FathersArticles

Articles for Fathers

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    The Value of Father-Daughter Relationships

    Beth, a 26-year-old church secretary was in a particularly good mood. She was actually glowing when a friend asked if her boyfriend had proposed to her.

    "Her response took me by surprise,” says Ken Canfield, author of Seven Secrets of Effective Fathers and The Heart of a Father. "She told me her father initiated a phone call to her for the first time in a very long time. I noticed she had flowers on her desk and I asked who sent her flowers.

    "With a huge smile, she told me her dad sent them to her for her birthday. Beth’s response to her father’s attention made me realize something. Even grown women hunger for love, attention and affirmation from their father.”

    Research from Canterbury and Vanderbilt Universities shows that from birth on, a father's activity and presence uniquely benefits their daughters.

    “Many men operate off of the premise that if they were uninvolved in their daughter’s life as she was growing up, it is too late to make a difference,” Canfield says. “Thinking that the die is cast or the deal is done because our children are grown is something we must re-examine. It simply is not true. In a parallel vein, research shows the devastating impact of divorce affects adult children deeply. Contrastingly, the continued investment in your child’s life even when they are parents of your grandchildren will reap tremendous benefits for you and them.”

    Studies reveal that men tend to spend more time with their sons than they do with their daughters. In fact, fathers tend to back away from their daughters during the pre-adolescence and adolescence. However, a girl's need for attention and affection during that time period is even more important.

    “When a father abandons a relationship with his daughter, she can become frozen in time relationally with the opposite sex,” Canfield says. “A 50-year-old woman may look like an adult, but on the inside she is still working on issues that should have been attended to by a healthy, engaged father.”

    Based on research, we know a few more things about these relationships. Without a healthy relationship with their father, girls will find other ways to contribute to their development when it comes to relating to men.

    “When you are frozen relationally, it is difficult to know your place and how to develop a healthy relationship. It's because you are working from a point of need instead of working out of a position of co-equal,” Canfield says. “There is a void in her life. The search to fill that void prompts her to take risks in relationships, which usually result in some really poor choices.”

    According to Canfield, limitless healing and restoration can take place in father-daughter relationships. Here are Canfield's tips:

    • Initiate communication with your adult daughter. Affirm her for the positive contributions she has made to your life or in the lives of others.

    • Consider asking for forgiveness. The three toughest things for fathers to say are: “I was wrong, I am sorry, and will you forgive me?” Use these to deepen your relationship with your daughter.

    • Ask your daughter for three ways you can support her in the coming year.

    • Ask your child’s mother (who is an adult daughter) to describe how her father influenced her most significantly.

    • Affirm your daughter’s femininity by being sensitive to her emotional highs and lows.

    Cultivate an atmosphere of “no-strings-attached” love in your home. Be ready to listen to and support your children in every challenge.

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    Dad's Role in a Daughter's Marriage

    Sometimes the closeness of a father/daughter relationship can interfere with the couple relationship.

    For example, one couple was arguing over purchasing a $600 set of dishes. According to the husband, they could not afford them. As a result, the wife was furious.

    When she told her father that her husband would not purchase the dishes, her dad purchased them for her. Some might say, "Why is this a problem? He was just trying help."

    But most relationship experts would say the dad crossed a line when he got in the middle of something the couple needed to figure out for themselves. If she thinks she can run to her father and get what she wants every time there is a disagreement about spending money, two things will eventually happen:

    • The husband will grow to completely resent his father-in-law, or

    • The daughter will stop discussing these things with her husband and go straight to her father to get what she wants.

    Neither of these outcomes are good for the marriage.

    Couples need to openly discuss these potential pitfalls and agree ahead of time about boundaries and expectations within their marriage.

    For Fathers:

    While it may be difficult, it is important for you to step back emotionally once your daughter is married. Even though you enjoy doing things for her, it is better to ask yourself one question: Is if what I am about to do going to be helpful to their marriage?

