Contributed by Child360, a non-profit dedicated to lifting up early learning programs and leaders through training, coaching and career advisement.
Strong Dads Make Strong Kids
Why Dads Matter
There is a strong body of evidence that male role models – be they fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers, etc. – have a unique role in a child’s early development. Studies have shown distinct long-term advantages from the involvement of a loving, leading male figure that complements the mother/female contribution; male engagement is associated with benefits to the child’s cognitive, emotional, social and physical health.
Generally speaking, dads frequently balance the nurturing role of moms. They empower children to be risk-takers and explore, and often naturally rise as a teacher, companion and role-model. These multifaceted hats often expose children to more independence in the form of testing boundaries, which aids in the development of self-esteem, confidence and overall self-worth. These emotional factors happen to be key when it comes to problem solving and avoiding bullying behavior, which occurs even among children as young as the toddler years.
The Link Between Involved Dads and Bullying Prevention
Strong male role models show a direct link to a child’s ability to problem solve and grow in self-confidence. One way this takes life is a child’s preparedness and confidence when dealing with aspects of bullying. Many research statistics support the fact that a father’s positive influence also improves academic performance: results indicate that children with involved fathers exhibit fewer behavioral problems, better language skills and score higher on reading achievement.
Here again we can track the link between bullying prevention and academic success: “We know that bullying can lead to school avoidance, decreased self-esteem, depression and even self-harm,” says Julie Hertzog, director of the PACER National Bullying Prevention Center. Male engagement from a young age is interwoven with a child’s mental health, academic skills and future success. Children with a high sense-of-self are better at making good decisions and are better equipped to cope positively with the frustrations and challenges of life. Research shows they are less likely to become involved with drugs and alcohol, become sexually active, or do poorly in school.
How to Engage: Just Showing Up Is Huge
Never underestimate the power of your presence. We’ve already cited the many positive social, emotional and academic effects; it’s important to note these benefits are consistently present even in the case of non-resident fathers.
Taking It a Step Further: Building Quality Time
Some fathers may be less involved with children during the early years; however, building that quality time to get to know their child’s unique personality may be an easier integration than one might think. Child360 Family Engagement Coach, Luis Barajas, suggests choosing a hobby or project that children and father figures can work on together; “it’s an easy way to learn much more about your child’s individual likes and dislikes, imagination and sense of humor and overall temperament,” says Barajas.
Benefits include forging a unique bond with your child, creating special memories that last a lifetime and facilitating communication. Barajas points out: the process carries an even broader developmental implication, as both participants attempt to learn new skills. “When they can see their dad in a vulnerable state of imperfection,” he says, “It allows them to humanize their parent and see that it’s okay to fail.” An active setting also allows fathers to easily model important life skills—such as dealing with setbacks, working toward goals and rising to a challenge.
DO Try This at Home: Activity Tips
- Creative Arts Male role models can create a masterpiece at school or home to share with the children. Artwork can be displayed in the classroom!
- Board Game Nights Play a board game with your child. This allows men the opportunity to share new games with children and also offers a great opportunity for children to learn about sharing and taking turns.
- Cooking with Daddy Cook your favorite healthy dish with your child. Men can continue to share recipes and post them on the parent board. This is a great way to explore a child’s interest in math, science and new foods.
- Share a Day with Daddy Share a project or weekend trip with your child. Encourage your child to bring pictures of your interaction to school. Sometimes you are not able to visit your child’s classroom during the day; when you can’t be there in person, this is a great way to bridge the gap between home and school!