Fathers Day is coming around again. On the third Sunday of June in the U.S., we are reminded to celebrate the importance of fathers, grandfathers, and other male relatives who have been important in our lives. Although a relatively modern holiday (first celebrated in America in 1910), it has nonetheless spread to many other countries in the world.
For those who respect, admire and love the men in their family, it is a day to honor and recognize them with at least a card, maybe one of summer’s first barbecues and the traditional gift of yet another tie. For those who have an ambivalent or strained relationship with their dad, it’s sometimes a painful reminder of what could have been — a time, if male, to resolve to do better and, if female, to choose better.
A man can be a good father in many different ways. There is no rulebook for how best to provide love, financial support, and physical and emotional security for children. However a guy goes about it, it’s true that being a good father isn’t easy. Whether or not he is married to the children’s mother, it requires a man to take his responsibilities to his children seriously and consistently. He is, after all, modeling for his boys what they are expected to become and modeling for his girls what they can expect in a mate.
The 3 Cs of Successful Fathering
What makes for effective fathering? It comes down to these three underlying principles.
- Constancy. Children need a father who is a constant fixture in their lives. They don’t really need special adventures, events, and expensive presents (although those are nice extras). What they do need is time hanging out with their dad. They need casual contact around meals, household chores, and running errands. They need the kind of talk that happens while riding in the car or while cleaning out the garage together. As nice as it is to spend two weeks in the summer at a dude ranch or to go for a ski weekend over the winter holidays with dad, bumping into each other several times a week or day is far more valuable. When children interact positively with their father regularly and often in daily life, the relationship has a chance to be deeper and more meaningful.
- Care. Children need fathers who care and who show it. Care means love, of course. Loving care includes hugs and pats on the back and compliments and, yes, actually saying “I love you” now and then. But care also means taking care, as in protecting from harm; as in seeing that bath times happen, that kids eat their vegetables and get bedtime stories; as in attending teacher conferences and going to a kid’s special events. Care also means taking financial responsibility and doing one’s share to make a safe and secure home. Most important of all, care means providing a positive role model for what it means to be a man.
- Courage. Children need to grow up observing a father who has the courage to do the right thing, even when it has personal costs. They need to see him having the courage to take his responsibilities seriously – even when he’d rather not. They need him to demonstrate the courage to be vulnerable and tender as well as strong and in control. Children need a father with the courage to be their dad regardless of how angry he may be with their mother, regardless of how disappointed he may be with his own choices, regardless of how successful and interested he is in other realms of his life.
Let’s face it: Living up to these principles is a tall order. But good dads and male relatives have been doing it one way or another for generations. When a man joins in that long tradition of loving and responsible fathering, his children are more likely to develop the positive self-esteem and psychological health they need to be successful adults. That definitely deserves a card – and maybe yet another new tie.