    If the answer is no, don't do it. OR, ask them how they would feel about you helping. If both aren't in agreement that it would be helpful, then don't do it. Let them figure it out.

    It's hard to believe that any guy will ever measure up and be good enough for your daughter. If you want their marriage to be successful, however, guard against criticizing your son-in-law.

    Recognize it is not your job to control things. And while she will always be your daughter, her husband comes first.

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    Dad's Impact on Teens

    For decades, research has indicated a strong correlation between involved fathers and child well-being. A 2009 study published in Child Development specifically continues this trend for preventing risky sexual behavior.

    Researchers led by Boston College Associate Professor Rebekah Levine Coley surveyed 3,206 teens, ages 13-18, annually for four years. They asked teens from two-parent homes about their sexual behavior and their relationship with their parents.

    The study assessed this group of teens two different ways. Here are their conclusions:

    • Mom plays a role in preventing risky sexual behavior, but dad has double the influence. The more a dad engaged with his teen, from knowing their friends and activities to knowing their plans and encouraging family activities, the more dramatic the impact on decreasing risky sexual behavior.

    • The chances of a teen engaging in risky sexual behavior decreased when actively engaged fathers knew their teen well and participated frequently in family activities.

    • Young people involved with risky sexual behaviors reported lower levels of parental knowledge and involvement. Results actually showed that one additional family activity per week resulted in a nine percent decrease in sexual activity.

    “We have known for a long time that fathers bring a unique set of parenting skills to the table,” says Dr. Cheryl Robinson, UC Foundation Associate Professor of Child and Family Studies. “This study is significant because it was conducted with teens in two-parent homes. The findings were no different than the vast amount of research with high-risk teens, those living in divorced or never-married homes. Children need father involvement.”

    This doesn’t seem like rocket science, but the reality is that many fathers struggle with their role as a parent.

    “The message to both moms and dads, but especially to dads is, be involved with your child,” Robinson says. “Just because they grow up and get taller than you does not mean they are adults. You have to continuously stay involved with them. Involvement gives you the opportunity to teach them, to help them develop good decision-making skills and to transmit values. You can talk all day and tell them not to do something. But if they are with you and see your behavior, they understand why they shouldn’t do those things.”

    Dad, your teen may be outwardly sending you messages that make you think your parental involvement doesn’t matter. Don’t let them fool you. Intentionally engaging your teen at every level can dramatically enhance his life.

    "Don’t be afraid to set expectations with your teen concerning family time, knowing their friends and how they are spending their time,” Robinson says. “They may roll their eyes, but you are providing a safety net that will help them navigate life’s treacherous roads for years to come.”

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    A Father's Presence Has an Impact

    A few years ago, Dewayne Belew began coaching his son Christopher’s basketball team at the YMCA. Christopher aged out of the YMCA basketball leagues after eighth grade, but since he still wanted to play, he and his dad would shoot hoops together.

    “Early on, Christopher wasn’t necessarily an outstanding player, but he had a great work ethic,” says Belew. “He would watch what characters in video games did and then try to emulate what he saw when we played together. He ultimately made the junior varsity team at his school, but he wanted more.”

    As Christopher and his dad continued to play, they looked for other competitive-play opportunities.

    “At that point our church, Wesley Memorial United Methodist, hired a new youth director, Nate Davis, who also happens to love basketball,” Belew says. “One thing led to another and we ended up opening the gym at the church on Saturday mornings from 8 to 10 for anyone who wanted to come play.”

    Initially, Belew, his son and Davis and his sons invited a few people to join them on Saturday mornings. Word spread quickly and before long they had a crowd of young adults in their 20s, high school teens and middle schoolers, male and female - all wanting to play.

    “If you had told me we would have a bunch of young people who intentionally go to bed early on Friday night so they can get up and go play basketball for fun on Saturday morning at 8, I would have told you no way, but that’s exactly what is happening. We have a lot of fun. My personal goal is to not let them outhustle me, but all of them outplay me.”

