There is a wealth of academic evidence that proves that the presence of a father during childhood can be a major factor in the development of grounded, happy and mentally stable young people. There is more to it than simply being a paternal presence. At the centre of it is a special dad bond, the development of which lies at the heart of the most effective father-child relationships.
Moving beyond the traditional ‘bread winner’ role
Modern day fathers are no longer the sole ‘bread winner’ of the family, working constantly each week, whilst the partner undertakes home-making tasks only. Fortunately, we have moved away from these stereotypes, and as a society we are constantly moving away from fixed, traditional forms of work to new, more flexible employment. This all means that fathers have more time available to spend with their children and this, together with the a more active attitude fatherhood, is now encouraged. In today’s modern world, being a great dad should be the aspiration for all fathers.
Nature helps men prepare for fatherhood and the development of the dad bond. In 2016 a Canadian study found that during their partner’s pregnancy, men experience a reduction in male testosterone and instead become more in sync with their partner’s testosterone levels. Close involvement with the children and rich interactions between a father and child during their infant years is the beginning of a fruitful relationship that will lead to the development of young adults that are more successful, attend school regularly and abuse alcohol and drugs much less frequently than those who have grown up without a nurturing father-child bond.
Developing the bond isn’t easy
Where can dads look for help? In 1862, Friedrich Froebel, a German educationalist developed a set of principles for the interactive education of children in kindergartens. Today in the UK, the Froebel Trust continues this work. The principles detailed below give more than a pointer to the kind of behaviour to be encouraged in the age of the modern-day dad.
- The integrity of childhood in its own right
Every child has a right to childhood and there are some very sad cases where childhood has been stolen. Always try to join your child in their childhood play, enter their fantasy world, don’t be afraid of reawakening the child in you, whether you become a fellow unicorn with them trotting around the garden for half an hour or you play at who can make the silliest noise or pull the funniest face it will contribute to building that dad bond continuously.
- The relationship of every child to family, community, and to nature, culture and society
As a father, the best way to teach respect and how to behave is to show respect yourself. Your child will watch and copy what you do, your body language, mannerisms, tones of voice and habits. Your child’s relationship with family will be different to the one they have with their community, but you need them to know you are there for support and to help them become confident and happy so that they can develop mutually supportive and rewarding relationships.
- The uniqueness of every child’s capacity and potential
How do you know whether your child is a potential concert pianist, international footballer or brilliant mathematician? The bet is that sooner or later, your child will be drawn to that for which they have a natural flair. They may have to try different things to find it so encourage them, join in and never give them the impression that they are wasting their time.
- The holistic nature of the development of every child
Children will experience different things from their interaction with family, community, nature, and culture. These experiences contribute enormously to their learning in a rounded way. Playing old fashioned board games or simple card games with other siblings teaches children about taking turns and fair play.
Make sure that your child spends time interacting with different people beyond just their immediate friend and family. Help them to do so and give them space to develop and learn. Take them to see some abstract sculptures they can touch and get them to talk about what they are seeing.
- The role of play and creativity as central integrating elements in development and learning
While you don’t want to encourage your child to do things that could result in serious injury or harm, you also don’t want them to be risk averse. Give you child room to fail and let them see that failure is a normal part of success.
We learn by experience, and although our own particular learning styles can differ, the different iterations of show-do-tell generally covers it. Play with your child, get the paints or crayons out and draw a picture of each other. Get them to talk about what they are thinking and doing.
- The right of children to protection from harm or abuse and the promotion of their overall wellbeing
It is easy to underestimate the harm that a fractious household can cause a child. Dad bonds are built more easily where the dad works with the partner to create a calm supportive environment where domestic squabbles are kept to an absolute minimum.
Whatever the constraints on you, set aside time each day when you can immerse yourself in your child’s play and development, whether it’s getting onto the floor with them to help to build that tower of bricks; reading a bedtime story and asking about their day; or even jumping into one of those small bouncy castles specially developed for indoor use (those are particularly great fun!). In this way you are laying the foundations for the development of the dad bond and a long and happy relationship with your offspring.
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Bounty is proud to bring you this information in partnership with www.familylives.org.uk. Family Lives is a charity with over three decades’ experience helping parents to deal with the changes that are a constant part of family life.
Comments on this article are monitored but NOT answered. However, Family Lives has extensive advice on their website, live chat services, and information about befriending services and parenting/relationship support groups. There is also a helpline and an online community forum offering a safe space for families to share dilemmas, experiences and issues with others who understand the ups and downs of family life. https://www.familylives.org.uk/how-we-can-help/forum-community/