Why kids need fathers

When I was little, my dad worked a lot. Because his office was in our house, there were some nights when the work seemed to have no stopping hours. But my dad also knew he was missing out on us growing up, so he made it a point to fit time into his work schedule that included us kids. He’d set us up at the table so we could help him with some of the busy work. When he had appointments out of town, he’d drop my mom and us off at the park and then arrive back just in time for all of us to enjoy sandwiches together while playing on the swings. As we got older, Dad would take us for drives while he worked in the field, treating us to a hot chocolate by the fireplace in the lobby of his favorite hotel in Sonoma, slurp clam chowder with French bread in Bodega Bay, or just take a drive to check out the scenery in our beautiful county. My dad perfected the art of making work feel like a vacation as he sprinkled in fun stops along the way while we accompanied him. On the weekends there were tasks to be done around the house. Off we’d go for a trip to the hardware store with Dad, enjoying a hot dog from the stand outside the store. Or we’d take the long drive out to the dumps to throw junk away. Even a trip to the grocery store seemed a bit more magical with Dad because he always let us get the things Mom would never let us buy.

As kids, we thought we had to go with Dad so Mom could get a break now and again. And with three young girls, there’s probably some truth in that. But the bigger truth is that this was my dad’s way of spending time with us. I mean, it wasn’t always about work or errands. He’d take us to the car races some weekends. There were some great vacations my dad set up for the whole family. And the hills behind our house were perfect for a dad to take his kids for a hike. But when you’re a busy man like my father was, you fit in the quality time however you can. And my dad made sure we knew he loved us through time with us.

For daughters, their father is the very first man they fall in love with, thus setting the standards for any man that enters their life. In fact, how a father treats his daughter gives her the stereotype she will judge every man with thereafter. If a dad treats his daughter wonderfully, her standard for men when she is older will be that of someone who treats her just as wonderfully. But if a dad ignores his daughter or mistreats her, it’s likely that she will also choose a man later in life that treats her poorly. Girls need their dad to tell them they are beautiful, smart, and to show they are cherished through hugs and attention. If they don’t get it from dad, they’re liable to search for it elsewhere when they get older, lacking the confidence and security that comes from a healthy relationship with their father, and clouding their judgment in who is deserving of their love.

For sons, a father is the one they look up to as their role model. Want to know what a boy will be like when he grows up? Look to his father. A father is a boy’s first example of what it means to be a man. And actions speak louder than words. This is why it’s so important for fathers to not only be there to guide their sons, they must also have their actions match the lessons they wish to instill in their boys. The way a father is with his son molds the kind of man, husband, and father a boy will be. Boys need their dads to wrestle with them, encourage them, show emotion in front of them, and guide them. By their father’s example, they’ll learn how to respect those in authority, and even those in positions of service to them. They’ll also learn how to treat those they love, and even those they aren’t fond of. Boys need their dad to monitor their behavior, hold them accountable when they screw up, and draw a clear line between right and wrong until they can draw that line for themselves.

Dads, you are important. And many of you are making it a point to be present in your children’s lives. Know that you are making a difference. Happy Father’s Day to you this Sunday, and every other day you spend with your children!


12 thoughts on “Why kids need fathers

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  1. How sad is it that (and this is not an insult to you, if anything, the opposite) this can be written? You can’t really do a blog on “Why kids need mothers,” it would just come off as ridiculous. Kids need both parents equally. We all know, without a doubt, that kids need mothers. Why is it then that the necessity of fatherhood to a child’s wellbeing can be brought into question?

    It suggests that some segments of society (from both sexes) see fatherhood as somehow secondary to motherhood, that we’re a nice little bonus, but by no means required for a child’s upbringing.

    This viewpoint, for lack of better words, is $#@$d up.

    Dads, stand up. You’re awesome. We love you. To those of either sex who thought for a second that you are, or ever were, of secondary importance to us- here are our collective middle fingers. They don’t know what they’re talking about. Without you, Dad, we would not be the people we are today. Thank you.

    And to those of us upstanding, decent dudes who, either by choice or by circumstance, are not fathers: Yeah, we’re not so bad, either. 😉

  2. It’s very true that kids need both parents. Statistically speaking, when a parent is missing from a family, it is generally the father (though there are plenty of mothers who leave too, and all this applies to them too). Sometimes it’s the mom’s choice for the dad to be absent. Sometimes it’s the dad who ups and leaves. But for a child to be well-rounded, they need both their parents in their lives. Even divorced families can have well-rounded families by ensuring their children have access to both their parents. And regardless how a divorced couple feel about their ex-spouse, the kindest and most loving thing they can do for their child is promote a healthy relationship between their child and their other parent.

    As for secondary parents, there is no such thing. Both parents have something to bring to the table in raising a child, and both roles, while different, are equally important.

    Thanks Bennett!