    In the midst of the game, Belew contends that a lot of learning takes place.

    “The guys all know that the gym is usually already set up for Sunday so whatever is in place has to be taken down before they can play and replaced before they leave,” Belew says. “We play hard. It is definitely competitive, but everybody gets to play. We’ve got some really talented players who teach those who are coming along. I love watching the young adults come alongside the teens to help them hone their skills.”

    Belew shared that a teen told him he plays basketball all over the community, but this is his favorite place to play because everybody plays hard, nobody is foul-mouthed and nobody gets angry. It’s fun.

    “In the midst of all of this we have the opportunity to model appropriate behavior around not just the game, but life in general,” Belew says. “We are a very diverse crowd on Saturday mornings. For many of these folks, it was the only time they engaged with each other. Now, they are building relationships. Before we start playing, we always gather at mid court to pray for each other and we give people the chance to share what is on their hearts. For me, and I think for my son and others, this has been life-changing on many levels. 

    Many young men’s lives are being enriched because one dad paid attention to something that was important to his son. Opportunities to speak life into our community’s kids are everywhere, and often, the only requirement is a little bit of our time. 

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    Why Fathers Matter

    Dr. Warren Farrell, psychologist and author of Father Child Reunion, was intrigued with why children with active fathers do so well. In an attempt to better understand it, he spent more than a decade analyzing worldwide research.

    “I knew when I started this research that dads were important, but I had no idea how important,” says Farrell. “We are 100 percent certain that children do better in 26 different areas when they grow up in intact families. Children clearly pay a price when their fathers walk away or mothers keep dads away.”

    A father's impact starts at birth. For example, boys who have contact with their father show greater levels of trust at only 5 or 6 months. A study of black infants found the more interaction the boy had with the father, the higher his mental competence and psychomotor function by the age of 6 months.

    As children grow, fathers teach children to have empathy. Dads are usually more firm about enforcing boundaries. Teaching children to take boundaries seriously teaches them to respect the needs and rights of others.

    “Fathers also play a huge role in teaching delayed gratification, the single most important highway to maturity,” Farrell says. “When children are allowed to do something without having to do anything to get there, it undermines this process.”

    Children with fathers present in the home do better academically, especially in math and science. This is true even if they come from weaker schools. A study by two Harvard researchers found that even when race, education, poverty and similar socioeconomic factors are equal, living without a dad doubled a child’s chance of dropping out of school.

    Another study of boys with similar backgrounds found that by the third grade, boys with present fathers scored higher on every achievement test. They also received higher grades. The more years children spend with single mothers, the fewer years of school they complete.

    “When fathers are present, children have better mental health,” Farrell says. “They are more likely to get along well with other children, sleep well at night, be trusting of others, and are less likely to be aggressive or participate in risky behavior.”

    The National Center for Health Statistics reports that:

    • A child living with his/her divorced mother, compared to a child living with both parents, is 375 percent more likely to need professional treatment for emotional or behavioral problems;
    • Ninety percent of homeless or runaway children are from fatherless homes; and
    • Most gang members come from mother-only households.

    “Growing up in an intact family gives children a jump-start in life,” Farrell says. “If a divorce is unavoidable, there are three absolute essentials to give children:

    • Equal amounts of time spent with both parents;
    • The mother and father should live close enough (no more than 15 minutes) that the child doesn’t have to give up friends or activities to see the other parent; and,
    • The child is not able to overhear or detect bad-mouthing of the other parent.

    "If these three things happen, children tend to grow up almost as well as children in intact families.”

    It's very helpful if we understand that what dads do or don’t do really matters. Moreover, the way mothers handle it impacts their child's life forever.

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    Kids Need Their Daddy

    The pressures of fatherhood are great. On any given day, balancing work and family, finances and discipline usually rank at the top of the issue list. For years, our culture has told men that being a good provider equates to being a good dad. However, research is now sending a newsflash that it isn’t all about the money. Children need father presence in their lives.

