It is no doubt that mothers get lot of attention in our society. You have to look no further than the advertisements leading up to Mother’s Day and compare it to the ones leading up to Father’s Day. Does it feel like Father’s Day seems to “sneak up on you?” If it does, then you are not alone. The fact that I’m writing this after Father’s Day, and not on or before, speaks to my guilt as well. Perhaps, a subconscious part of me did this intentionally to prove a point. That is, fathers are way undervalued in our society and do not get the credit they deserve.
An involved father makes significant, positive impact in their children’s lives in terms of psychological well-being, academic achievement, cognitive abilities, and social behavior (Rosenberg & Wilcox, 2006). This is true for both sons and daughters, although the father-daughter relationship differs from the father-son relationship. Consider the following findings, some may surprise you.
Fathers and Daughters (http://www.parentingbookmark.com/pages/LN01.htm):
• Fathers tend to have more impact than mothers in these areas with their daughters:
(1) achieving academic and career success—especially in math and science
(2) creating a loving, trusting relationship with a man
(3) dealing well with people in authority—especially men
(4) being self-confident and self-reliant
(5) willing to try new things and to accept challenges
(6) maintaining good mental health
(7) Expressing anger comfortably and appropriately—especially with men
• After their fathers’ deaths, many daughters regret not knowing their fathers well when alive.
• Daughters who are raised by single fathers are just as well adjusted and as happy as daughters raised by single mothers.
• Fathers and daughters are usually closer when the mother works full time outside the home while the children are growing up.
• Most fathers want to spend more time with their children, but can’t because of their jobs. Just imagine the amount of stress this creates for the father.
Realities: (1) Eighty percent of the fathers in our country earn most of the money for their families. (2) Counting the time spent commuting, working, doing house and yard work, and being with the kids, the average father has 5 hours less free time each week than the average employed mother. (3) On average, employed fathers work 10 more hours a week than employed mothers.
• Many fathers believe that their wives and daughters’ feelings for them are partly—or sometimes largely—based on money.
• A father usually has a closer relationship with his kids when the mother lets everyone in the family know how much she appreciates his ways of parenting—especially if his way of relating to the kids isn’t exactly like hers.
• A daughter has a better relationship with her father when her mother does not rely on her for advice or comfort on adult issues—especially issues involving the parents’ relationship with each other.
• When parents are unhappily married, most children side with their mother against their father.
• Sadly, there are mothers who feel uncomfortable or jealous with the idea that their daughter might share as much time or as much personal information with her father as she does with her mother.
Fathers and Sons (http://www.gapsychology.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=15)
Fathers and sons have an interesting relationship pattern that Dr. Williams explains with the acronym IDEAL. The circle of father-son relationship goes as follows.
I= Idolize. This happens when sons as children feel their dads can do no wrong. They imitate the father’s behaviors by walking like him, talking like him, etc. The need to please and gain approval and acceptance is very strong at this stage.
D= Discord. Conflict seems to be the central theme in the teenage years. Sons often reject their fathers’ expectations and values, rather taking on non-traditional philosophies and often creating tension between the father and son. This may carry on to the early twenties.
E= Evolving. There may still be emotional distance, but also the need to please and gain approval continues. It may seem like the son is in competition with the father. At some point in their twenties, the tide moves in the positive direction.
A= Acceptance. As adults in their 30’s and 40’s, sons start to accept their fathers for who they are, recognize their strengths, forgive, and even admire their fathers’ qualities that once repulsed them. Fathers and sons may even become friends during this time sharing common interests and expressing opinions without all of the drama of the earlier years. This is also the time when the sons have sons of their own and the tables have turned.
L= Legacy. In their 50’s, sons become a legacy of their father’s influence for better and worse. Time has eased the pain of earlier years full of contention and has been replaced with respect and appreciation for the difficult job fathering entails. Those older adult sons who have not resolved their issues with their fathers, tend to have similar conflicts replayed with their own teenage or young adult sons. If elderly fathers are still living, a role reversal occurs where the older adult sons are now taking care of their aging fathers.
Nielson, L. Fathers and Daughters: Eye Opening Facts. Retrieved 6/20/2011, from http://www.parentingbookmark.com/pages/LN01.htm
Rosenberg, J. & Wilcox, W.B. (2006). The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children. Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, US. Children’s Bureau. Retrieved 6/22/2011, from (http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/usermanuals/fatherhood/chaptertwo.cfm).
Williams, D.C. The Life Cycle of Father-Son Relationships. Retrieved 6/22/2011, from (http://www.gapsychology.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=15