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How to be the dad your kid really wants

POSTED: June 15, 2014 11:00 a.m.
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Dad. The only best friend who can also reach the top shelf.

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Over the years, in some cultures the role of father has evolved from the wise family patriarch to the physically or mentally absent pop. For example, most dads portrayed on TV aren’t exactly ones that a kid could be proud of. Such questionable father figures range from the beer-sipping couch potato, to the oblivious and inept dad to the AWOL workaholic.

The typical TV dad may garner some laughs, but fatherhood isn’t a laughing matter. According to this blog by psychologist Christina Hibbert, studies show that without a responsible father, children are:

More than twice as likely to be incarcerated 5 times more likely to be poor At a higher risk for sexual abuse 2 to 3 times more likely to use drugs Twice as likely to drop out of school 2 to 3 times more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems Millions of dads honor their roles to the best of their abilities, of course. They work hard to balance their jobs and home life, providing a consistent presence as they teach and play with their children. They provide a positive role model of a responsible and mature adult male.

Fatherhood isn’t easy, but here are some ways to be the dad your child really wants.

“Let me tag along.”
A young boy who was obsessed with horses overheard his father say, “I think I’ll go and check on some horses.” The boy eagerly asked if he could go. His dad, a bit annoyed, replied, “Why would you want to go?”

Kids need their dads; they crave their time and attention. From their fathers, kids learn basic life skills, like how to fix a tire or ride a bike. They learn how to work and do a job right. They also learn how to play, and that Dad loves them because he plays with them.

“Discipline shows me you care.”
Children also crave structure and boundaries. They may grumble, but clear-cut rules and discipline provide security in their world. When they mess up, appropriate discipline proves that Dad is paying attention.

Kids also need genuine praise when they do things right. Praise from Dad strengthens self-confidence and can propel kids to continue to do their best.

“I want to see you and Mom together.”
Marriages don’t always work out, but kids are healthier in every regard when their mothers and fathers are happily married. Being raised in a home where Mom and Dad respect and cherish one another provides stability and an example of what marriage should be.

“You and Mom are divorced, but are we?”
A child needs a secure, consistent relationship with Dad when his parents are no longer together. He needs his father’s financial support, and he needs his time. It also helps to hear his dad speak positively of his mom and endorse her rules.

“It makes me feel good when you go to my games.”
Seeing Dad on the sidelines can prove to a child that he is important. Dad may not be able to make every game, match, or recital, but he lets his kid know that he wants to be there. No matter how poorly or successfully the child plays, fathers can show enthusiasm and support for their kids’ performance.

“Is your job more important than me?”
Yes, working yields a paycheck that puts food on the table. The responsibility to provide the basic necessities of life for children can become overwhelming. But when Dad spends bits of time helping with homework, shooting a basketball or just talking, a child can sense that he cares.

Fathers are amazing. Their potential to raise sons and daughters into caring, educated and successful individuals can’t be diminished.

Megan Gladwell is an Indiana native and mother of four. She blogs at bookclub41.blogspot.com and can be reached at mlgladwell@gmail.com.

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