To all the dads out there making a difference in their children’s lives, and especially to my husband! Thinking about how grateful I am that my children have such an involved and loving dad made me reflect on what it means to be a good father in today’s world.
If you look back 50 years, it’s remarkable how gender roles have changed. Certainly the old stereotype was that moms were soft and nurturing, while dads were the tough breadwinners. In 1964, most mothers stayed home to raise their children, and there was no such thing as a “stay-at home dad.” That would have been a synonym for “unemployed” or “unemployable.”
Today, women in professional and technical roles make up 51% of the workforce. (For all jobs, it’s 47%.) This shift has created the opportunity for parenting practices to change, too. While I will always appreciate the traditional roles fathers have performed—my dad taught me invaluable lessons about business—here are my thoughts on how a father can help his children thrive in today’s environment.
- Be holistic. Focus on your children’s health and development in body, mind and spirit. It’s not enough just to concentrate on grades or teach them how to make money. Help your children find their purpose and discover their strengths.
- Show and teach compassion. Having grown up in a generation where a father’s tough love was the norm, I’m glad the pendulum has swung in a different direction. It’s not a sign of weakness to be caring and sympathetic, unless we let others walk all over us. Being able to see the world from another’s perspective helps us grow as individuals.
- Teach social skills. As Daniel Goleman counsels in his book Social Intelligence, connecting with others on a deep level helps bring s meaning to our sometimes chaotic lives. We feel more confident when we know how to interact with people. I also believe that knowing how to advocate for yourself is an invaluable skill.
- Teach coping mechanisms. One of our biggest challenges in life is dealing with stress, and children today face so much of it. Whether it’s by helping your children learn to manage their time, modeling how to let off steam without resorting to violence, or taking a meditation or yoga class together, you can really make a difference in your children’s wellbeing if you teach them how to deal with life’s ups and downs.
- Help with their care and maintenance. A friend of mine jokes that there’s nothing sexier than a man cooking dinner. (Or is that vacuuming? Or folding laundry?) It takes teamwork to run a household and dads set a great example when they chip in or take over.
- Take an expanded view of sports. Sure, sports are about developing our physical ability and mental toughness. But encouraging your children to be good team players, exhibit sportsmanship and practice even when they are frustrated with their progress is just as important.
What are your thoughts about what makes a good father in today’s world?