By ZAID MOHAMAD
On this occasion when we celebrate paternal bonds all over the world, I would like to take a moment to reflect on what it means to be a father and what else we can do to make a greater impact to our family.
Like it or not, a father is still the head of the family. This is not a privilege but instead a big responsibility.
Since more and more mothers are entering the workforce, modern fathers find themselves going deeper into an “unfamiliar” territory – the home front. More is expected of them to take part in running the family and contributing to housework.
If mothers are billed “supermums”, fathers can step up to be “superheroes”.
Now, we fathers have two choices – we can avoid the unfamiliar territory and go back to our comfort zones, or we can take on the challenges, seize the opportunities and enjoy the benefits much later in life.
Benefits of involved fathers
There are many benefits awaiting involved fathers and their children. By directly interacting with his kids, a father will enhance the bonding process by leaps and bounds.
Perhaps the most important benefit is that a child of an involved father has been proven to be smarter than a child with a relatively uninvolved one.
In their research entitled The Hidden Benefits of Being an Involved Father, Garret D. Evans and Kate Fogarty of the University of Florida concluded that children of involved fathers enjoyed the following benefits:
- They tend to get higher grades than those without involved fathers.
- Involved fathers tend to raise children who experience more success in their careers.
- A father’s involvement is associated with positive child characteristics such as empathy, self-esteem, self-control, psychological well-being, social competence and life skills. They make friends easily and handle difficult situations better.
- They tend to have fewer behavioural problems. In fact, even when not living with their children and their children’s mother, fathers who are actively involved with their children can keep them from trouble as teenagers.
- They have fewer mental health problems as adults.
What a list of great benefits indeed! So, let’s seize this moment and commit ourselves to becoming superhero dads.
Let’s flex our muscles to build children with strong characters and nurture them as future leaders. As a father, ask yourself, what type of leader are you?
Are you the bossy type, or the inspiring one? How do you get your kids to get things done?
Kids today are getting smarter. Born in the Information Age, they like to be engaged and understand the reasons why they have to do certain things. That’s the reason why some people call them Generation “Why” instead of “Y”.
Superhero dads know better. We have ways to be better leaders for our family and win our children’s hearts.
1. Fear vs Respect
Just think of a few well-known political leaders who have ruled with an iron fist. Do you fear or respect them? The answer is obvious.
Humans fear tyrannical leaders who abuse their powers for personal gain. History has a record of many such leaders. They took advantage of their people in many unimaginable ways.
Now think of leaders whom you admire the most. Can you feel a sense of respect once their names cross your mind?
Would you go out of your way to meet such persons? Many would do much more than that.
This is the reason employees would go the extra mile to deliver their commitments for a respected boss.
Back home, we can reapply this concept to our children. We don’t want them to fear but respect us. But respect is earned, not gained.
Just because we are the father, it doesn’t mean our children will respect us per se. We still need to win their hearts through affirmative deeds and positive gestures.
2. Instruct vs Empower
When fathers cannot stop churning out instruction after instruction, two things can happen. Firstly, children will feel stifled and bored. Secondly, fathers will feel frustrated that their children are “not listening” to them.
In the end, fathers feel that they need to take charge and deny the children’s ability to think creatively.
Too many instructions can kill creativity. There is little room for children to think on their own and be independent.
In the long term, it can even diminish his/her self-confidence. It is bad enough that in schools, children are being “spoon-fed” with information.
At home, we must at least give them more freedom by reducing rigid instructions and choosing to empower them instead.
Empowered children are happier and they grow up more confident. They are not afraid to make mistakes, hence they learn much more than those who are forced to do things in certain ways.
They can maximise their creative thinking and decision-making skills early on. Which type of children would you rather have? It all depends on your parenting styles.
If you are the rigid, forceful type, chances are your children would be afraid to make mistakes and may have missed some golden opportunities to learn from them.
A better strategy is to empower them to do things to the best of their abilities. Yes, it would not be perfect, but the trade-off in terms of learning ability is well worth it.
3. Impose vs Inspire
Great superheroes are also the ones who inspire others to do good. As fathers, we must also inspire our kids.
I agree that our relationship with our family members is not always easy. We have too many daily issues that can derail our visions if we are not careful.
This is what separates superhero dads from the average ones. Superhero dads watch their words and their actions carefully.
They also have high emotional quotients to be able to withstand daily pressures. A measure of a strong man is not by how big his muscle is, but his heart.
We can all be these great superhero dads. As an example, when your kids do something wrong, don’t lose control easily.
Give feedback instead of criticism. Feedback focuses on actions which can be right or wrong.
Criticisms, on the other hand, attack the person. Which one do you think is more inspiring? People can accept that they have done something wrong but no one likes to be labelled as bad.
4. Loving vs Just living
In movies, superheroes always save the day. In real life, superhero dads create a better future for their families. We must aim to be in this group.
When we do, we truly love our families, not merely just living our lives together. Life will be much more fun and easier for everyone. Relationships and bonding are not easily affected by conflicts and disagreements within the family unit.
Instead, we grow stronger together after we resolve these challenges. Most importantly, our children are well on track to have strong characters and be super leaders of the future.
To all superhero dads out there, Happy Father’s Day!
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Zaid Mohamad is faculty trainer with Leaderonomics, author, columnist, certified parental coach and CEO of Smart Parents Network. To engage his consultation work for your organisation, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Worklife Balance articles, click here.
First appeared on Leaderonomics.com. Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 20 June 2015