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Ray Romano, Homer Simpson and Adam Sandler (aka Big Daddy) need to go away.
Sure, these dumb dads give us a few laughs, but don’t think that’s all they do. Their funny stupidity, buffoonish mannerisms and lack of spine teaches us—and our kids—that dads don’t really have anything of value to offer their families. No wonder our fathers feel unappreciated and disrespected.
This Father’s Day, let me take a moment to set the record straight. Here’s what solid, scientific research tells us about the profound impact fathers have on their children’s emotional, physical, mental and intellectual growth:
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- Toddlers who are securely attached to their fathers are better at problem-solving.
- The most effective way to boost a girl’s self-esteem is for her father to give her physical affection.
- Kids who have fathers in the home are dramatically less likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and learning disorders.
- Kids with fathers at home are more likely to get better grades, graduate from high school, and go on to college and grad school.
- According to a study that looked at 90,000 kids, the number-one factor operating in teens’ lives that kept them away from sex, drugs and alcohol was “parent connectedness.” In other words, when dads were engaged with their sons and daughters, the teens were much more likely to stay away from high-risk behaviors.
- Dads, not peers, are the primary influence in a daughter’s life regarding the decisions she makes about sexual activity.
Children are connected to their fathers by a need-based love. That means that the child needs his father to love him, so he will search his father’s expressions and body language to figure out what his father thinks about him. Does his dad see how he throws a baseball? Did dad notice the “A” on the top of his essay? A young girl reads her father for cues as well. When she walks into a room, she wants to know if her father notices that she’s there and if he thinks she’s beautiful. This sounds elementary to us, but we’re not kids looking up to the man we love who is an integral part of our identity development.
His Unmatched Authority
Every father has an authority in his child’s eyes that is unmatched. Mothers don’t want to hear this, but it is true. We are equally important, but we bring different strengths to our parenting. A father has this authority because children need their fathers to answer a few simple but life-changing questions: What do you believe about me? How do you feel about me? What are your hopes for me? The child will find those answers from his father, because he needs to know if he is important to his dad.
If he doesn’t get those questions answered from his father, he will answer them himself. If dad is never around, he will believe that his father doesn’t think much of him or love him. But if his father is active and present in his life, he knows that his father thinks the world of him. If his father is affectionate and affirming, he feels he is loved. When his dad talks to him about his potential to be great at something in the future, he knows that his father has high hopes for him. The answers that a child finds change who he becomes.
How to Give the Respect They Deserve
This Father’s Day, let’s do a little more than change the channel on Ray Romano. Let’s work to help our children show their dads the respect they deserve and give them the love they also crave from their kids. tweet this The dumb dad image needs to die, so let’s make him go away. The best way that we mothers can do this is to speak well of our husbands. If we aren’t married to our children’s father, that’s no excuse not to treat him with respect. These men are the ones who will determine the future health of our children.
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What can you do today to show gratitude and respect to the father in your life? If your own father is alive, write him a note of thanks for giving you life and then for every good thing he gave you. If you are married, show your appreciation to your husband, not just for his sake, but for the sake of your children. Remember, every time you do something to encourage him, you help your kids.
The truth is, one of the best things that a mother can do for her kids is to help their father. Because strong fathers make strong kids.
Pediatrician, mother and best-selling author of six books, Dr. Meg Meeker is the country’s leading authority on parenting, teens and children’s health. Visit her online at megmeekermd.com.