    Many men want to be involved in their child's life, but "being involved" can mean different things to different people.

    Ask yourself the question, "Why do I father my children the way I do?"

    So many men are really trying to be great fathers, but it can be a struggle. Sometimes it's because nobody was there for them growing up and they aren’t sure what it means to be a good dad. A lot of men promise to be more involved with their children because their own father wasn't involved enough. Unfortunately though, they find themselves hard-pressed because they don’t know what to do. They've spent a lot of time talking about what they aren’t going to do - and little, if any time - discussing what they are going to do. So they amble along doing the best they know how.

    In an analysis of nearly 100 studies on parent-child relationships, father love (measured by children’s perceptions of paternal acceptance/rejection, affection/indifference) was as important as mother love in predicting the social, emotional, and cognitive development and functioning of children and young adults.

    Specifically, the studies showed that:

    • Having a loving and nurturing father affected a child’s happiness, well-being, and social and academic success as much as having a loving and nurturing mother.
    • If either parent withdrew love, it was equally influential in predicting a child’s emotional instability, lack of self-esteem, depression, social withdrawal and level of aggression.
    • In some studies, father love was actually a better predictor than mother love for certain outcomes. This included delinquency and conduct problems, substance abuse, and overall mental health and well-being.

    It's important for men to learn how to balance providing for and nurturing their family, but many men don’t feel comfortable connecting with their children emotionally. As a result, they spend most of their waking hours away from home.

    If you want to make something amazing happen for your family, you can. 

    Spending all your time away from them actually defeats the purpose. In many instances, your being there is better than tons of things and busy plans.

    If you want to connect with your children more, these tips can help:

    • Ask your children thought-provoking questions. Then listen so you can hear what they are thinking.
    • Some of the best things in life are free. Walking outdoors, horseplay, tumbling on the floor, fishing, riding bikes and flying kites are totally free, great ways to connect. Many times children will not remember things you bought them, but they will remember things you have done with them.

    So what's the payoff for engaging with your kids?

    The benefits are significant for both father and child. Children with an involved, loving father are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, and exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior. They're also more likely to avoid high-risk behaviors such as drug use, truancy and criminal activity. 

    Even though 18 years may seem like an eternity, it's not. Children grow up really quickly, so maximize precious moments with them.

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    Dads, Daughters and Valentine's Day

    Dad, don’t forget an important woman in your life on Valentine’s Day – your daughter.

    It’s never too early to establish a Valentine’s tradition to express your love to your daughter. A father’s love profoundly impacts a girl, and many believe that a woman takes her relationship with her father (good or bad) to the grave.

    The father/daughter relationship plays an integral role in a young girl's life. It can even give her the self-confidence to deal with challenging life issues. When fathers are not engaged, however, the opposite happens. Research shows the girls often struggle with abandonment issues, lack of self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness. They’re also especially vulnerable to predators.

    Many women who grow up without a father will float through life, looking for someone to fill that void. Girls who grow up with absent fathers are at greater risk for experiencing problems in school, abusing drugs and alcohol and participating in risky sexual behavior. In fact, adolescent girls without fathers are twice as likely to be involved in early sexual activity - and they're seven times more likely to get pregnant as a teen.

    However, having an active father reduces the risk of early puberty, risky sexual behavior and teen pregnancy. Additionally, strong father/daughter relationships impact a daughter’s ability to trust and relate to men in a healthy way. Daughters who have a healthy bond with their father tend to be more self-reliant and confident and less likely to develop eating disorders. They also tend to perform better in school.

    The father/daughter bond is even more important when the father and daughter live in different households.

    One woman recalls how special Valentine’s Day was for her as a child. She knew her father would give her a chocolate heart every year. When her father divorced her mother and left, the Valentine’s tradition ended and left her with only memories. Decades later, she still wonders why he quit giving her the Valentine heart.

