Fatherhood: Essential Parenting Tips for Men

Father and son

Let’s state this up front: Fathers are Important. If you are doubtful about this statement, let’s take a look at the human body. Whether you believe in the “Grand Design” of the universe or not, in order to create a new human life, it takes two sets of DNA – one from a female and the other from a male. Without both, there can be no life.

That’s basic biology. Fathers are needed from the beginning. There must be a reason for this and yet, over time, society has all but relegated them to the outskirts of significance, downplaying their role after birth. The myths, statistics and media have become so damning that even some fathers believe that they are no more than dollar signs to their offspring. Society is paying the price for their folly now. And the children are the ones who are getting the short end of the stick.

Have you heard about fathers and sons and daddies and daughters? If you haven’t, it’s because they have been downplayed. Women are having babies alone and raising them without the help of a male figure – by choice. Society says that the modern woman doesn’t need a man to define her or to provide for her. That may be so, but her child does.

We are not here to slam mothers. Everyone knows how important the influence and love of a mother is to a child at all stages of their lives (even adulthood). Mothers may in fact be the first ones to tell you that there are some issues that are just handled better by a male role model. If it is possible, that role model needs to be the father.

Even for women who choose to have a child using alternative means (such as a sperm bank and IVF), it bears mentioning that a male figure in that child’s life can have a significant impact on who they become as they grow. Just because the role of “father” is empty at the beginning doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need to be filled.

It is time that society and men particularly become reacquainted with the role of father. We don’t mean that men aren’t doing their duty. That “duty,” as you say, bears redefining in light of statistics and the needs of our children. Remember this: Don’t let society tell you how to be a good father. That is the role of your family and your child.

In this post, you will learn some shocking myths and statistics about fathers and fatherhood. If you believed that you were obsolete before, what you read here will make you change your mind. Use this information to revamp your approach and become more of an integral part in the lives of your children – whether you are married, separated or divorced. Your children still want to be a priority. Discover how to tackle different parenting issues of tweens and teens from the “father” perspective.

Fathers are not just biological. Male role models can be uncles, brothers, coaches, teachers, friends and stepfathers. Your only requirement is that you love a child and are willing to sacrifice for them. That sacrifice may manifest itself in the form of time, talent, money, discipline or all of the above. Quite frequently it will be all of the above.

Take heart. You might want to cry, get angry or feel guilty when reading through this. Hopefully, the end result will be joy and hope for the future. If you take nothing else away from this reading, know this: Fatherhood is more important than ever. Your child’s future depends on it.

The Importance of Fatherhood

Myths about Fatherhood

You have heard many over the years. Maybe when you were a kid, if your dad was absent from the home for one reason or another, others remarked about him in this way. In today’s world, the myths have become the truth and those who overcome them are the exception to the rule. Here are a few of the thoughts that have stigmatized fathers over the years.

Myth #1 – Men don’t do well with kids

It might surprise you that women don’t always do well either. Just like there is not an instruction manual for motherhood, guess what? There is not one for fatherhood either. We are all playing it by ear sometimes. We draw on the examples of our parents and friends and books (sometimes) and the rest is feel and trial and error. One reason that fathers are often clumsier around babies and young children is that they are not given the chance to do for them as mothers are.

Most women would welcome a little “daddy-baby time” to give them a break. Just like with anything else in life, the more time you spend doing it, the more comfortable you will become with it. Children are the same. Don’t let the fear of “breaking” your kid keep you from spending time changing diapers, feeding, cooing and holding them close.

Myth #2 – Men don’t want children as much as women

Is that why many women are going it alone? Some men don’t want to face up to the consequences of having a child but that could be immaturity or selfishness. It doesn’t speak for the majority of men, only the majority of the stories that we hear about. Men want the opportunity to pass on what they know and their love to another human being. Most who marry also desire to create a new life with the person that they have pledged their life to. These are not feelings native only to women.

Myth #3 – A man’s place is in the office

The word on the street is that if a man decides to be a house husband or to forgo a career advancement to spend more time with his family, he must be a failure. This is poppycock. How many men are there right now (some may be reading these pages) who have children who they are strangers to, or whose children dislike them because they spent more time at the office than at home? They console themselves with more work, but that doesn’t change the situation.

