Rita Hodges

Extension Service

A generation or two ago, fathers weren’t expected to participate much in their children’s upbringing, except to bring home the paycheck.

But, in the last several decades, that image of a hands-off dad has changed. Not only are more and more mothers bringing home paychecks to help financially support their families, but more and more dads are helping to actively raise their children.

Researchers say it’s about time – and both parents and children are better for it. According to Dr. Steve Green, Texas AgriLife Extension Service child development specialist, children need fathers who love and care for them on a consistent basis.

However, too many dads are still uncertain about the responsibilities and privileges associated with this role. To help clear up some of the confusion, ways to actively participate in their children’s lives are listed.

An active father:

•Makes sure his children know he loves them. Fathers who love their children demonstrate their love by spending quality and quantity time together. This gives children a stronger emotional bond with their father and a healthy self-esteem.

• Supports his children financially. Children with active fathers will be more likely to have access to resources that facilitate healthy development, such as food, clothing, shelter and quality medical care.

• Supports his children emotionally. Active fathers listen and support their children when they experience joy, sadness, anger, fear and frustration. Children of emotionally-supportive fathers tend to be less inward-looking and more aware of others.

• Gives them a positive male role model. Active fathers can promote positive behaviors by setting a proper example for their children.

• Helps them develop self-esteem. Children with high self-esteem tend to be happier and more confident than children with low self-esteem. When fathers are fully involved in their children’s lives, those children learn they are highly valued.

• Helps his children’s intellectual development and increases their chances for academic success. When fathers are involved in their education, children tend to have higher verbal and math test scores and greater problem-solving and social skills. They are also more likely to be successful in school than children whose fathers aren’t involved in their lives. These academic benefits appear to extend into adulthood.

• Guides and disciplines his children. Active fathers play an important role in teaching their children proper behavior by setting and enforcing healthy limits.

• Plays with his children. Fathers and children who play together are developing their bonds. Fathers play with their children in different ways than mothers do. Fathers tend to use a more physical style of play, such as wrestling, that offers a number of benefits to children, including enhanced cognitive ability.

• Helps his children see different perspectives. Parenting styles differ between parents, even if those parents share the same children. Exposing children to these differing outlooks can be healthy.

• Reduces the chances of children becoming sexually active too soon or failing in school, becoming a juvenile delinquent or an adult criminal, or committing youth suicide. Children with actively involved fathers are less likely to engage in early sexual activity, thus reducing their chances for teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. They are also less likely to drop out of school, get involved with criminal behavior or commit suicide.

• Gives his children a sense of physical and emotional security. By being actively involved in a child’s life, a father promotes a trusting relationship. The child does not have to worry about being abandoned.

• Helps his children develop morally. Fathers, like mothers, help children to develop a sense of right and wrong that serves as a foundation for establishing moral character.

• Promotes healthy gender identity in his children. Boys and girls benefit from having healthy role models from both sexes.

• Helps his children learn life skills. Most of the essential life skills that children need to survive are learned within the home.

Fathers help their children learn how to be healthy and productive adults. No doubt about it, children need their fathers. Your children will benefit greatly from a father’s involvement in their lives.

For more information, contact Rita M. Hodges, county extension agent for family and consumer sciences, 701 S. Interstate 35E, Suite 3, Waxahachie; call 972-825-5175; or email rmhodges@ag.tamu.edu.