    Keep in mind that little things can mean a lot to daughters. Even traditions such as weekly conversations, writing notes to each other or a daddy/daughter date can strengthen that special bond.

    It is important for girls without an active father to have a good, positive and strong male role model in their lives. Think about doing something special for these young girls. Perhaps you could include them in your own family or community activities.

    No matter what kind of father you are - traditional, long-distance, stepdad, grandfather, uncle or other father figure - your involvement impacts these young women. Reach out each Valentine’s Day and strengthen the bond you have with your girl.

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    A Dad's Letter to His Daughter

    One October, Kelly Flanagan’s friend texted him while walking down the makeup aisle to pick something up for his wife. The text said, “Expectations on this aisle are oppressive.”

    “That text was unsettling to me,” says Dr. Flanagan, husband, dad and clinical psychologist. “I think it was the combination of having a 4-year-old daughter, and a wife who is very conscious of the media’s influence on young women that made my radar go up. I knew I couldn’t remain silent.

    “In my practice I see far too many women, young and old, who believe their worth is wrapped up in the way they look. It is painful to observe what these kinds of messages do to a woman’s self-esteem.”

    So, Flanagan traveled to the makeup aisle and the messaging blew him away. The cosmetics industry uses really good words to sell products. Words like: Affordably Gorgeous, Infallible, Flawless Finish, Go Nude, Natural Beauty and Nearly Naked. Flanagan noticed that these words create an unattainable standard for women. Eventually, they inspired a letter to his daughter, which he wrote while sitting in the makeup aisle. The letter clearly resonated with people, as it went viral shortly after he posted it on his blog, Untangled.

    Here is an excerpt from the letter:

    Dear Little One,

    As I write this, I’m sitting in the makeup aisle of Target ... When you have a daughter, you start to realize she’s just as strong as everyone else in the house – a force to be reckoned with, a soul on fire with the same life and gifts and passions as any man. But sitting in this store aisle, you also begin to realize most people won’t see her that way. They’ll see her as a pretty face and a body to enjoy. And they’ll tell her she has to look a certain way to have any worth or influence…

    “I wrote the letter because I wanted her to know that her worth is not connected to what she does or the way she looks,” Flanagan says. “That kind of thinking is a formula for shame – the experience of believing you are not worthy enough or that success depends on what you do. I wanted my daughter to clearly understand that there was nothing she could do that would make her mom or dad love her more or less.”

    Research consistently shows that fathers do influence their daughters and how they view themselves.

    “Father involvement in the life of a daughter will help prepare her to catch the lies that culture teaches about how to be confident and beautiful,” Flanagan says. “The unconditional, intentional love of a father teaches his daughter that true beauty is on the inside, in her heart. Knowing this from an early age will help overpower the messages she will receive out in the world.”

    ... Words do have power and maybe, just maybe, the words of a father can begin to compete with the words of the world.  Maybe a father’s words can deliver his daughter through this gauntlet of institutionalized shame and into a deep, unshakable sense of her own worthiness and beauty ... I pray that three words will remain more important to you ... Where are you the most beautiful? On the inside.

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    The Importance of Positive Male Role Models

    Many boys today don't know what it means to be a man because they don’t have a man in their lives. Sadly, children will go to bed tonight without saying goodnight to their father because he just isn’t there.

    Nearly one-fourth of America’s children live in mother-only families. Locally, 39 percent of Hamilton County families are headed by a single mother.

    Of the children living with their mothers, 35 percent never see their father. And, 24 percent see their fathers less than once a month.

    More than likely, a woman teaches them at school and at home. So, where do they see and interact with positive male role models? Or, how do the boys learn what it means to be a man? Television? Movies? On the street?

    Even in homes where the father is present, research shows that the average father spends less than 10 minutes a day one-on-one with his child. In our society, emotional and spiritual fatherlessness is becoming the norm. Many of today’s fathers did not have positive role models to show them how to be a father, so they are not there to show their children what it means to be a father.

