Why Dads Matter

by Charlane Pereira e Rebello

The Old Days of Absent Fathers Are Fast Disappearing In Goa 

And that’s a good thing!

Being a dad is not all about playing ball and being tough. A dad’s role is equally important to a mom’s role, though not widely recognized in developing societies, says psychologist Dr. Charlane Pereira e Rebello. Here’s an insight into the benefits of Dad’s involvement in a child’s life.

 

Being a caring dad may not come naturally to many fathers. How many of us are dumbstruck when we see the heart-warming sight of a dad cooing and patting his baby’s back? As I was listening to the Sunday service at our local parish, a baby clung tightly to her father while the mother took a break from her babysitting duties.

Why should we be surprised when a father takes an equal share of the responsibility in parenting? If you’re a parent, no matter your gender, showing that you care and loving your kids is absolutely essential for the all-round development of the child.

“A dad is special in a child’s life,” says Rochelle Pereira, a Margao-based psychologist. “Recently, I saw a dad teach his son as well as daughter to swim. It was heartwarming to see the little girl cling to her dad in the ocean waves. Though the Goan scenario is changing about father’s involvement, it has still a long way to go.”

In Goa and many other places in the world, fathers often don’t envision a nurturing role for themselves in the lives of their children. Holding a baby, changing diapers, soothing hurts and offering loving embraces is still too often seen as the exclusive domain of women.

But things are changing fast.

A middle-aged dad in Goa recently brought in his 15-year-old son for career counseling. Despite being in the shipping line, the father exhibited high levels of interest in his son’s academics, future career and opportunities of studying abroad.

Young Goan dads are increasingly shedding the “un-fatherly” habits of their own fathers and grandfathers and assuming a front-and-centre role in the lives of their offspring.

A dad should never step back in parenting! Ask your child about his/her activities, show interest in his/her well-being, reassure them when needed and step back when they need to learn valuable life skills.

Healthy fathering includes fostering a positive relationship with the children’s mother (assuming she’s in the picture), 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.

All dads may not excel well in all of these parameters, but those who do well in most of them serve their children and families extremely well.

Clifford DeSilva, founder of Goa Institute of Counselling, says, “In a male chauvinist India, dads need to be educated about childrearing. Attitudes such as men are breadwinners and childrearing is a woman’s job prevail widely.”

Not all fathers are the same. Whether you help your child with her/his lessons or give her/him company while watching a good game of soccer, or organize fun-filled family picnics, fathering can take many different positive forms.

Shared activities such a sweaty game of badminton with your son/daughter or cleaning the backyard together or simply doing the dishes with them, teach valuable life skills to children. It also imparts responsibility, which is associated with greater self-esteem, and academic and occupational achievement.

Young 12-year-old Michael says, “I enjoy playing chess with my dad. Though he wins all the games, I have managed to learn the rules of the games with his help.”

Similarly, 20-year-old Clayton, the only child of his middle-aged parents adds, “I bond well with my dad who can talk on various topics from birds to books and soccer to sausages. My mom is more jovial and my dad is the serious guy in the family.”

Psychologist Eirine Flouri’s words ring true, “An involved father figure reads to his child, takes outings with his child, is interested in his child’s education, and takes a role equal to the mother’s in managing his child.”

Fathers have positive impact on their child’s well-being. Children of involved fathers have higher IQ’s (Gottfried et al., 1988) and have positive attitudes toward school (Flouri, 2005). Research has also shown that these children are more likely to have better educational outcomes, career success, occupational competency, and psychological well being.

Paternal involvement is positively correlated with children’s overall life-satisfaction and reduced depression (Dubowitz et al., 2001), less fear and guilt (Easterbrooks & Goldberg, 1990), fewer conduct problems (Formoso et al., 2007), less anxiety (Jorm et al, 2003) and higher levels of self-reported happiness (Flouri, 2005).

It’s not just sons who benefit, but daughters too. Though sons might look up to their father as a role model in their lives and roughhousing partner, daughters of caring fathers achieve academic and career excellence.

Also, daughters who have a secure, supportive relationship with their fathers are less likely to get pregnant in their teens and are more likely to enjoy emotionally intimate and fulfilling relationships with their spouses.

Clifford says the government has an important role to play in spreading awareness about the importance of being a good father. And he said the Women and Child Development Department should “spare a few” schemes for dads as well.

In the end, this is about love. No gender has a monopoly on it.

 

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