Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: Fathering in the 90's

Category: Positive Parenting

      Fathering has changed significantly in the past generation.  In my father's generation a man was expected to be the silent breadwinner and not to become too directly involved in his children's lives. 

      Today, fortunately, attitudes have changed and the father can be involved, not only in his children's lives but even in their development in utero.

      Today a father can go with his wife to the obstetrician and follow the entire pregnancy, even seeing his growing baby on ultrasound.  He is invited into the delivery area and can share the beautiful miracle of birth.  These new changes are a wonderful way of building greater bonding between a father and his child.

      Today, fathers are allowed to show emotions.  This is healthy and natural and it also teaches our children that it is okay to show their feelings. 

      Most of us learn our fathering skills from our own fathers.  If a father is not present in the home, fathering can certainly be taught by other individuals.  It may be a grandfather, an uncle or a good friend who will serve as a role model for the children.  The important thing is that this individual is a good role model and someone the children can grow to respect and love as a father figure.

      Even teenage fathers in unwed pregnancies are encouraged today to be more active in their fathering role even though it may be outside of a legal marriage contract.

        Some of the things which I would recommend for good fathering in the "90's" include showing your emotions.  I think this is a healthy example for one's sons and daughters to learn from.  Secondly, I believe that if a father can spend more time with his children than in past generations, the relationship between he and his children will definitely benefit.

      This can start when the children are babies and he baby sits and cares for the children while the mother is away.  He should be active in bathing, changing and feeding the children.  The more a child knows about you and shares your life with you, the closer the bond is between you and the better the relationship will be for the rest of your lives. 

      The best form of fathering is really to be a good person; in other words, a good model.  This would be an example that any boy would want to grow up to be like.  Also it would be the kind of man that any girl would want to grow up and marry to be her own loving husband and the father to her own children.

      Some other fathering skills which I think are important and have changed somewhat in the past generation include not being afraid of touching our children.  All children love to be hugged, touched and told that they are loved.

      Other nice things to share with our children might include rocking them, singing to them, reading to them or just talking to them from infancy to early school age.  We should also make every effort to share meals with them whenever possible since this is a great time for family communication.  Spending vacations together as a family, tends to build wonderful cherished memories that last a lifetime for us and our children.

      The example we display to our children teaches them in so many ways that we don't even realize.  When a father is seen interacting in a friendly non-competitive way with other men or women he teaches his children communications skills, socializing skills and friendship building skills.

       The way a father treats his wife in the home is a direct lesson to his children on marital relations, sexuality, devotion and fidelity.  Hopefully the children will witness a living, gentle and unselfish example which they will want to model.

       I personally was blessed with a wonderful teacher in fathering.  My father certainly taught me, by his example, the importance of fidelity and devotion to my mother, devotion and respect for his profession and commitment to his children.

       He always made time for me no matter how many hours a day he had to work and he always encouraged me to ride along with him if he had to make house calls or any other particular errands.  Once when I was in the sixth grade and drove a golf cart through a ditch (knowing that I should not have) I awaited his reprimand with anxiety.  Finally when he was able to leave the hospital and came to help me get the cart out of the ditch, he said simply,  "Well let's get this out of the ditch and head on home."  This loving, understanding touch meant the world to me and taught me a great lesson in gentleness and disciplining in a positive way rather than a negative.

      He always took time to tuck me into bed through childhood and always had a positive word at the end of the day.  A few times when I did not know what to do with my time and felt sorry for myself, he brought me on rounds to see a poor child who had been scarred by burns and without saying a word taught me a great lesson in counting my blessings.

      He even taught me the straight facts about sexuality and respect for other persons as young as the fifth grade when I came home asking questions about words I had seen on the walls at the Delta theater.

      Above all else in fathering the most important quality that we should strive for is to let our children know clearly how much we love and treasure them.  We need to do this not just by telling them regularly but by actually showing them day by day.  This means committing time to them and placing them above all material things and literally anything else in the world -  outside of our faith in God and devotion to their mother.

            Finally, the greatest father of all, our God in heaven, is always there to help us if we ask His help and stay devoted to Him.