Written by Genie Price
Becoming a dad is one of the most defining moments in any man’s life. Not only does it often turn you into a selfless individual, but it also means you get to play a critical role in helping shape a new life. And, while almost any man can father a child, there is so much more than meets the eye when considering the all-important role of being a dad.
How does being a dad influence relationships?
That’s right dads, you are important and science tells us that your contribution to your newborn’s life, is greatly received.
Although right now you may not recognise that singing lullabies is significant – it is, because between birth and five years old, is where 90 percent of a child’s brain development occurs, and at lightning speed.
Every sight, smell, sound and sensation makes an impact on your child. And, long before they even step foot into a classroom, your child’s neurons are building networks, cognition is exploding, language is developing, and foundations are being laid for a lifetime of learning, which you have been part of.
These early experiences are the first of many connections that your child will know, and it’s those patterns that affect their future, how they feel about themselves and others and how they develop later in life.
So, what are the benefits of being an engaged father to your children?
- Provides your child with a positive male role model:
Humans are social animals, ones who learn by imitation and modelling the behaviours of those around them. In fact, all primates learn the art of survival and how to function successfully in the world – through social imitation and interactions with others and babies are no exception.
Although not every person, your child will be exposed to meeting the “appropriate” role model category by your standards, being social is still important and the point is that you can be a role model at any given time.
Your child needs you to be an engaged father who takes the lead and promotes positive behaviours in order to help him establish a sense of self, and by you setting the most important and proper example for him from the start, this can be achieved.
- Establishes clear boundaries: Trust:
If you are a father who establishes clear and consistent boundaries and discipline from the get-go, you will help to build a strong foundation of trust.
When you are a consistent influence in your child’s’ life, he will develop an appreciation that your actions are not only predictable but that your presence can be trusted and in turn, you become a reliable source of comfort, support and reassurance.
- Helps nurture relationships:
As Dads, you want your child to be social, to make friends and be confident within their future relationships. By being an affectionate, supportive and involved father, not only do you continue to build trust, but you also contribute significantly to how your children will relate to others, particularly so, between friends and family and spouses.
As a “present” father figure, you will notice benefits in your children such as:
- They will (more commonly so) grow to look for stable, kind and loving relationships in their spouses
- Nurture their own identity and be more emotionally grounded with higher self-esteem
- They may have better grades and perform better on an academic level
- They are likely to display a stable and continued sense of self-awareness and are less likely to display criminal behaviours as they grow
- Establishes your child’s moral development:
Children need a moral compass to guide them when they face difficult moral choices. Fathers, like mothers, help children to develop a sense of right and wrong that serves as a foundation for establishing moral character. Having both parents to confirm either, is hugely beneficial.
- Supports varied perspectives and healthy gender identity:
Both boys and girls benefit from having healthy role models from both sexes. Research points out that mothers and fathers socialise with their children in different ways. Offering not only varied philosophies and perspectives, but as a father, you can help your child, especially your sons, to develop a healthy sense of what it means to be a male.
And because we know that men and women differ in their parenting styles and that one style is not necessarily better than the other. We can see that it can be healthy for children to be exposed to these different perspectives on life. So Dads, don’t be afraid to share your “deep and meaningful philosophy of life” with your newborn, as one day, they just may see things your way.
What’s in it for Dad?
- A healthier heart:
A recent study conducted by Stanford University involving 135,000 married men over a ten year period, found that married men with children are 17% less likely to suffer cardiovascular related diseases. The belief is that men who father children and are active participants in their lives are more physically active, which is good for heart health.
- Reduction in “bad habits”:
A longitudinal study presented by The Oregon State Institute of the US showed men who fathered at either a young age or who were deemed “at risk” made significant adjustments in their lifestyles once their children were born. The study suggests that once these men became Dads, they were considered a role model and a “father figure” – which led to many men giving up bad habits for the benefits of their children.
- Emotional health and well-being:
The same study by the Oregon Institute of US indicates that as a Dad, you may experience positive effects on your mental health. It suggests that once the initial adjustments to the new baby are made – you may start to feel better about not only family life, but work life also. This bond you are beginning to develop with your child helps you feel confident, and develop a sense of belonging and purpose, and you may even feel as though you are contributing to something bigger than life itself and that is – someone else’s.
The role you play as a father is often overlooked. And, whether you be a biological father or a stepdad, you have an equally significant role to play in helping to shape your children’s lives. Not only will your presence strengthen your child’s cognitive, language and social development, but it will also support their overall academic achievement and self-esteem.
You will contribute to your babies’ self-awareness and to your teen’s life’s perspectives. Right now, you have a unique opportunity to educate your children on valuable skills that will enable them, and more importantly, you will shape, guide and coach another human being to be the best that they can be as an adult.
So, make a commitment to be an active father. Your children will greatly benefit from your involvement in their lives.
NB: Ngala offers a variety of resources for new and existing fathers, including parenting programs to help you transition into fatherhood. To find any item of interest, please follow the link below.