    No matter how great a mother is, she cannot replace what a father provides to a child. Irrefutable research shows that mothers are typically nurturing, soft, gentle, comforting, protective and emotional. Fathers tend to encourage risk-taking and to be challenging, prodding, loud, playful and physical. Children need a balance of protection and reasonable risk-taking. If a positive male role model isn't around, there is a void in this child's life. Children without positive male role models are more likely to be involved in criminal activity, premarital sexual activity, do poorer in school and participate in unhealthy activities.

    Studies have shown that involvement of a father or a positive male role model has profound effects on children. Father-child interaction promotes a child’s physical well-being, perceptual ability and competency for relating with others. Furthermore, these children demonstrate greater ability to take initiative and evidence self-control.

    How can you make a positive difference for these children?

    • Encourage positive male role model involvement in your child's life if you're a mom.
    • If you're a non-custodial dad, make the effort to visit with your children more often. You can also be very intentional about teaching them important life lessons.
    • If you are an educator, encourage fathers to be more active in the classroom.
    • You can influence the lives of children in your community be being a positive male role model.
    • Faith-based institutions and programs can bring fathers together with their children. Additionally, they can encourage male role models to engage children in their sphere of influence.
    • Business leaders can encourage employee involvement in community efforts with children. For example, you can promote mentoring with organizations like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, youth groups, Boys Club or Girls, Inc.

    Every child needs someone who is absolutely crazy about them. Let's make sure they have that person.

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    Dealing With Anger From Having an Absent Father

    In 2014, NBA superstar LeBron James posted a picture of himself, and an open letter to his father, on Instagram:

    “Like wow dad, you know what, I don’t know you, I have no idea who you are but because of you is part of the reason who I am today. The fuel that I use — you not being there — it’s part of the reason I grew up to become who I am. It’s part of the reason why I want to be hands on with my endeavors … So me in a position allowing people around me to grow that maybe wouldn’t have happened if I had two parents, two sisters, a dog and a picket fence, you know?”

    His Instagram comment: “Because of you Pops! Thanks all along. Could have said why me with u not being there but look what I made of myself.”

    In spite of the “thanks,” reading between the lines one could hear sarcasm, pain and anger about his father’s absence.

    “I can so identify with where LeBron is coming from,” says Kenneth Braswell, executive director of Fathers Incorporated. “I am a black man whose pent-up rage for my absent father drove me to do what I believed to be the right thing, for the right reason and with the right justification. Then I found out it was all wrong.”

    Braswell believes, and research concurs, that there are hundreds of thousands of boys and men in America harboring pain and anger as a result of father absence.

    “The biggest lesson I have learned in life about my anger towards my father is: The more anger towards the past that I carry in my heart, the less capable I am of loving in the present,” says Braswell. “It is essential that fatherless sons are supported in multiple ways to address our pain and anger appropriately so we can be positive male role models for all children.”

    Braswell wants to help people deal with the pain and anger they feel.  He offers these words of advice to those growing up without their father:

    • Acknowledge the anger. Many males put forth a tough exterior, but on the inside the anger is raging. Acknowledge it.
    • Embrace forgiveness. It takes a strong person to forgive someone they don’t feel deserves their forgiveness. When you don’t forgive, you allow pain to reside in your heart. Forgiveness gives the benefit of understanding and closure.
    • Embrace your heart. When you embrace your heart, you want to release anything that causes pain. The only way to do that is through love. You cannot do it through hate.
    • Communicate through transparency. You have to find a way to communicate your feelings, not just express them. A lot of what fatherless guys deal with is a result of not wanting to talk about what is happening on the inside. This really isn’t about the other person, it is about you releasing yourself in order to grow.

    “My goal is to be a positive role model for my son and other children,” Braswell says. “Every now and then, I felt like I had to tell the world I was OK.  And, that my father was insignificant in my life in order to suppress the fact that his absence was extremely significant in my life.

    “I will never be able to offer the world my best based on the hatred of another.  Especially not the hatred of my father.”

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