Fathers Day will soon be upon us and with many homes having an interesting array of father figures and male role models, Fathers Day can be a time of mixed emotions. Let's use the opportunity to reflect on some of the qualities we might hope to find in a good father figure.
Fathers Day is the time when we're encouraged to give cards, whiskey, cigars to our fathers in recognition of their valuable role in our lives. But these days many homes are single-parent families with an absent father maybe seen only occasionally. Step-fathers, grandfathers, uncles, neighbours, teachers can all occupy the position of significant male role model and may actually be more supportive and reliable that our real father.
Usually our father is our first significant male role model. If he falls short, is a disappointment, appears disinterested, neglectful or over-critical a child may become defensive, shut off emotionally in a bid to protect themselves from further hurt and let down, become determined to show they don't care. Or, conversely, a child may react against their father's perceived bad treatment and become rebellious, defiant as they continue to demand attention, any attention being deemed better than none.
Let's reflect on some qualities that are important in a father:
- It's important for a child to see how a man can be in touch with his feelings, is comfortable at expressing himself appropriately, is prepared to laugh, cry, hug, show love and affection. It's also a crucial life lesson to watch and see how he communicates with others, to witness the positive ways he's able to discuss, compromise and resolve problems satisfactorily.
- Moral strength is important. Children like to see their father do 'the right thing', have principles and be fair. Admiring and respecting their father for his integrity, honesty and guidance teaches them about valuing those qualities in order to utilise them in their own future dealings with others.
- Physical strength is a quality many children value in their father. Children feel proud when their father is strong and physically fit, embarrassed if he is perceived as weak or lacking in strength compared to other fathers. A physically strong father enables them to feel protected against whatever danger there may be in the world. Knowing their father is strong provides reassurance and a sense of security.
- Family values. A good father prioritizes the time he spends with his family. He demonstrates that they're important, turns up to important events, is keen to have fun together, knows what's happening in their lives. Children are especially sensitive to rejection, are good at picking up information non-verbally through body language, subtle behaviour or mixed messages they may receive.
They notice and internalise how father treats their mother as well as other family members. Does he seem keen to spend time elsewhere, prefer to be at work or on the golf course? Family values are learned from positive experiences.
- Respect for others is demonstrated in non-domestic situations. Children notice how their father behaves towards other road users, staff in restaurants and shops, how he talks about other people, how he behaves when he's with people. By demonstrating good manners and consideration a child will learn how to build positive, successful interactions with others. Their father is an important role model for respectful communications and relationships.
- A good work ethic is learned from a responsible father; motivation, job satisfaction, being fulfilled and responsible. A sense of fair play and integrity, doing a good job and coping with stress, having a good work/life balance all engender a solid foundation for life. Being responsible with money, treating property with care, not taking good fortune for granted, valuing doing a good job well are traits one hopes to witness and learn from a good father role model.
Fathers Day is also an opportunity to reflect on the things we'd like to do differently from our own upbringing. Being keen to improve and be a better parent, do a better job, not repeat the mistakes that were made with us is all part of growing up and aiming to be the best we can be when we become a father and parent our own children.