Numerous studies show that the single greatest predictor of a child’s success is having parents in a stable, solid and loving marriage. As I’ve written in previous columns, the importance of creating and nurturing a family in which the primary relationship is the marriage cannot be over-emphasized. Unfortunately, with the advent of post-modern psychological parenting experts attempting to redefine the traditional family structure, dads are regularly encouraged to be their children’s buddy. I recently received a question from a reader that illustrates this issue:
Question: When my husband asked my 4 year-old- son tonight who his buddy was, my daughter (who is his twin sister) said, "He is Mommy's buddy, not yours. You don't have buddies, no one likes you Daddy." What do my husband and I do or say to our 4-year-old daughter about this situation? She is almost always a well behaved, sweet girl and it was shocking to us she said this.
Answer: I understand that your concern is with your daughter’s unkind and disrespectful words, but your question raises a bigger problem which is that of fathers striving to be their children’s “buddy.” Children don't need adult friends, just like adults don't seek children as friends. In friendships, we care about our friend's feelings, opinions and attitudes. In raising children, we need to focus on what is best and appropriate for our children. Dad's role in the family is one of unequivocal authority and unconditional love and friendship is not any part of that. While the answer your daughter gave may have been surprising or hurtful, the question your husband asked was totally inappropriate. The same goes for mothers - being your children's friend should be nowhere on your radar right now. Wait about 20 years for that relationship with your children! Right now, you're in the season of discipline, during which you are teaching your children to be respectful, responsible and resourceful people and are not at all worried about popularity.
I am not suggesting that fathers never play or hang out with their children. I am simply encouraging parents to establish and respect their natural roles of leaders, and model appropriate behavior as such. Remember that leadership is most difficult when saying “no,” as it is considerably easier (in the short term) to say “yes.” Fathers are just as important as mothers in raising children and dads who are actively involved in their children’s lives will generally have kids who have more confidence, are more outgoing, more adaptable to change and more willing to tackle challenges. Teenagers with involved dads and two parents working together are less likely to suffer from substance abuse and teenage pregnancy.
Fathers have the awesome obligation to show their children what it means to be a good man, a good husband and a good father. You are your children’s first example of how men should treat women and what mature responsibility, generosity and kindness look like. The example you set will greatly influence their perspective as they grow.
I caution you to keep in mind the critical differences between being involved with your children and being an enabling micro-manager of your children. If your mission is to raise self-sufficient adults, start today by helping your children to accept ever-growing responsibility for themselves. Make certain your children understand that the most important people in your family are the parents, without whom nothing else is possible! Cherish the glorious task of being your children’s dad! In the words of that great American philosopher, Louis C. K.: “Be a dad. Don’t be "Mom’s Assistant" .... Be a man .... Fathers have skills that they never use at home. You run a landscaping business and you can’t dress and feed a 4-year-old? Take it on. Spend time with your kids.... It won’t take away your manhood, it will give it to you.”
Happy Fathers’ Day!
Faucett is a retired teacher, Certified Leadership Parenting Coach, and San Diego County CASA who is blessed to know and love many wonderful dads! Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit her Facebook page at Love & Leadership Parent Coaching.