Why kids need their dads and what they want from them

Wishing all our dads a very happy belated Father’s Day for last Sunday. I’m afraid I was caught a little on the back foot as this was the first Father’s Day for my boys without their Dad. There was a big hole in our family picture.

Father’s Day is always a time to reflect on fatherhood and the importance of father figures for our children. And one of the biggest societal problems today is the absence of dads in children’s lives.

Being present in a child’s life and being consistent are two very important factors in good fathering which lead to children trusting that their dads will show up for them, providing healthy doses of love and boundaries.

In my Father’s Day interview on Radio 702 on Saturday, I talked about my husband’s consistency in his role as a father both to our children, to his nieces and nephews and Godchildren, as well as further afield to so many other people.

One of the most touching stories about Simon that brought both male and female listeners to tears, took place a few days after his death when all the domestic workers in our street came to visit me to pay their respects. They told me that Simon always stopped to talk to them, he joked with them, he respected them, he made time for them. They ended with these words:  “He was our father.”

It just goes to show that so many men are role models for children and adults (we all look for father figures in our lives), either knowingly or unknowingly. This can include politicians (who are particularly poor role models), community and faith leaders, as well as friends and family who either support a dad in his role, or stand in for him in his absence. In our country we also need to acknowledge the diverse range of parental figures who often step in to a father’s role, either by design or default – single mothers, same-sex parents, aunts, uncles, friends and grandparents, to name a few. Parents can’t do it all. It takes a village to raise a child and we must all collectively acknowledge our role in raising not just our own children, but those of others too.

Children who are able to trust that their dad, or father-substitute, will show up for them, providing them with both love and boundaries, experience some of these benefits:

  • Raised confidence levels
  • A sense of security
  • Assertiveness
  • How to be male (in boys)
  • How to allow yourself to be treated by men (in girls)
  • How to express emotions in healthy ways (in boys)

Fatherless children with no strong male role models are more likely to:

  • commit suicide
  • become homeless and runaway children
  • show behaviour disorders
  • become rapists with anger disorders
  • become high school dropouts
  • become substance abusers
  • end up in state-operated institutions
  • end up in prison

How should an ideal father behave?

In an insightful article published by PsychCentral.com entitled What’s a Dad Supposed to Do? by Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D, she says:  “Balance discipline with fun, setting reasonable but firm limits and being able to play and relax with your children in between. Give yourself and the kids the stability that comes with clear limits and the good memories that come with play.”

She adds that there is little agreement about how an “ideal father” should behave. “It doesn’t seem to matter (in terms of the mental health of children) whether fathers work out of the home or stay home with the kids. It doesn’t seem to matter what job a dad has or how much money a dad makes, as long as he is doing his best. It doesn’t seem to matter what his interests and skills are, as long as he shares them with his children. It doesn’t seem to matter whether a father is very physically affectionate or loves more quietly as long as the kids know that he most certainly cares about them. What matters is for fathers to be committed to their children and involved with them over time. When fathers take that responsibility seriously, their children are more likely to do well and the fathers have few regrets.”

Download ‘The Pappa Effect’

How dads ‘are’ with their children has a massive influence on how they will value and respect themselves down the line. I call this the ‘Pappa Effect’. I’ve used the term Pappa as an acronym for some simple and effective fathering characteristics. You can download this PDF FREE by clicking here

We need you all!

I am loving that I am seeing more dads in my audiences who want to be involved in a very hands on way beyond providing financial support. Whether you live with them or not, dads, you play an essential role in your children’s lives. The truth is that kids want to know their dads. Let’s encourage and support more men in becoming nurturing and involved fathers. Here’s to all our dads and substitute dads. We need you all!


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Recommended Talks for Women’s Day

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