As far back in time as the beginning of human recorded history, man has taken care of his family. His body size and shape defined him as protector, teacher and hunter. He worked the land for what he needed for his survival and that of his family. Since the Industrial Revolution, man has made a place outside the home as more provider than teacher and protector. The latter two responsibilities fell to the mother, who stayed home raising the kids.

Over time, many men have been phased out of the household except to bring home the paycheck and to set down the rules. These new roles have made it hard for men to come home and stay involved without being seen as weak or compromising their standing in society.

Myth #4 – Men are bad at fatherhood if their father was bad at it

This is a big one. Just like with women and their mothers, you don’t have to turn out just like them. Yes, your parents exert an influence over who you become and also how you begin to parent. Notice, we said how you “begin” to parent. If your father was never there or was not patient or appreciative, for example, you have the power to change those characteristics within yourself. Just the fact that you are worried about becoming a carbon copy of your father shows you desire to be different. It’s always a good catalyst for change.

Myth #5 – Mothers make the difference in a child’s life anyway

Did you just read that? Now it’s time for a little bit of truth (it can go a long way). Babies can distinguish their father’s voice from others at only four weeks of age. Children who spend time with their fathers as infants do better in school. A father’s involvement can prevent such behaviors as drug use, alcohol use, sexual experimentation and other activities brought on by peer pressure. Fathers influence and boost the self-image of both boys and girls.

This information was provided by the Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension Service. The influence of both parents provides a well-rounded life for a child.

Statistics on the Effects of Fatherlessness

Society may play up the number of fathers who are absent and blame everything from crime waves to shoe size on absentee fathers, but the truth is nonetheless disturbing. You may not understand what your exact role is as a father right now. Without you, though, the results would be a lot worse.

There is a crisis in America and fathers are at the center of it. According to the National Fatherhood Initiative website, here are some startling statistics:

One out of every three (24 million) children lives in a home where the father is absent. They are four times more likely to be poor, suffer emotional issues and behavior problems and become incarcerated at some time in their lives. Absentee fathers can result in higher incidence of teen pregnancy, sexual promiscuity, obesity and drug and alcohol abuse.

Students are more likely to excel in education when their father is present in the household. This last statistic was true of stepfathers and single-parent households led by fathers.

If you believe that fathers don’t make a difference, then think again. Children are at greater risk for many emotional, physical and socioeconomic downturns due to the absence of a father in their lives. The implications are far-reaching. You may even have experienced some yourself.

What questions and issues do you feel are yours because of a lack of a father in your life? Use the answers to compel you to make a change in the way that you relate to your own children. They are often looking for the same things that you were. Don’t let them miss out as well and thus perpetuate a dangerous cycle.

Findind Time for Family

What is holding you back from spending the time that you need with your children? Just like there are statistics on fatherlessness, there are statistics on father “present-ness.” According to information presented on Strong Fathers, Strong Families website, children enjoy school more, participate, follow rules and do better when their father is involved in their education.

Those who regularly engage in playtime with their father were also more sociable and confident in themselves, especially concerning peer pressure. In African-American males, where a father was present and involved, the factors governing the success of the child included discipline, open communication, love, limits and positive racial and gender role modeling.

This is only a small benefit of what could be experienced by your child when you are in the home. As a “present” parent, fathers have more influence than they think. In today’s society, though, the issue is finding time. Men are still partial if not the primary breadwinners in many families. It can be difficult to juggle responsibilities but it is necessary.

Fathers are different. They think differently, communicate differently, discipline differently and see the world, well, differently from mothers. Having you around provides your child with another perspective from which to see a situation, problem and the world as a whole. This is of great advantage for both male and female children when fostering relationships with friends and significant others. They gain insight from you that they would not otherwise be privy to.

Here are a few tips to help you to find the time to spend with your family.

Eat dinner together – Eating dinner has been shown to lower the incidence of negative peer pressure. Kids can relay the facts of their day over a meal, laugh, make memories and gain insight into their parents when the situation is relaxed.

Help with homework – After dinner, if mom is cleaning up, sit at the table and assist your kids with their studies. You’ll be surprised what you remember from secondary school about fractions, multiplication, geometry, history and grammar. What’s your favorite subject? It might turn out to be your child’s as well.

