Advice Column, Parenting

The important role of a father in a child’s life

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Written by: Welna Buys (Principal of Maragon Pre-Primary Raslouw)

“While almost any man can father a child, there is so much more to the important role of being dad in a child’s life

Studies show that if your child’s father is affectionate, supportive, and involved, he can contribute greatly to your child’s cognitive, language, and social development, as well as academic achievement, a strong inner core resource, sense of well-being, good self-esteem, and authenticity”. Dr Gail Gross

Every child is looking for a hero and what a privilege it is for every dad to be that first hero.  I remember when my children were little; they could not wait for their dad to come home.  They would run outside anticipating the twenty minutes of chasing and wrestling in the back yard. This time of their dad’s undivided attention kept them fulfilled for the rest of the evening.

Children learn through example and from their early years, they start to mimic the role players in their lives.  Their entire perception of behaviour is formed by the example they have at a very vulnerable age.  It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of a dad’s positive involvement, as many studies have shown.  The dad is the key role player in forming his child’s identity.  A mother is there to nurture and to fill up their emotional tank.  In the 26 years of being a teacher, I experienced different scenarios of a dad’s involvement.  The dads, who attend most of their children’s sport events, praise them, and encourage them with words of affirmation, generally have the least stressed children in the game.  The children whose dads are screaming and shouting at them are the children who are anxious and constantly looking at their dads for approval, afraid to play their own game.

As a principal at a Pre-Primary School, I enjoy watching the children arrive at school.  The dads with boys are chasing them to the classroom with lots of laughter and joy.  These little boys are the ones who will take the initiative and start new games.

The dads tend to be more protective over their little princesses.  They will carry them and talk softly on their way to the classroom.  These little girls will almost immediately turn away and start playing.

Girls tend to model their future male relationships on that with their dad. If dad was supportive, kind and loving, they will look for these characteristics in their future relationships. Boys tend to model themselves on dad and the perpetuating cycles of violence we see in South Africa can often be attributed to the modelling they see at home.

It is common in today’s society that parents are separated or divorced, and the children live with their mother.  The father can feel left out or less involved, especially after a bad break up.  But, by keeping dad as a vital, honoured and regular part of children’s lives, a good balance can be achieved, leading to adults capable of building healthy relationships

Children do not ask for much.  Twenty minutes daily of your undivided attention. No cell phone, no laptop, no TV, talking, playing and having fun.

Dads, give your child the best gift that money can’t buy, your time and positive attention.

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