Fathering: Traditions and Innovations

The basic requirements of adequate fathering remain constant throughout the ages. Each age, however, presents its own challenges that require new thinking to contribute effectively to the development of our children.

Since the Industrial Revolution of a century ago, fathers have had to work against the current of culture to continue being effective. In the 1890’s, only 10% of our workforce was employed by corporations. Most people worked out of the home, on the farm, in the “mom-and-pop” store. Dad was visible. The kids could see him doing what he did. They could usually explain and understand what he did. And they could access him with relative ease.
After World War II, dad’s became involved in specialized work away from the home. Their work in the manufacturing plant or at the office was more remote from the home and less integrated with it. Dad would leave, do something for someone else, and then come home. Dads not only became increasingly remote, but also more passive. Moms took on increasing responsibilities for the nurture and discipline of the children. Dads were more likely to come home from their specialized job to a wife who had her specialized job, and then relax, uninvolved in the family. Their role took on new characteristics: passive and tired.

70% of Afro-American children are born out of wedlock.
40% of Mexican-American children ”
20% of Caucasian children “

36% of children under age of 18 currently live in a single parent home.
50% of children will have lived in a single parent home at some time during their first 18 years of life.

Direction must come from the parent.
What is a man/woman?
Point the way
Guard against job hopping, bar hopping, woman hopping, etc

The last generation was responsible and moralistic. We have become hedonistic and unrealistic. What am I responsible to do?

Nine Ways Dads Make a Crucial Difference

Dads are different than moms. The combination of dad and mom is great for the kids. It’s wrong to think that fathers need to be more like mothers. Both parents need to work with the strengths each of them brings to the family. Seeing different styles of perspectives is a good thing for kids.

1. Dads are just different. Mothers are often unaware of the level of engagement fathers have with their children. It’s good for kids to notice two different styles of connecting.

2. Dads roughhouse more. Before a dad picks up a child to hold or comfort her, he usually does something else first — tickling, tossing into the air, etc. “By the age of 8 weeks, infants can distinguish between a male or female approaching,” says Kyle Pruett, MD (Yale University).

3. Dads push kids harder Dads tend to expect more from kids than moms do. A dad will tend, for example, to push his daughter to ride a bike without training wheels and to keep trying if she falls, while a mom will tend to be there to pick up the pieces and comfort her if she does fall. This is better than both parents pushing or neither parent pushing.

4. Dads use more complex language. The male tendency to challenge extends to language as well. While both men and women simplify their speech for kids’ sake, men are more inclined to use big words that stretch children’s linguistic skills.

5. Dads are tougher disciplinarians. Men bring a kind of emotional distance to the task of discipline which makes it easier for them to be firm and demanding and to hold the line without being emotionally manipulated.

6. Dads prepare a child for the real world. Men see it as their job to take a child to the mountaintop, to show her their domain and explain how to master the gritty realities of life. The issue of competence and behavior weighs especially heavily on father’s coaching priorities.

7. Dads provide insight into the world of men. If a child does not have a good relationship with his father, he is not likely to get this perspective from anyone else.

8. Dads support moms. Fathers can powerfully influence their children indirectly by helping mothers. If you have a psychologically healthy, caring father, the mother has more emotional resources to give to the child. That’s not only because he’s taking some of the load off mom by pitching in with the chores, but he’s also caring for the mother, which helps provide some of the emotional energy she needs.

9. Dads foster a child’s success. Children who have warm relationships with their fathers are more likely to share. That means they tend to get along better with their peers. Such children are generally more successful in academic, athletic, and social pursuits and have higher self-esteem than kids with absent or uninvolved fathers. As adults, they are more likely to be tolerant, understanding, and socially or morally mature, growing up to have long-term, successful marriages and close friendships to sustain them. Absence of a father, on the other hand, is associated with higher rates of delinquency, teen pregnancy, and divorce.


1. Process-oriented

2. Fun for the kids

3. Not related to “responsibilities”

4. Out of regular environment

5. Quality / Quantity time


1. Building competence

2. Spontaneous, “along the way”

3. Principles and pragmatics

4. Guiding, not doing for


1. The spiritual dimension

2. Connection with transcendent

3. Praying WITH your children

4. Praying FOR your children


1. Goal: open flow, keep it open.

2. Actively

3. Reflectively

4. Respectfully


1. Make rules & expectations and consequences clear.

2. Training not punishment.

3. In context of loving relationship.

4. Stick to your guns

Core Requirements

1. Provision
a. material
b. model
c. values & convictions

2. Affirmation
a. identifying their gifts
b. supporting their efforts
c. applauding their character

3. Protection & Security
a. from physical harm
b. from society’s toxins
c. love their mom

4. Affection
a. Regular hugs and kisses
b. Terms of endearment
c. The delight in your eyes

5. Identity
a. That’s my daddy!
b. Don’t drop me off in front of the school!
c. Roots

Results of Involved Fathers

1. Positive Self-esteem

2. Higher Reading Levels & School Achievement

3. Favorable Personal Characteristics
a. Assertiveness
b. Self-confidence
c. Control of One’s Life
d. Leadership
e. Decisiveness
f. Personal Power

4. A Well-managed Operation

Results of Absentee Fathers

1. Anger & Pain

2. Obsessive/ Addictive Behaviors

3. Aimlessness

No One Told Me
Robert F. Anderson

They don’t tell you what it’s like
to hold the naked body of your child
fresh from the bath.
There’s not “Father’s School” to instruct you
in the joy of a wet and squirming,
then dry and incredibly soft little bottom.
Only mothers pass on the folk lore
surrounding that joy.
Fathers are merely told of pride
when the kid gets to school
or Eagle Scouts
or the football team
or the roll call of dead veterans,

I can only anguish at all the joy I missed
all the closeness I avoided
because of the embarrassment
at touching the nakedness of my infant sons.
No one taught me one could be intimate
without being sexual.

And now suddenly
my babies are grown men,
knowing how to be a father only from me.

I’m sorry boys.
So sorry.

But no one told me.

“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” — Sigmund Freud

Presented at the Fifth Annual J.C. Penney Educational Exchange
Plano, Texas
February 27, 1999

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