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Undertaking Fatherhood

By Dr. Michelle Hintz, Psychologist, for SouthFloridaReporter.com, jUNE 16, 2015 –

“Never underestimate a kid’s tenacity.

Raising a child is like wrestling a small but relentless opponent.”

– Stephen Colbert

Numerous well-known men have, in recent years, come out in favor of fatherhood through interesting, sometimes humorous comments such as Stephen Colbert’s in this recent interview. In addition to Colbert, Dwyane Wade and Jack Black are well-known for their devotion to family.

In a completely unscientific poll, nine out of ten fathers said they desperately want their child’s first words to be ‘Dada,’ according to talk show host and comedian (and admittedly non-scientist) Jimmy Fallon. A devoted two-time father, he recently published a children’s book entitled Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada, and declared that it is his secret mission to accomplish this goal.

I am inclined to see this as an homage to his favorite time of day: reading to his two-year old daughter, Winnie. I applaud his emphasis on reading, as it is a good way to build a bond between parent and child, and it greatly benefits the child in the long run. Fallon’s humorous take on parenting is enjoyable, but it is his dedication that makes him admirable as a father.

Serious research has shown that a father’s involvement correlates positively with children’s success. Unlike fathers such as Don Draper and Roger Sterling from the Mad Men era, there is a growing trend of father participation.

Even the CDC (for those who need scientific validation) reports that modern fathers who live with their children spend more time with them, on average, than did fathers of previous generations. And researchers have found that children whose fathers are more involved in family care are more successful academically. These are strong positives to promote any dad’s participation.

A father’s involvement often sets the standard for men in a daughter’s life. A father can do physical activities with his daughter, playing sports or taking walks, teaching her to be confident and strong, introducing her to coin-collecting, or a myriad of other interests.

For a son, his father is the first role model of what he could grow up to be. He can teach his son that it is okay to cry, to be kind, to play a music instrument or appreciate ballet AND baseball, or to speak up for those who are being bullied.

In fact, the task of fatherhood, with its many ups and downs, is like any experiment with a long-term outcome. Your success as a parent may not be visible for years, possibly for decades. And yet, in the case of fatherhood, the reward for making it through every day, or even the next five minutes, and especially for making fatherhood a priority, is greater than most other projects we can undertake.

I want to say thank you to all the great fathers out there this Father’s day. Even if you don’t always feel like a great father, your potential for positive impact is endless.