Having recently celebrated Father’s Day, we couldn’t help but highlight the role of all the wonderful dads we see at Way to Grow. Social sciences have been examining the crucial role that fathers play in child development, family dynamics, and the overall well-being of their children for decades. Yet, one common stereotype persists: the notion of low-income, inner-city fathers being generally disengaged and uninvolved with their children.
It is imperative that we dispel the myths and stereotypes associated with the “urban” dad. “Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home,” says sociologist, Dr. David Popenoe. “Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children no other person is as likely to bring.” Not only is the involvement of a father in the life of a family associated with lower levels of child neglect, there are also positive correlations between the role of fathers in cognitive ability, educational achievement, psychological well-being, and social behavior of children. One of the most important roles of a father is modeling healthy relationships, regardless of marital status. Seeing their parents respect one another and handle conflict appropriately has a profound effect on how young boys grow up to view and treat women as well as how young girls eventually expect men to treat them. On the other hand, fathers who display anger, show contempt for, or stonewall their partners are more likely to have children who are anxious, withdrawn, or antisocial (Rosenberg and Wilcox, 2006). “Even if the child’s parents are no longer together, maintaining healthy parenting practices is a two-way street,” says a Way to Grow Family Educator. “We see dads who are working hard to be involved in their child’s life, dads who will pick their kids up after school and dads that attend Way to Grow events. These dads care and want to do the best they can for their children, and we help them by showing them healthy ways to do this.”
- Fostering a positive relationship with the children’s mother
- Spending time with children
- Nurturing children
- Disciplining children appropriately
- Serving as a guide to the outside world
- Protecting and providing and
- Serving as a positive role model
Fathers also have a tremendous impact on self-regulation and teaching kids to control impulses and regulate their behavior (Mongeau, 2015). Commonly viewed as the “disciplinarians,” dads are in a unique position to teach and demonstrate self-control. One way fathers can promote this is by establishing and enforcing routines in the home. Jermain, actively involved with Way to Grow for seven years, has set up routines at home to help foster a culture of learning. Every morning, Jermain gets his kids ready for school as his wife heads to work. “When we say ‘it’s time to do your schoolwork,’ they know we aren’t messing around. I’m going to do all I can to make sure they finish high school, because I didn’t.”
Fathers like Jermain are actively involved in their children’s lives and are dedicated to supporting their children in any way they can. The first step in helping fathers grow is making sure they feel validated and supported in the irreplaceable role they play in their family. Instead of looking at the deficits, building long-term change starts by recognizing what dads are already doing right.