Take a walk – It’s already been established that the family that plays together also stays together. Get healthy and clear the air with an after-dinner walk or shooting a few hoops in the driveway or at a nearby park. Exercise releases feel-good endorphins in the body. Kids may be more apt to discuss a problem then as well.

Prioritize at work – Keep a schedule. If your son or daughter has a game or recital on a certain day, wrap things up early so you can make it. Avoid conducting business on the phone when you are supposed to be enjoying a performance. Being in the room is not the same as being involved. It takes the pressure off of you as well and allows for greater enjoyment.

Talk to your children – When you are at home, don’t simply watch television or read the paper. Engage your child in conversation. Kids like to talk and will discuss just about any subject. Through daily talks you can learn their favorite color, discover their habits and personality, know their quirks and overall become familiar with who your child is as a person.

Share duties – The traditional mom/dad roles of your parents or grandparents are a thing of the past. With changing society comes a shift in roles. There isn’t a “mom” task list (she’ll tell you that). Help out where you can, especially activities that involve your children. Bath time can be special when dad is helping. Introduce your kids to new games when you play before bedtime. Reading stories with dad may involve more animated voices or use of puppets (it could happen). Use your imagination.

Let these few ways spark your imagination to find other avenues for sharing time with your kids. Look, most fathers have to work. We understand. What kids want is time – quality, not necessarily quantity. If you can give both that would be great. If you had to choose one, go for quality. Work on the other as you go along. Kids will forgive you. They can tell when you are making an effort to make them a priority in your life.
Fatherhood Tips – Raising Your Kids in Their Tweens and Teens

Moms may chuckle because they have been through this a bit more than many dads. Often mom shields you from the harsher realities of adolescent and teenage life, especially the day to day. If this is new to you, now it’s time for you to learn what you’ve been missing.

Just to warn you, it may read like a scene out of The Exorcist. One day, your baby girl is all sweetness and light and the next day her head is spinning 360 degrees and you don’t know what she’s spewing your way. Same goes for your son, although he might resemble someone you’d cross the street to avoid.

It happens almost overnight. They are no longer the small child you bounced on your knee or took to the park. Once, you were the coolest dad ever who loved to play and have fun. Now, you are some clueless entity that sleeps in the bedroom next to them. Your name is no longer dad but “hmmm” or “whatever.” Frightening but it’s totally true. They morph and not always into something good.

There is still hope. You can retrieve something that will sound and look like your precious child. Kids will tell you a lot that you don’t want to hear at this time in their lives. What they aren’t telling you is how much they love and need you.

Don’t give up on them even if they act like they’ve left you behind. Tweens (lingo for adolescents with a young adult complex) and teenagers want their parents to be involved. They will perform better and come out of their teens with fewer traumas than those with overly permissive parents.

Personal Hygiene

This is often a bigger issue for boys than girls. Boys play hard but they also need to learn to clean up just as hard. As men, it is easier to pinpoint where your son is going wrong because you share the same anatomy. If he’s only hitting the high points during his bath, make sure he gets the nook and crannies.

Once a child reaches double digits they are usually tall enough to start showering. Introduce them to an older boy method for lathering and rinsing and getting it all clean without sitting in a tub. It’s still a good idea to use the “No More Tears” shampoo as you instruct them on how to wash their own hair – it prevents slipping and falling mishaps from sudsy blindness.

Dads, if you are a single parent or simply sharing duties, don’t be afraid to talk to your daughter about hygiene either. As she matures and hits puberty, things change drastically for her. Menstruation marks her passage into womanhood. For dads, it just means guarding the door with a shotgun.

Take a few lessons from mom on how to assist with her needs at this juncture. You might have to read a few books to get comfortable with the subject. The point is that cleanliness for both girls and boys can help to boost their self-esteem. Whatever you can do to foster that will go a long way.

Teach them to wash their clothes. Wearing that t-shirt that has been lying on the floor for a week might seem kosher to your son, but it is not acceptable. At this age, kids require a little leeway on clothing choices but resist compromising on the smell. They may look like a punk rocker or a Goth girl but at least they will smell springtime fresh. Folding and hanging items is also a necessary skill for maintaining a decent wardrobe.

