Fathers Day is the time when we’re encouraged to give cards, whiskey, cigars to our fathers in recognition of their valuable role in our lives. But these days many homes are single-parent families with an absent father maybe seen only occasionally. Step-fathers, grandfathers, uncles, neighbours, teachers can all occupy the position of significant male role model and may actually be more supportive and reliable that our real father.

Father is often a child’s first significant male role model. If he falls short, is a disappointment, the child may become defensive, shut off emotionally in a bid to avoid further hurt and let down, determined to show they don’t care. Or, conversely, the child may react against their treatment and become rebellious, defiant as they continue to demand attention, any attention being deemed better than none.

Let’s reflect on the qualities we may feel are important in a father:

– Physical strength is a quality many children value in their father. Children feel proud when their father is strong and physically fit. They feel protected against whatever danger there may be in the world. Knowing he is strong provides reassurance and a sense of security.

– Moral strength is important. Children like to see their father do ‘the right thing’, have principles and be fair. Admiring and respecting their father for his integrity, honesty and guidance reinforces their valuing of those qualities for their own future dealings with others.

– It’s important to see a man, their father, in touch with his feelings, comfortable at expressing himself appropriately, prepared to hug, show love and affection. It’s also a crucial life lesson to watch and see how he communicates, to witness positive ways to discuss, compromise and resolve problems satisfactorily.

– Family values. A good father prioritizes spending time with his family. Children are especially sensitive to rejection, picking up information non-verbally through body language, behaviour, mixed messages. They register how he treats their mother, other family members. Family values are learned from positive experiences.

– Respect for others is demonstrated in non-domestic situations. How father behaves towards other road users, staff in restaurants and shops, how he talks about and to other people. Good manners and consideration are important in building positive, successful relationships.

– A good work ethic is learned from a responsible father. A sense of fair play and integrity, doing a good job and gaining satisfaction from work all engender a solid foundation for life. Being responsible with money, treating property with care, not taking good fortune for granted, having fun doing a good job well are traits one can hope to witness and learn from a father.

Fathers Day is also an opportunity to reflect on the things we’re sure we’d like to do differently. Looking to improve and do a better job, be determined not to repeat the mistakes that were made with us is all part of growing up and aiming to be the best we can be when we come to parent our own children.

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