Most experts will stipulate that the most influential relationships children have during their years of development between infancy and young adulthood are with the parents or primary caregivers. Perhaps the importance of a positive male role model during a child’s development has never been more evident than in present day as the social roles of fathers and stay at home dads has changed drastically over the past 30 years.
Whereas in the past being a dad meant little more than providing life’s basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, etc.), the list of responsibilities and expectations has expanded to encompass many of the emotional and psychological needs of a child, and rightfully so. The well-rounded upbringing of a child should include healthy doses of many types of support from both the mother and father figures in their life. The social redefinition of being a good stay at home dad figure includes the following:
* Financial support – While many women have entered the workforce and more households have two earners, most fathers still view this as their primary responsibility, even if just trying to earn money from home while they are a stay at home dad.
* Emotional support – Boys and girls alike seek feedback and validation as relates to their feelings and actions. It is extremely important that the father figure provide what is sought, or at the very least act as a sounding board engaging the child’s concerns in a caring manner.
* Direction and Moral development – Many of our children’s traits develop very early in life as a direct result of emulating their parents. It is vital that a good father figure not only teach through explanation, but as well through action. Many family units also look for spiritual leadership from the father figure.
For those of you acting as a father figure to a male child, keep in mind that you, as the same sex role model, will have greater influence on his development and future actions than any person with whom he may relate in his lifetime. If you want him to grow to be a “man”, you must develop a clear definition of exactly what that means to you and live your life accordingly. He will learn to walk, talk, act, react and relate to others just as you demonstrate.
Much the same, if you are raising a female child, you are setting an all important precedent of what she should expect from her relationships with men going forward. Although you may not have as much of a direct influence on her behaviour compared to a male child, you will be directly involved in scripting her future interactions and relationships.
Obviously there is a lot of pressure to be a good father figure with the evolution of the role within our society. The lives of our children are very literally dependent upon our actions. Despite these pressures, it is perhaps most important to remember mistakes will happen along the way. Always keep in mind that being candid with children about your mistakes and making steps toward positive resolution is yet another teaching tool which is of great use when taking on the task of being a good father figure.
Tom writes on behalf of DLProg who addresses an important gap in international thinking and policy about the critical role played by leaders, elites and coalitions in the politics of development. Read more about The Leadership Program and the Pacific Leadership Program at DLProg.org.