Setting Limits

This is a big deal now and in the future. Setting boundaries for your children, teaches them not only responsibility but also consequences. As tweens, kids are ready to enter a new phase in their lives. They are becoming more social, discovering new things about their bodies and their minds. It can be stressful to a young girl or boy when they feel awkward in their own skin. The results: acting out, attitude issues, laziness, disrespectful language and the like. Some mood changes are theirs and some might be behavior they picked up from friends.

Nipping it in the bud requires a firm response. Limits are not there to restrain your child but to keep them from hurting themselves at a time when they are learning, exploring and possibly vulnerable. Kids believe they know everything but you know that they don’t. Here are a few examples:

As a child of tween age (10-12), bedtime might be around 9:30. Discussion can be had about increasing that by half an hour or so as they approach their teens, as long as they show they can handle the responsibility of getting up at the same time in the morning with a little less sleep.

Teenagers have a curfew. Thirteen and fourteen is still too young and immature to be out all night long. You need to know who they will be with, where they are going and set the time to come home. Cell phones (non-smartphones, of course) are useful at this stage for keeping up with them. Most have programs where you can track your kid’s whereabouts. It’s more of a safety feature for them and you should trouble arise.

Many parents set limits on media time. This includes television, video games and computer time. Keeping a home computer or laptop in a central location like the living room or den puts it in full view of you. That discourages surfing X-rated sites, certain chat rooms and other activities kids are tempted to engage in. Tweens can be monitored with parental controls within your web browser settings.

To encourage responsibility in your child, also set down the consequences of breaking the limits that you have set. There’s nothing wrong with listening to their side of the story if they are late. We’ve all been there. The car breaks down or something else happens that is unavoidable. You might go light on their sentence but still – issuing consequences shows consistency in parenting. Let your child know beforehand what the consequences are for breaking the rules so they don’t feel blindsided. They may still argue with you (what child won’t put up a good fight?), but don’t cave in.

Sex

Remember watching television shows that showed the father sitting down with his son and discussing the “birds and the bees?” These days, you are going to have to be a lot more specific than that. And, the sooner you discuss this with your kids the better for both of you. Schools discuss it in health class – the basics of biological response to arousal and things like that.

Your kids are going to have questions. If you want them to receive the right answers, you’ll have to provide them. Their friends get their information from the internet, music videos, other friends and magazines. The only way to compete with that is to get the jump on approaching the subject and doing your research.

The amount of sexual innuendo out there can scare a parent to death. Now there is “sexting.” Pornographic sites are everywhere on the internet. Kids are inundated with sexual images every day through television, radio, print media and their friends. When it comes to sex, peer pressure can be strong.

The first lesson about sex is respect and love. They can learn that from watching you and their mother. Kids are always watching. Your love relationship is the first one they are exposed to and the one they see every day. From you, tweens and teens learn how to treat someone of the opposite sex, tender touch and loving words, compromise, communication and even forgiveness.

On the other hand, kids who grow up in abusive situations learn how to dominate, hurt, verbally and physically abuse and threaten. Teens are not immune to abusive boyfriend/girlfriend relationships these days. Teach your daughters not to accept anything less than a young man who will respect her and her body. Teach your sons to treat a woman as they would their mother after watching you.

There is nothing wrong with teaching about contraception. If your child is old enough and mature enough (never old enough for a parent), they need to know how to protect themselves. Contraceptive conversations don’t give permission to have sex; they inform and empower young people to be responsible. When they go off to college you won’t be with them. Don’t you want them to be safe?

Fostering Responsibility

If you have more than one child, you know that they can be as different as night and day. Boys and girls are different as well. It is the challenge of every parent to be fair and equal to all of their children. As a father, this will become a fine line to walk.

Allow daughters the same opportunities to shoulder increased responsibility if they are mature enough to handle it. Resist letting your fears of what may happen cause a rift in your relationship and unfair practices regarding discipline and the like. Kids are sharp and observant. If they even smell that you are treating them gender unequal, they will pounce on you.

