Australia is increasingly recognising the importance of a fathers involvement in the primary care giving of a child (about time – some of you might say). Knowing that children learn best from the same-sex parent, making fathers an integral part of a boys development and sense of self is critical to a boys emotional development and social needs.
Working with thousands of teenage boys, I’ve quickly learnt just how a fathers absence (and presence) affects a teenage boys perceptions of himself and his future.
Here are 5 reasons why boys need positive father figures in their lives:
1: Dads play a significant role in developing a boys character and value system
It’s easy to think that today’s media is a primary influencer on a boys perception of masculinity, yet boys rely on their dads for inspiration, guidance and lessons on what it means to be a man in today’s world. Unlike the media and other outside influences, dad’s are in prime position to model positive behaviours dads including how to accept and embrace responsibility, patience and good judgement. Dads should keep in mind that the man the boy will grow into is a reflection of himself.
2: Dads increase a boys emotional resilience
One of the most talked about concerns when raising young people is how to build resilience, the ability to bounce back after failure and adversity. Dads who are positively involved in their son’s lives tend to raise sons who are more emotionally stable, react positively to changes, adapt effortlessly to different environments and are enthusiastic to learn from new experiences.
The inquisitive and tender minds of young boys try to fulfil this gap by searching for this role model in their uncle, a sports coach or sometimes in another friend’s dad. If you are a mother reading this, ensure that you support your sons search for a positive male role model if his dad is not in the picture.
3: Boys have a higher chance of achieving better educational outcomes
Growing research in the area of boys, dads and education reveals that a boy is more engaged in school and educational activities when fathers actively models behaviours (for example, a son observes his father reading recreationally). When a father is involved in their son’s literacy at a young age, boys demonstrate increased cognitive abilities, higher self-esteem and greater social competence. Mothers support of dads participating in educational activities (including parent/teacher meetings) and assisting with school projects and assignments is critical in ensuring their son is achieving positive educational outcomes.
4: Dads show boys how to take healthy risks
Boys are becoming increasingly exposed to drugs, alcohol and porn in peer pressured situations at younger ages. Fathers can draw upon their own personal mistakes and lessons to demonstrate the consequences attached to these. Boys need to know the difference when a risk is a healthy vs. unhealthy and how to take themselves out of dangerous situation when faced with peer pressure. It is these critical moments that a father can help his son to reduce the chances of making regrettable decisions that may impact on his future.
5: Active dads break traditional stereotypes of fatherhood
The media is incredibly good at reinforcing all kinds of male stereotypes, in particular fathers. The all too common advertisement that shows a dad playing with his son suggests a dangerous perception that this is perhaps the only useful and required skill that a father has and needs. We need to ensure that fathers are not presented as less significant in the lives of boys compared to mothers. Active fathers break these narrow stereotypes prompting media and advertisers to value fatherhood and men’s roles in participating in the primary care giving of their children.
This article was first published in Small Steps Parenting Magazine, March 2015 Edition.
Click here to view the article in full.