Valuing Fatherhood: The Importance of Fathers in Child Development

In recent years, Canada has made strides to acknowledge fathers’ equal rights to mothers and recognize their essential role in their children’s upbringing. However, there’s still much work left to be done. Unfortunately, some people still consider dads to be the lesser parent — which couldn’t be further from the truth. Fatherless adults understand how challenging it is to grow up without a male parental figure.

Since June 16 — Father’s Day — is just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to give dads the respect they deserve. If you’re a father or wish to be one, learn your invaluable role in child development and the far-reaching consequences of your absence in your kid’s life.

What Is a Father?

Being a dad is more than just fathering a child. Fatherhood is a mindset of caring for and improving a child’s well-being. Fathers look at their children as part of their legacy, so seeing children grow up to be kind and successful is the ultimate accomplishment in life.

Raising a biological, step or adoptive child until adulthood is a serious responsibility requiring unwavering commitment. This lifelong duty doesn’t end when your child reaches adulthood. You still need to be available for guidance and support anytime.

What Is the Role of a Father in Raising a Child?

Traditionally, fathers were considered protectors, providers and disciplinarians in households. As gender roles in parenting evolve due to economic trends, social norms and cultural changes, you can do anything and everything for your child.

Gone are the days when men spent most of their time working and being their family’s exclusive breadwinner. Modern households often have two working parents, so you have less sole pressure to provide financially and more responsibilities at home. Stay-at-home dads are on the rise, too.

Positively involved dads contribute more to unpaid work at home, especially activities directly involving children. You get the chance to do anything your spouse can do for your kiddo. Make an effort to have one-on-one time with your child from day one. Use parental leave to have more than 30 weeks to independently perform various duties — feeding, bathing, changing diapers, dressing and singing lullabies — at home.

Your parental duties will change and increase as your newborn grows into an infant, a toddler and then a preschooler. Take the opportunity to assume half of the childcare responsibilities, including preparing meals, reading books to them, helping with homework and accompanying them to doctor appointments.

Moreover, be available even when you don’t directly engage your child. Be willing to drop what you’re doing to answer questions and take time off when your little one’s feeling under the weather.

Playing with your young one matters, too. Children have wild imaginations. Encourage your 3-year-old to create play scenarios or motivate your school-aged child to take the lead. Promoting imaginative play fosters creativity, problem-solving, decision-making and independence, all of which positively impact social, emotional, artistic, physical and language development.

As a father, maintain an amicable relationship with your kid’s mother — whether you live together or not. Family dynamics influence your child immensely, so strive to be on good terms with your spouse or former spouse.

How Father Absence Affects Child Development

The lack of a father can create personal struggles. Having an absent father is detrimental to your child’s physical health and mental fitness.

A child experiences more communication in a two-parent household, directly affecting learning speech, facial expressions, gestures and vocal tones. On the contrary, a kid receives less interaction with adults in a single-parent household.

Father engagement contributes to healthy peer relationships. Teaching children how to behave with others — especially siblings — is the key to achieving harmony and giving them the confidence to take initiative in social situations. A positive bond with parents helps prevent juvenile delinquency, reducing the chances of your child turning to a life of crime as an adult.

Conversely, kids who grow up in a fatherless household may experience difficulties with social adjustment and struggle to maintain long-term friendships. They may also exhibit behavioral problems, like intimidating others to mask unhappiness, anxiety, resentment, fear and other negative emotions.

When a parent of either gender abandons their parental duties, despite being around, it can compromise the little one’s physical and emotional security. Being inadequately involved can cause self-loathing in your child and erode their self-concept.

A father’s presence and attention during childhood contribute to cognitive development. Growing up with a responsible dad helps a kid excel academically, concentrate on tasks and pursue extracurricular activities by teaching them the merits of hard work.

How to Be a Present Father

Not everyone knows instinctively how to be a present parent. There may be societal reasons why this could be true for some fathers. Maybe they were fatherless themselves or grew up with less-involved parents. Regardless, everyone can use a helping hand now and then. Here are some useful tips for all fathers.

Be Mindful

Being fully aware of what’s happening around you in the present moment enables you to be more attentive to your kid’s needs. It can help you self-reflect and recall the instances in which you should be more thoughtful. Mindfulness lets you catch yourself before you do or say something hurtful and better regulate your emotions.

Hide Your Electronics

Your mobile devices are handy but distracting and addictive. Putting them away is crucial to spending quality time with your child.

Interact With Your Child on Their Level

Drinking tea from a toy cup, doing impressions in strange accents and riding a swing at the playground are childish to adults but fun to kids. Engage with them based on their development level — instead of expecting them to adjust to yours — so they can appreciate your company more.

Do Something Fun With Them

Make it a mission to have a crazy time with your child daily. The silliest moments make the best ones worth remembering forever.

Limit Screen Time

Don’t let TV raise your kid because you can’t fully control its content. It can help you avoid news stories that may upset you, which can have cascading effects when interacting with your little one.

Express Your Love

Give your kiddo hugs and kisses whenever you can. You must show affection to help your little one feel comforted, accepted, secure and safe.

Have a Work-life Balance

Avoid bringing your work home as much as possible to give your child your undivided attention. It’s easier said than done when you work from home, but setting boundaries between your personal and professional lives by unplugging after hours helps.

Outgrow Your Baggage

Let go of any childhood trauma you have. With insight, you can examine your upbringing to determine the effects of your experiences on you. Identifying the parenting styles to copy and what not to perpetuate is the key to being a better parent than yours.

Remember That Together Time Is Fleeting

Parenting can be inconvenient, but it’s something you only get to do for a short period. You’ll have limited moments with your kid, so make each count.

Celebrate the Value of Fatherhood

Raising an upstanding person is one of the most fulfilling roles in life. When given the chance, do your best to be a positively involved and present father figure to leave a legacy you can be proud of.

Jack Shaw is the senior editor of the men’s lifestyle magazine Modded and an advocate for men’s mental health. He has written extensively on the issues faced by single parents and those struggling with trauma, mental health disorders, and more. His tips, breakdowns and personal experiences have been published in TinyBuddha, Calmerry, The Company of Dads and more.