Today's families are increasingly more diverse, including single parent families, blended families, same sex parents, unmarried parents and multi-generational families. Over the past three decades, societal changes including the rise in numbers of women working outside the home, escalating divorce rates, remarriages, and blended families are causing shifts in both maternal and paternal roles.
Ask a dad today and he will probably tell you that his family relationships differ widely from those he experienced with his own father. Changes in parenting attitudes have given men more options for responding to obligations as fathers, husbands or partners. Today's dad is less likely to automatically rely on his own childhood experiences for guidance. What worked well for his father 30 years ago, may not work at all with the complex and varied challenges modern fathers face.
Today, dads do not fall neatly into a certain stereotyped pattern. Some dads express their feelings openly, while others are more reserved. Some enjoy the play of very young children, while others are more comfortable with older sons and daughters.
According to sociologist Lewis Yablonsky, a man's fathering style is influenced by many forces that include: his temperament, enthusiasm for being a father, his own father's behavior, his occupation, the images of how fathers are projected by mass media, the way family members relate to each other, and the number of children he has.
Current research reveals that warm accepting fathers tend to have children with higher self esteem. An affectionate and nurturing relationship furthers the development of children's achievement, peer popularity and personal adjustment. Loving fathers, who provide reasonable, firm guidance, without arbitrarily imposing their will, help to promote competence in children.
Regardless of personal parenting styles, a father's feelings for and about his children run deep. Most fathers intuitively know they are important in the lives of their children and they desire a good relationship.
Here are some helpful strategies for becoming an even better dad:
- Spend Time with Your Child. How a father spends his time reveals to his child what is important to him. Children grow up quickly and the time to bond with them is now.
- Discipline with Love. All children need guidance and discipline, not as punishment, but to set reasonable limits. Dads should remind children of the consequences of their actions and positively acknowledge desirable behavior. Fathers who discipline in a calm and fair manner show love for their children.
- Be a Role Model. Whether they realize it or not, fathers are role models to their kids. A girl who spends time with a loving father grows up knowing she deserves to be treated with respect by boys and she learns what to look for in a partner. Fathers teach boys and girls what is important in life by demonstrating honesty, humility and responsibility.
- Earn the Right To Be Heard. Fathers should begin conversations with their children about important topics when they are very young so that difficult subjects will be easier to handle as they get older. Take time for listening to your child's ideas and problems.
- Be a Teacher. Fathers who teach their children about right and wrong and who encourage them to do their best, will see their children make good choices. Involved fathers use everyday examples to help children learn the basic lessons of life.
- Eat Together as a Family. Sharing a meal together is an important part of a healthy, family life. It gives kids the chance to talk about what they are doing and want to do. It is also a good time for fathers to listen and be involved. It provides a structure for families to be together each day.
- Read To Your Child. In a world dominated by television and internet, it is important that fathers make the effort to read to their children. Begin reading when they are very young and as they get older, encourage them to read on their own. Instilling a love of reading is one of the best ways to ensure children will have a lifetime of literacy and personal and career growth.
- Respect The Other Parent Of Your Child. Parents who respect each other and demonstrate mutual respect to their children, provide a secure environment for them. When children see parents respecting each other, they are more likely to feel that they are also accepted and respected.
- Seek Involvement Early. Show interest early in your partner's pregnancy or the adoption or surrogacy process and gently touch, play, hold and talk to your infant child. When fathers are involved, they send the clear and emphatic message: "I want to be your father. I am interested in you and we have a relationship that is important to me."
Few events change a man's life as much as becoming a father. Being entrusted with the responsibility and care of another person is a monumental task but none is more rewarding than to see your child grow gradually into adulthood, with your affection returned in good measure and your child's self worth confirmed. A father's influence, feelings, and hope for and about his children run deep. Unquestionably, fathers care!
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