  3. I’m surprised there are so few comments on this page relative to the rest of the PD. Strange mix, i presume.

    WCM: While i can pragmatically see your logic in applauding the work of fathers in their children’s lives, you played into all the old sexist stereotypes which position a father’s contribution to parenting as the direct polar oppositional complement to that of mothers. Don’t you know men can act as mothers and women as fathers? They describe a role played in a child’s life, not a gender.

    If you’re going to use pseudo-Freudian psychoanalytic theory as your base for logic, go all in. Tell the people about the “evils of single parent households” and the way that the lack of a father makes kids, (Gasp) gay.

    I agree with many of your overall sentiments and don’t find as much wrong with the majority of your posts as with this one. But, this is ambivalent sexist drivel used for laudatory purposes rather than shaming. Its the same argument you have just made here and i would advise all who venture onto this plane of logic to abandon it.


  4. Oops, sorry you thought this was what was being said, Buster. In no way do I mean this as a slight against gay families, or mothers who have chosen to raise their families from the start as single mothers. And you called me on that, so thank you. My main point is to applaud fathers who are in their kids’ lives, and to encourage mothers who are keeping their kids from fathers who should be around, as well as fathers who have abandoned their role, to rethink their logic and to truly do what’s best by their child.

  5. I think that some readers may have missed the point of this article. This isn’t a dictation of what role fathers must play, but rather a celebration of fathers in general, and the positive role they can play in a child’s life. You know, in tribute to the upcoming Father’s Day…..

  6. It’s also interesting that it’s the men who are finding issue with this. Guys, I’m your friend, I promise! And as a single mom, I’d be the last to say a single mom can’t do it!

    I also want to point out that yesterday I talked about butts and thighs with barely a notice… Interesting what strikes a chord.

  7. It’s because we’re sensitive. 😉

    Actually, there are reasons why this might be a touchy subject for us. Without writing a novel, it’s intimately connected to societal expectations and customs. Gender roles go both ways and sometimes we really feel powerless and looked over where children are concerned. Take the legal system, for instance. In custody battles, fathers are at a clear disadvantage. Nine times out of ten, the mother wins out; for the father, it’s an uphill battle. And to the decent guys out there who genuinely want a role in their child’s life, it’s offensive to think that their gender, and only their gender, should put them at a disadvantage. So we get frustrated, and rightfully so. And yes, you are my friend. I didn’t mean my first comment to sound like I was criticizing you and apologize if it came off that way. I was, in fact, criticizing society as a whole.

  8. Hey, no worries. I have sensitivities with this issue as well. Not with my dad, but with my kids’ father. I have been understanding more and more about why it’s so important for them to have a good relationship with their father. The “sexist stereotypes” Buster mentioned are the exact things I am now seeing in my own children because of a relationship the kids have with their father that has, many times, been lacking. In the past I have seen that as something to hold against him. Now I see it as something I should be helping to remedy. Life’s getting better because of it. And I get really concerned when I see moms, some of whom I know very well, purposefully pitting their kids against their ex in retaliation for the divorce – and don’t understand the harm they are doing to their own kids.
    Hence my point – Dads are important. 🙂
    At any rate, I’m in no way discouraging debate or lofty commentary on what has become a heavy subject. But my main point here is to give kudos to the great dads out there doing what they’re supposed to, timing it with Father’s Day this Sunday. 😉

  9. I’d like to weigh in with one aspect that isn’t regularly addressed when this issue is discussed and that is fathers who are absent because they are dead. My father died when I was an infant; it is one of the single most important facts of my life and until very recently the medical/psychological community would not acknowledge the impact of a parent who vanishes at an early (pre-verbal for the child) age. The only sense of him I have is from photos, a few stories and dreams I managed to have after working with a famous dream doctor. These dreams have given me an image of my father in three dimension instead of two, which has helped a bit. My mother did not remarry and there were no father figures in my life. This absence has defined who I am in a most profound way and for the most part, I have always felt left out of conversations on this topic. I’d give just about anything for even one real memory of my father.

  10. I am so sorry for your loss, Ophelia. Holidays set aside for honoring our parents are especially hard for those whose parents have passed away. I imagine that, while you have no memories of him because you were so young, it’s likely that you still carry some of his characteristics in your mannerisms and in who you are. While I can totally feel your pain in wishing he were here, I hope you find a little comfort that in your life, he already is.

  11. WCM: Thanks for clearing that up for me in the comments.
    It is simply not often (enough) that engaged fathers are encouraged to stay engaged with children without the rest of the traditional gender ideology following behind the encouragement as reinforcement of the traditional beliefs (2 parents=perfect kids, gay or single parents=bad kids) that sort of stuff.

  12. Great little article, which really hit the spot. Not having had a Dad myself, but having managed somehow to passed the Dad-test myself (my three sons, 41, 39, 37, tell me I did, though we always think of things we could have improved, but you learn as you go along). I shared it to Twitter and Linkedin, and I, also, am surprised that there are not more comments.
    Much appreciated.
    -k (Old Dog!)

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