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It was 3 AM. Our two-week-old son, Strider, was crying for the third time that night. To say we were exhausted was an understatement. We were full-blown zombies ready to eat each other alive.

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We can all demonstrate a healthy and responsible fatherhood model for our community. Pass this information along to friends, family, co-workers and neighbors.

With friends and in your own family…

  • Participate in marriage and family enrichment programs and encourage friends to do it, too.
  • Honor the covenant of marriage and be an accountability partner for fellow married friends.
  • Help mothers to be supportive of fathers’ involvement with their children, and ask your wife how you can be more involved with your own children.

If you’re an employer…

  • Create personnel policies and work environments that respect and encourage the commitment of fathers, and that enable parents to be more involved with their children.
  • Research the effects of relocating families and find ways to make the transition as smooth as possible for employees who must move.

If you’re a civic leader, elected official or community organizer…

  • Promote community organizations that model fatherhood and male responsibility.
  • Strive to develop neighborhoods that are stable and supportive of family life.

If you’re a religious leader or organizer…

  • Challenge fathers to assume moral and spiritual responsibilities.
  • Offer a broad program of teaching, supporting, counseling and training fathers in their vital role.
  • Encourage and recognize involved fathers, and provide opportunities for men to learn from each other.

If you’re a mental healthcare worker, healthcare or a family life educator…

  • Begin with a view in favor of fatherhood within the context of a marriage relationship.
  • Guide fathers to both accept and appreciate their unique roles within the family.
  • Provide continuing education on fatherhood and its responsibilities.

If you’re a family law attorney or judge…

  • Promote accountability of all fathers for each of their children.
  • Reassess current trends in family law and be an advocate for responsible fathering.

If you’re an educator or childcare provider…

  • Encourage fathers’ involvement in the classroom and invite fathers or father figures to participate in school activities.
  • Educate boys and young men concerning their potential influence as fathers.
  • Train staff about the father’s crucial role in a child’s developmental growth.

If you work in media or journalism…

  • Promote articles, research and organizations that address and offer solutions to fathering issues.
  • Discourage advertisements or programming that reflects irresponsible fathering practices.

Dads don’t matter. Seriously, dads don’t make a difference – unless it matters that children are physically and emotionally healthy and achieve educational success. If those things matter for your children, then fathers DO make a difference.

Dr. Alma Golden, pediatrician and former member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on the Family, has a lot to say about marriage and children.

“As Baby Boomers we were told these things:

  • Marriage is old-fashioned and confining;

  • Open relationships are healthier and more conducive to personal development;

  • Fathers are nice but not necessary;

  • It is better to live with a divorced mother than two unhappy parents;

  • The kids will be OK, they are flexible; and

  • Financial disparities are the reason for the differences in health and educational achievement.

“What we believed changed our world and started driving personal decisions. People started getting married later. Women are having fewer children and having them later. Single mothers are giving birth to more children. Fewer children are living with their married biological parents,” says Golden.

So how do these changes affect children?

A study of 294,000 families released in 2010 by the Centers for Disease Control indicates family structure makes a huge difference for children. 

The CDC study indicates that when children grow up with their two married biological parents, they have a lower rate of delayed medical care. They’re also less likely to have ADHD regardless of income, education, poverty status, place of residence or region.

Additionally, an earlier study found that in sixth through 12th graders, the strongest predictor of getting a diploma and going to college is having a father who attends PTA meetings.

“When dads show a clear commitment to their children, encouraging them in their educational endeavors, children do better,” Golden says. “The research also indicated that a married daddy at home doubles the chances that a child learns self-management.

“Conversely, non-nuclear families seem to struggle with a lot of issues. For example, cohabiting fathers have less than half the income of married fathers. They tend to bring less commitment to the family as a general rule. The implications for the children are they have fewer resources available to them. Additionally, seven in 10 children of cohabiting couples will experience parental separation.”

Findings from the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force in 2003 showed that:

  • Married men and women are physically and emotionally healthier. They are less likely to participate in risky behavior such as alcohol and drug abuse.

  • Married men and women live longer. 

  • People behave differently when they are married. They live healthier lifestyles and monitor each other’s health. And, the increased social support also increases the family’s chances of success.

“If we look back at the baby boomer list, what we now know is that marriage is actually beneficial for men, women and children,” Golden says. “Cohabitation is often of low-trust, stressful and more prone to violence and dissolution. Fathers are a necessity. Good enough marriages produce better outcomes than divorce. The kids are NOT flexible and may not be OK and family structure and stability are more important predictors of outcomes than finances.”