Kids grow up – that’s what they do and it’s what you did. Would you rather they grow up in your shadow or equipped to face the world? As they age, offer them more and more chance to learn how to perform certain tasks on their own. Sure, you can make a bed faster or fix breakfast better or even mow the lawn straighter, but that won’t transfer those skills to your child if you do it. Every child needs to learn to be self-sufficient. Self-sufficiency leads to greater self-esteem and pride.

Giving Advice

Kids don’t want to hear about when you were young. Sorry, but it’s true. When you offer them advice in a certain situation, resist the urge to throw a story or two in there about you. If they ask, that’s another story. But, if they just want help handling a friendship, a boyfriend or girlfriend, grades, their future, sports or anything really, listen to them first before answering. Even then, reiterate what they said to be sure you understand what they are saying.

Sometimes kids want a sounding board. During the teenage years, they need someone to talk to who knows them. If you want to become “super cool dad” again, pay close attention to your child. Learn the warning signs when something is wrong with them. Here are a few:

  • Sleep issues (insomnia or sleeping too much)
  • Talk of suicide
  • Poor grades
  • New group of friends that is very different from the current ones
  • Personality changes
  • Signs of drug or alcohol abuse (smell in clothes, smell of breath, glassy eyes, eating all hours of the night)

At this point, it might be time for you to sit them down and have a talk. Kids are private and won’t always open up to you. Let them know that you are there for them when they are ready to discuss it. For more serious matters like drugs and alcohol, talking to a counselor or a visit to the doctor is warranted.

Bullying

Bullies have been around for since your great-grandfather was in short pants. Today, it has gotten more pervasive, especially with technological advances. Where once kids pushed each other or tormented you in school (still unacceptable), now they do it on the telephone, over their cell phone and online. Cyberbullying is particularly heinous because it is cold and displays a lack of empathy. You don’t have to physically see the person you are hurting so it is easier to be cruel to them and ask others to join in.

Discuss bullying with your child. Know how it manifests and teach them to handle it in school and online. One of the best ways to put a stop to it with your child is to empower them with self-worth. When you know who you are and have a family that will stand behind you, it is easier to stand your ground against someone bullying you or another. A bully doesn’t win if the person who they are trying to hurt isn’t bothered or fights back.

Maintaining a Strong Relationship

Kids want you to be there for them and with them. They may not say so in so many words as a tween or teenager, but younger kids will certainly tell you that they miss you and don’t like it when you are not around. As they get older, that disappointment and sadness can curdle to bitterness, indifference and hate. They may break your rules just to spite you. In divorce situations, kids can pit one parent against another in a bid to hurt you because of the pain that they feel.

Fathers who stay involved with their kids at every level and all ages, have children that perform better in school, show fewer behavior problems, better self-esteem and make it to see their high school graduation. Staying connected can warn you when your child is going through something serious. The situation can be addressed before an unfortunate outcome occurs.

A good healthy relationship is not one where kids get their way but where parents are consistent and together. Mom and dad parent together, not at odds. Discuss discipline and rules and how to approach certain topics with your kids as a unit. Any disagreements take place behind closed doors before kids get involved.

Parents want to be a child’s friend but you are not. As a father, it is your loving job to build confidence, empathy, community, moral center, responsibility and self-control among other attributes in your child. You are preparing them for the world ahead. That means making tough decisions, hearing “I hate you” at times, hearing slamming doors but also hearing “thank you” and “I love you” at times. But, you can’t hear those things if you are not around for the good and the bad times.

So talk and talk and then talk some more. Be accessible to your kids. Make them a priority all the time. Share responsibility for them even if you don’t live in the same household anymore. You are still the father and they are still in need of your love.

The Bottom Line

Fathers today are needed more than ever. Come out of the shadows and into the light of your child’s life. What does it take to be a good father? You need love for a child. He or she won’t care if you are wealthy or just making it, old or young, good looking or so-so. To him or her, you are daddy and that carries a lot of weight and responsibility.

There is no manual for fatherhood. Your father probably made mistakes and so will you. However, don’t let that become your excuse not to try. You owe your child a chance to get to know you and you them. Make mistakes together, have fun together, be there for each other together. They may not remember as many of the mistakes you made when there are so many more loving and involved moments to think about. Give it your best shot. You’ll survive and so will they.

Image heymarchetti