Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Five things good fathers do.

For a lot of men it seems, modern western societies have left them with feelings of being purposeless or redundant. The traditional roles of protector and provider have changed dramatically for modern men.

The stability western democracies provide has taken away the need to be a protector that actually protects against physical threats. And often the woman in the household also provides an income, so the traditional role of provider has also been declining for years now.

But don’t you worry, there is a task for men that is arguably the most important one they will face in their entire lives and they can no focus on completely; fatherhood.

The importance of having a father in the household is a subject that has been very well researched. There is a large body of evidence to support that children, especially boys, with a present father in their upbringing, are more likely to succeed in life and become stable adults.

There are many aspects of being a good father. Some are subjective and some are empirically objective. What follows are five things that, according to science, good fathers do to make sure their children grow up strong and self-confident.

Limit setting

Good and effective fathers are consciously setting limits on their children’s behavior. They create a framework in which the child can interact with, and explore its natural surroundings. This way the child gets familiar with its abilities, can grow its confidence, and it can rely on the father to tell the child when something is dangerous or inappropriate.

A good example of this is when fathers are roughhousing with their children. The father tells the children what the limits are. For instance, no kicking or punching. Or not to touch particular parts of the body. (Most fathers immediately grasp the importance of this point because they took a succer punch in the manbag many times)

Roughhousing is a hoot for the father and the child. A good father makes it very clear, however, that when the child breaks one of the rules, playtime is over. And he is strict and consistent in maintaining the limits he has set.

In time the child gets older and the window of limits gets wider and wider. Yet, this aspect of a father's parenting remains of crucial importance until the child leaves the house to face life on its own.

If all went well, the child is self-confident and robust. It has learned restraint and has gained an understanding of social interactions and how to behave among its fellow citizens. He or she now also understands that the limits the father has always set for them, now carry over into society that also sets limits on our behavior.

Challenging

Effective fathers do something that is called challenging parenting behavior. This means these fathers try to get their children to do better and achieve more by challenging them.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

let’s say a child has climbed up on the first branch of a tree and is unwilling or hesitant to climb any further. A father using challenging parenting skills will say something like; “I bet you don’t dare to climb to the next branch” or “you are not scared, are you?” (perhaps superfluous, but terms like chicken, pussy, scaredy-cat, sissy, sissyboy or fag are not responsible terms to use with your children, obviously)

Challenging is not the same as coercing. It is encouraging in playful language to try and get your child to go the next step without forcing them.

Standards

Consciously parenting fathers tend to be more honest towards their children about their achievements.

If a child has, for instance, drawn a really crappy drawing, a good father will gently (!) tell the child that it can do better and that this drawing is not very impressive. That it can add more to the drawing and do better.

A father that is parenting in this way is setting standards. He shows his children that he is not easily impressed and that if the child wants the father's appreciation, it has to genuinely make an effort to get it.

Good fathers also show the children what values and morals he has and to what standard he holds himself and others. By teaching by example he sets standards for behavior in the interactions with other people, and in general, standards in the behavior that he wants to see in the child.

A consciously parenting father refrains from swearing in front of the kids, for instance. The same goes for smoking. An effective father will not engage in behavior that he does not want his children to engage in.

In chores, a father is more likely to be unimpressed by the level of completion of the task than the mother. Children often dislike chores and tend to do a half-ass job at finishing them. The father will tell the child that it performed poorly and that it better get the job done or there will be another ‘bonus’ chore.

Another important aspect of fathers setting standards is in showing due respect. An effective father does not accept his child calling him by his first name. This has nothing to do with being old fashioned, but everything with being respectful to people who are older then you are.

Such a father will not tolerate a big mouth from his children. He will very clearly show the kids what the standards are when communicating with their father, friends, and family. If the child is stepping over the line, it is usually the father that will discipline the child for their misbehavior. (non violently, duh)

Getting tough

‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men’.

Frederick Douglass

Engaged fathers will often tell their children to man up. Not necessarily in those words, but that is what they mean. An effective father will find the right balance between acknowledging a genuine incidence of pain and the child overreacting like a little drama queen.

He also does not dwell very long on the fact that the child has pain. Often trying to distract the child with something (no McDonalds ) to no longer let it focus on their discomfort.

If a child is learning how to ride a bike and it falls, a father is more likely than a mother to say; “come on, on your bike, we’ll try again”. Or “ I know it hurts, but if you want to learn to ride a bike, you will have to do it again”.

The same goes for teaching the child the limits of their emotional expression. Showing emotions is healthy, but there is of course an end to how angry or how joyful you can be.

Fathers tend to be less impressed with demonic temper tantrums than mothers tend to be and will stick with their answers no matter how hard the child screams. The child learns pretty quickly that this tactic is fruitless and a waste of energy. If it doesn’t your child probably just is a demon and there is nothing else you can do.

An effective father can help their children relativize their anger by showing them that what happened really wasn't that bad. Or provide a solution the child didn’t think of. He also gives consequences to unacceptable levels of emotional expression. Especially if this manifests in physical violence towards siblings or the parent.

In the father and son relationship, fathers tend to be unacceptable of their sons crying. There is nothing inherently wrong with crying, but the father understands that other boys will be dicks when his son does not learn to manage his emotions and tears.

The world is not all roses and peaches and an effective father prepares his kids accordingly.

Engagement

Last, but certainly not least, is the fact that effective fathers are very engaged with their children. these fathers are available physically and emotionally. Engaging in projects together like building something or teaching them some craft. Playing sports with his kids and visiting the games they play in.

In other words, a good father is doing stuff with his kids. Not all the time, kids have to play with their peers too. And daddy needs some time for himself too. (preferably with mommy)

If a father does something for one to two hours a day with his kids he is doing great. Reading a bedtime story or a few rounds of hide and seek are great ways to have some quality time if you’re schedule is busy.

The great thing about engaging is that the possibilities are near endless. You can build a treehouse together, or make a campfire and toast marshmallows. Go fishing or paint something. Even swimming together is awesome.

Kids love it when dad takes the time to do things with them. Especially when it’s a bit goofy, like doing a silly walk race or make a stupid face contest.

With some creativity, every father can think of awesome ways to have fun with his kids while teaching them valuable lessons at the same time.

It doesn’t always have to be about some lofty moral or illuminated wisdom. Just baking pancakes together teaches them something about cooking and you can have a blast making them.

This list is by no means comprehensive but offers some hands-on tips to make an impact as a father on the well being of your children. Be creative and enjoy!

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