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

If you watch almost any show on television that involves a father these days, it’s common to see a dad who is portrayed as an idiot when it comes to his children and family. In real life, many men have been told straight up: You don’t really parent, you babysit. 

It’s estimated that people spent more than $15 billion celebrating Dad this past Father’s Day. Why all the celebration if dads really don’t make that much of a difference in the lives of children? 

In an article for the Institute for Family Studies, Dr. William Jeynes, Harvard graduate and professor at California State University, Long Beach highlights his recent meta-analysis of 34 studies regarding the unique role fathers play in childrearing. He found statistically significant effects between good fathering and a number of outcomes for both boys and girls.

Jeynes looked at whether fathers make a unique contribution in raising children compared to moms. The meta-analysis included 37,300 subjects. In the study, Jeynes and his team defined the unique fatherhood contribution as paternal monitoring, involvement and childrearing activities that can be distinguished from activities undertaken by the mother, another guardian, relative or caregiver.

A clear theme emerged: While mothers were often shown as the more nurturing parent, fathers appeared to be more involved in preparing children to deal with life. Fathers also seemed to more realistically assess their children’s future behavior problems. In some cases, fathers were better predictors of their child’s future cognitive performance than moms were.

Jeynes also found that father involvement or monitoring was associated with lower rates of delinquency and substance abuse among boys and girls. That’s in addition to students performing better in school and having better attitudes while in school.

While the analysis showed mothers consistently demonstrated higher average levels of patience and nurturing than fathers, fathers tended to expect more of their children and placed greater emphasis on the preparatory aspect of childrearing more so than mothers. Results also suggest that there is often a balance established when the unique role of the father is combined with the distinct role of the mother. 

According to Jeynes’ analysis, the importance of fathering is undeniable, and father involvement is greatly connected to family structure. He also asserts that father engagement is best facilitated in two-parent families, mainly because single-parent families tend to be headed by mothers. 

Jeynes also cites a 2015 article appearing in Education Next, indicating that children living in two-parent families consistently receive more schooling than those in single-parent families, with the gap increasing over time. 

Additionally, statistical analyses of nationwide data sets show that, on average, children raised by their biological parents in intact married families academically outperformed their counterparts who lived in cohabiting families and never-married, single-parent families.

Coming from a two-parent, intact family helps kids experience high levels of mother and father engagement, although it does not guarantee that mothers and fathers will be involved. Nevertheless, the changing makeup in family structure in recent decades has ultimately made father involvement more difficult. 

Jeynes offers these thoughts based on his research outcomes: One of the most child-sensitive and family-sensitive actions one can take is to develop a greater appreciation of the value of fatherhood, and it is not only unwise to diminish the salience of fathers, it is mindless to do so. Moreover, it is blatantly unkind to America’s children to detract from a vital parental role for their future fulfillment. To be truly pro-child is to be pro-father.

Don’t underestimate the role fathers play in raising children to be successful adults. If you want to model being pro-child and pro-father, here are some things you can do. 

  • If you’re a mom, encourage positive male role model involvement in your child’s life.

  • If you’re a non-residential dad, visit with your children as often as possible. Avoid making promises you can’t keep. You can also be very intentional about teaching them important life lessons.

  • If you are an educator, encourage fathers to be active in the classroom.

  • Be a positive male role model for the kids in your community.

  • Faith-based institutions and programs can bring fathers together with their children. Encourage healthy and appropriate male role models to engage children in their sphere of influence.

  • If you’re a business leader, encourage employee participation in community efforts with children. For example, promote mentoring with organizations like Big Brothers-Big Sisters, youth groups, Boys and Girls Club or Girls, Inc.  

There is no denying that a healthy father positively impacts his child’s life, and that father absence dramatically affects a child’s ability to thrive throughout life. 

In the movie Overboard, a man tricks a woman with amnesia into thinking she is a wife and the mother of four. Annie (the mother) gets fed up with the father for not spending time with his children. His response to her? He says he is a pal to his kids, and that he “brings home the paycheck, which is what the man of the house is supposed to do.”

Annie’s response? “Your children have pals. What they need is a father.”

For many years, experts told fathers that bringing home a paycheck and leaving the parenting to Mom was the most important example they could set for their family.

Now, research shows that having a loving and nurturing father is as valuable as having a loving and nurturing mother for a child’s happiness, well-being and social and academic success. It isn’t just about bringing home the bacon.

