With Father’s Day just around the corner I thought it would be an appropriate time to address the importance of a father.
Men often learn how to be a father from the relationship with their own father. When I asked my father what his father was like, he said, his father was a violent alcoholic, who did not financially provide for his family. My father was a better father than his father. Although he passed down violence to our family, he did not drink any alcohol and he provided for our family until I moved out at 18.
I believe a good father protects his children and teaches them what he knows about navigating life’s challenges. He lets them know he loves them and helps provide for their needs as children. He shows interest in their life, and disciplines in ways that teach them what is morally right.
For those of us who didn’t grow up with a loving father, we can choose to emotionally heal our past hurts and unmet needs. Forgiving the past and learning how to love and protect ourselves is part of the healing process. In the case of my two brothers, the one who forgave our father became a better father to his three children. Accepting that we are a precious, unconditionally loved child of our Heavenly Father can heal our father wounds, spiritually. When we choose to heal our past, we also have better odds of attracting a better father for our children.
When I had children with my husband, I was impressed with the relationship he had with his father. His father loved and accepted him. I watched how my husband was a father to our son and daughter. I believe his relationship with his father positively influenced the way he parented our children. He was loving, interactive and protective. He taught them about life, provided for them and made them feel safe in his presence. I would tell him, “Our children are so blessed to have you for their dad!”
As our children became adults, our son had children. I’ve watched him be a loving, playful, protective father to his three children, which I believe is influenced by the positive relationship he continues to have with his father.
As a mental health counselor, I have listened to thousands of stories from fathers and children who have taught me the importance of a father in his children’s life. Children get their self-esteem and sense of worth from knowing they are accepted, acknowledged and admired by their mother and their father (1). Boys watch their father growing up and learn a sense of how they are supposed to be when they become men and fathers. Girls watch their father growing up and often attract similar qualities in their relationships with boys and men. We become what we know, and we tend to attract what is familiar when choosing mates.
Men can become better fathers than their father by intentionally practicing the behavior they desire from a good father. I encourage fathers to ask their children over the age of eight, “What do you need from me as your dad?” By the age of eight children have more complex emotions and understanding of the role of parents in their lives (2). Listening to what our children need from us lets them know that we care about being a good parent. A good father empowers his children to be confident, authentic, and equipped to be a good parent to the next generation. That is how important a father is!
Written by Elisabeth Davies, MC
Counselor and author of
Good Things Emotional Healing Journal for Addiction
Good Things Emotional Healing Journal for Couples
(1) The Effects of Parental Involvement on Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem, Beverly Amsel, PhD
(2) 8-Year-Old Child Developmental Milestones, Lyndsey Garbi, MD