Future Reflections                                                                                                      Fall 2001

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The Role of Fathers

Reprinted from Leep Network News, a newsletter from the LSUMC Department of Child & Family Services, Shreveport, Louisiana.

Editor’s Note: Although not directly related to blindness, the following little piece seemed to fit well with the preceding article by Mark McClain. Although mothers most often take the lead role in the education and IEP process, the role fathers play – though often less visible – is no less vital to a blind child’s development of skills and self-esteem. I think you’ll agree, after you read the two articles, that Mark is a good example and model of an effective father. He clearly plays an important role in the life of his blind daughter, Macy. I don’t know about other moms, but I know as a mom I would have never had the nerve to use duct tape to teach my child to ride a bike! Mark McClain, by the way, has taken on a more visible role; he is currently a board member of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). Here, now, are some thoughts about effective fathers and the important role they play in their children’s lives:

How to be an Effective Father

A key difference that separates effective fathers from all other fathers is that they really know their children.

Effective fathers know what hurts and haunts their children as well as what brings them joy and pleasure. These fathers know what makes their children different from every other child in the neighborhood. They are aware of the various shades, colors, and hues of their children’s personalities.

Ken R. Canfield, author of The Seven Secrets of Effective Fathers, surveyed 4,000 men to determine what contributes to effective fathering. As a result of his studies he discovered that good fathers knew the following specifics about their children:

— When his child had a difficult day;

— When his child was upset about something;

— The names of his child’s best friends;

— What encouraged his child the most;

— When he had hurt his child’s feelings;

— His child’s strengths and weaknesses;

— When his child was embarrassed;

— What motivated his child;

— Most of his child’s recent disappointing experiences.

Effective fathers aggressively pursue knowledge about their children for two important reasons, notes Canfield. “First, so that they can help create the conditions under which this unique personality (their child) can best blossom and prosper; and second, so that by recognizing danger signals, they can alert themselves to situations where their children need guidance and intervention.”

 Good fathers look, listen, and learn. They are always on the lookout for healthy role models. They listen to other successful parents, seeking to learn from them better and more effective ways to father their own children.

“Effective fathers know they need support and aren’t afraid to ask for it,” says Paul Lewis, author of The Five Key Habits of Smart Dads. They talk to other fathers and perhaps choose one as a model or mentor. They consult with their children’s teachers, coaches, neighbors, and relatives. They read books about fathering and attend workshops. Effective fathers put fathering high on their agendas and use all the resources available to them.

The Role of Fathers Is Important

Although much past psychological research was devoted to investigating a mother’s impact, new research reveals that a positive and active involvement by the father results in children who are better adjusted socially, who experience healthier sexual development, and undergo greater intellectual growth.

“Everything we know shows that when men are involved with their children, the child’s IQ increases by the time they are six or seven.” says pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton.

He points out that with the father’s involvement “the child is also more likely to have a sense of humor, to develop a sort of inner excitement, to believe in himself, to be more motivated to learn.” On the other hand, a father’s emotional distance can have profound negative impact.

Dr. Louise B. Silverstein of New York University says: “Research clearly documents the direct correlation between father absence and higher rates of aggressive behavior in sons, sexually precocious behavior in daughters, and more rigid sex stereotypes in children of both sexes.”

Clearly the role of the father is vital and should not be diminished.

Source: Growing Together, Nov. 1999

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