Looking back, Scotty Probasco, Jr. recognizes that his dad did a whole lot more than just bring home a paycheck. As a result, his influence is still present in his life today. He set an example that helped his children understand what it means to experience life to the fullest.

“My dad and I were as different as night and day,” Probasco says. “He served in both World Wars and was a very stern man, yet he was a nurturing presence in my life. He showed me what it meant to be a loving husband and father by working hard, yet making sure that he spent time with our family. My dad believed that work was honorable and fun. He taught me that I ought to try to do things that would make the world a little bit better. Throughout my life, I have tried to live out the lessons my father taught me.”

Mr. Probasco, Sr. set an example for his son that not only taught him about taking care of his family, it taught him about the greater good: Understanding that it is not all about you. He knew that some of the greatest blessings people receive are from giving to others.

There is no doubt that involved dads do make a difference in the lives of their children. However, some fathers struggle with how to engage their children so they can provide a nurturing example.

If you really want to connect with your children, try these tips from the experts.

  • Respect your child’s mother. If you are married, keep your marriage relationship strong. If you are not married to your child’s mother, it is still important to respect and support her. Parents who respect each other are better able to provide a secure environment for their children.
  • Spend time with your children. Treasuring children often means sacrificing other things, but spending time with your kids is essential. You lose missed opportunities forever.
  • Talk to your children. Too frequently, dads only speak with their kids when they have done something wrong. Take time to listen to their ideas and problems with they are young. If you do that, they will still want to talk with you when they get older.
  • Discipline with love. Children need guidance and discipline, not as punishment, but to set reasonable limits. When you discipline in a calm and fair manner, you show love for your child.
  • Be a role model. A girl who spends time with a loving father grows up knowing she deserves for boys to treat her with respect, and she knows what to look for in a husband. Fathers can teach sons what is important in life by demonstrating honesty and responsibility.
  • Be a teacher. Teaching your kids about right and wrong encourages them to do their best, and you will likely see them make good choices. Use everyday examples to help your children learn the basic lessons of life.
  • Show affection. Children need the security that comes from knowing their family wants, accepts and loves them. Show appropriate affection every day -it’s the best way to let your children know that you love them.

And finally, don’t underestimate your significant role in your child’s life.

Many men find themselves trying to father from a distance due to work, divorce or military deployment. Fathering from a distance can be especially trying with celebrations, plays and concerts often occurring during the week. How can dads stay connected while they are away and not feel like a third wheel upon their return?

Brian Vander Werf travels almost every week for work. Even though his girls have never known a time when their dad was home all week, it is important to him to stay connected and in the loop while he is away.

“Before I leave, I make it a point to get with each of my girls to find out what is on their calendars for the week,” says Vander Werf. “I want to know about tests, ballgames, concerts or other events that are happening. I share with them where I will be and what is happening in my world that week, and I want them to know that even though I am away, they are important to me and I care about what is happening in their world. Also, I make sure I get my hugs in before I hit the road!”

When he travels, Vander Werf stays connected via texting and evening phone calls.

“There is no question that staying connected while I am on the road can be complicated,” Vander Werf says. “My girls are older and texting seems to be one of the best solutions at the moment. I have really struggled with it because that is not my thing and not my idea of a great way to connect, but it is definitely a big part of their world so I find myself texting back and forth a lot with the two of them.”

Do his girls know they can contact him throughout the day if they needed him? “Most definitely!” he says. “They know I am in tune and paying attention. I would want to know if something was up.”

Technologically, dads have lots of options for staying connected to their children. Here are some ways you can connect:

  • Let your child pick out a book for you to read together at a designated time each evening.
  • If you won’t be able to talk while you are away, create a video before you leave for them to watch while you are away. You could even hide it and leave clues behind so they have to search for the surprise.
  • Record yourself reading a book and leave it under your child’s pillow.
  • Write and hide messages in places you know they will be found throughout the week.
  • Write letters to your children and include something fun or crazy in the letter.
  • If they have a special event, arrange for flowers, pizza or a card to be delivered that day.

“Staying connected isn’t always easy,” Vander Werf says. “However, it is absolutely worth it! Even though I am out of town, my girls know I love and care about them.”

Jeff* celebrated his first Father’s Day when his daughter was 9-months-old, and he is thankful for that day with her. Jeff is a single father who shares custody of his daughter with his ex.

“Our relationship ended shortly before our child was born,” says Jeff. “Things were crazy. I am an industrial engineer and teach people how to build cars for a living. I knew nothing about going to court and all that would be involved with being able to see my child.”

