What kind of memories did you have with your father? Were they sweet or sour or a mix of both? In a study done by Michigan State University (MSU) in 2016 involving more than 730 families, fathers’ relationships were found to have long-term implications on their children’s well-being. If a father was often depressed and stressed, his children would be adversely affected.
The results were expected; it provided further proof of how important dads are in the family. Still, no father is the same with another. Every father is unique. My father, for instance, worked 7 days a week. As a bus-driver, he was away dawn to dusk, earning daily wages. But my mother’s frequent references: “What would abah say to that?”, “Be sure to leave some food for abah“, ensured his presence were felt for my siblings and me.
I often hear moms’ voices out there about Dads not measuring up. How well a man plays his role as a father is largely tied to how much exposure he had growing up. Did he have a father when he was young? Did he have a role model? Growing up, not all men had a father who was emotionally close, who tried to help with household chores, who did his best to balance work and life.
A mother told me: “My husband is unable to make even the simplest decisions. All his life he never had a dad.” This woman had her kids declare, “Mom, you’re the boss.” As painful as this sounds, and coming back to the MSU study, the question becomes: What can a mother do to encourage her husband to become a more involved father? Do what you can to break the cycle. Together, we are all raising the next generation of fathers. Little things go a long way. Create opportunities for your husband to interact with the kids. Remarks in front of the kids like, “What do you think, Dad?” might nudge him a little towards the desired outcome. Even praising Dad in front of the kids, “Your Dad was so kind this morning, he (did such-and-such)” can encourage him to be more present with the kids. And remember, Dads are not Assistant Mums. If he tried to help around the house but what he did failed to meet your expectations, drop the criticism. If you’re a single mom, or your spouse isn’t a good role model, help your son connect with a male figure he can look up to. It could be a grandfather, an uncle, a coach or teacher.
I want to conclude with the story about how a Dad transformed his son in 4 days. This was a true story shared by a couple who attended a workshop I did some time ago. This couple had a teenager who was doing well in school, but upon starting upper secondary, he began to do poorly in Mathematics. All he would do after school was to lock himself up in his room and play computer games all evening. Every day, he would receive an earful from his parents. One day, the couple decided to do something different; what they were doing was not working. They sat the boy down and asked him nicely. What was going on? That was the turning point for this family. “I couldn’t understand what the teacher taught in class,” said the boy. “At home what I get is a scolding every day. Playing computer games makes me feel powerful.” It was a wake-up call for his parents. They apologised to their son. The father took 4 days off to teach his son Mathematics at the end of which the son said, “Dad, this was the best 4 days of my life.” The son went on to become a Dean’s list student in university. Believe it or not, Dads do matter. A lot.