
Summarising the role of a father in child development
It’s easy to be a father. When your wife gives birth to a baby, you naturally become a father. But, it takes a long haul to be a dad. You need to play various roles in your child’s life –a provider, a protector, a companion, a playmate, a teacher, and a role model to qualify as a dad.
So, the choice is yours. What you want to be –A Father or a Dad?
Convinced with what we discussed about the role of fathers in child development? Share your thoughts in the comments below. I like listening to my readers.
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