Since he wanted to be an active father even before his child was born, Jeff took a class for new fathers through First Things First, along with other classes.

“In spite of the circumstances, I did not want to be an absent father,” Jeff says. “My ex was very nervous about me taking care of our child by myself. There was a lot of tension in our relationship. Through a series of events, I ended up in the Dads Making a Difference class. That was a real game-changer.”

In addition to learning communication and conflict management skills, Jeff found out more about the importance of a father’s involvement with his child. Plus, he learned what it meant to protect and serve both his child and her mother.

“From the time I began the class to now, the transformation in the relationship between me and my ex has been amazing,” Jeff says. “A personality inventory we took in class helped me to understand her better, which led me to handle situations differently. The response surprised me. We have moved away from supervised visitation. In addition to getting more visitation time with my daughter, she spends every other weekend with me and that is pure joy.”

In Jeff’s opinion, being a first-time father and learning about caring for a baby has been a steep learning curve, but worth every minute.

“I love spending time with my daughter,” Jeff says. “I want to nurture her in a way that will allow her to thrive. Being an engineer, I love math and science but I also love art and music. I sing to her a lot and enjoy playing with her, and watching her develop her motor skills. I can’t wait for her to walk.”

Believe it or not, Jeff is an exception to the rule.

In 2014, 17.4 million children in the U.S. were growing up in a home without their biological father. Moreover, data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing survey indicates that a third of non-residential fathers had no contact with their child five years after birth. Jeff has no intention of becoming a part of this statistic.

Through various circumstances, including divorce and unwed births, there are many men who are missing out on the gift of a relationship with their child. While it can be complicated, unnerving and extremely challenging, don’t underestimate a child’s need for a healthy father’s involvement. Literally thousands of credible studies show that children need mom and dad engaged in their lives.

So, if you’re actively involved with your children, consider yourself blessed. On the flip side, if you are estranged from your children, remember that you can still make a change regarding that relationship.

For more information on the importance of fathers, download our E-book, “Why Being a Dad is a BIG Deal.” Download Here

*Name changed.

Most CEOs know that a satisfied workforce yields higher productivity. They also know that retaining employees is better and more cost-effective than dealing with turnover issues like recruitment and training. But do they know that many employees are conflicted about the time they spend at work versus with family?

When a national survey by the Families and Work Institute asked what factors were very important in taking a job, 60 percent of respondents cited “effect on personal/family life.”

Yet the big question still looms: “If we become more family-friendly, will it hurt the bottom line?” Perhaps the better question is, “How does not being family-friendly affect the bottom line?”

CEOs and upper level managers may want to explore these findings from the survey of almost 1,000 working fathers. Updating the Organization Man: An Examination of Involved Fathering in the Workplace was published in the February 2015 Academy of Management Perspectives. It found that fathers who spend more time with their children on a typical day are more satisfied with their jobs and less likely to want to leave their organizations. These men also experience less work-family conflict and greater work-family enrichment.

The survey also revealed that the more hours men devote to their children, the less central their careers are to their identities. This might create some anxiety for management.  However, the study’s authors found that involved fathering is not just good for workers. It’s also good for the companies via its positive association with a fathers’ job satisfaction, commitment to their work and lowered intentions to quit.

Previous work/life balance studies show that women experience more on-the-job conflict when they devote more time to their children. Why does spending time with their children equate with good job results for men, but increased conflict for women? The authors surmise that working fathers experience ambiguity around their fathering identity. However, they do not seem to experience threat to their work identities in the same way that mothers do. Perhaps men don’t experience the same level of guilt that working mothers feel. And it’s possible that men don’t view caring for children as a source of stress.

Additionally, on a scale of 1 (not important) to 5 (extremely important), study participants rated the most important aspects of being a good father this way:

  • Providing love and emotional support received an average rating of 4.6.

  • Providing discipline and financial security each received a 4.0.

  • Participating in day-to-day childcare tasks received an average rating of 3.9.

The study’s authors challenge employers to recognize the changes in how men view their roles. Many of today’s fathers desire to be more than the traditional organization men. As men transition from a narrow definition of fatherhood to one that embraces work and family, they must find a happy medium between the two. Doing meaningful work and living meaningful lives enhances their effectiveness, both as workers and caregivers.

It’s encouraging to see from this study that fathers truly see the benefits of being there. Plus, when a company’s bottom line is stronger, imagine the positive impact this has on a man’s family.