American culture is becoming increasingly dad-less. Forty percent of American children are being born to single moms, and 24 percent of kids under the age of 18 live in single-mother families with no spouse present. The divorce rate, though decreasing, is still close to 50 percent, leaving one million kids each year with part-time or absent fathers.
Forty percent of kids today are being raised without their fathers! And technology is separating many dads from their children. They may go to the playground but they are so busy texting they forget to actively play with the kids.
The result? One recent study shows that 54 percent of children 4 to 6 years old would rather watch TV than play with their fathers! 54 percent!
What does all that mean about kids’ relationships with their dads? Nothing good. When almost half of American kids don’t have a dad in their lives and over half of the young children who do have dads would rather stare passively at a screen than interact with them, it says something about the state of fathering in America. Too many kids have essentially given up on having a positive and meaningful relationship with a father in their lives.
Listen up, dads! Fathering is not an antiquated idea. The kids do need you. They need you to do more than come by once in awhile. They need more than the presence of your body while your mind is occupied with your phone, a video game or a TV screen. They need you to be interested in them. They need your time. They need your love.
Here are 10 compelling reasons to get involved and stay involved as your kids grow up:
- The kids of involved dads have been shown to have more success in school when they are young and more success in life when they are adults. The key word there is “involved.” Being around isn’t enough. For dad time to count it has to be engaged time. When dads talk to their children, play with them, help solve their problems and help with homework, kids learn to value themselves and to interact with male adults.
- When dads play with their toddlers, the kids tend to develop more language and problem-solving skills as they get older. The theory is that dads tend to use a more adult vocabulary with little ones than their moms use. The kids therefore learn bigger and more complicated words at a younger age. Having more words means having more ways to label events and work with life’s problems.
- Dad-play tends to be different from Mom-play. Dads are generally more physical and active. When it is truly playful (not hurtful), Dad-play helps kids learn to be comfortable in their bodies, more coordinated, and more confident.
- Active Dad-play increases a kid’s emotional range, especially if their mom is the more nurturing type. Actively playing with Dad teaches them how to handle excitement and surprises. When their dad shows them how to transition, the kids learn that there’s a time to be raucous and a time to settle down.
- When their dad participates in the family by pitching in with chores and being involved in leisure activities, kids feel more secure and more confident that the family will stick together.
- For teens, a close and supportive relationships with their dad leads to less risk-taking and problem behavior. Kids with an involved dad don’t need to act up to get their dad’s attention. They are more likely to follow his lead for adult behavior.
- Kids (especially teens) who have involved, positive dads are less likely to be bullies. Bullies tend to be hurt and angry kids. A young person who feels loved and valued by his or her dad is less likely to be bottling up anger and resentment and taking it out on others.
- When a dad shows a child that he or she is worth dad time and attention, the child’s self-esteem grows. This is especially true when the dad makes an effort to get to know a child or teen; really get to know them. That means knowing their interests and being interested in what they are interested in.
- Kids who have a father who shows love and respect for their mother learn how to have a healthy relationship of their own someday.
- Feeling really loved by more than one person is a huge gift. Kids who get time, attention, and affection from two parents are twice loved. Their emotional bank gets regular deposits and their ability to manage both the good and the challenging events in life expands.
Yes, kids can turn out fine when raised by a single mom. There are now millions of single moms who are doing the work of two and somehow managing to instill good values and the tools for living a successful life. It’s exhausting but they do it. Many of them do it extraordinarily well.
That being said, kids do get something different and important from a relationship with their dad. Kids don’t know what they are missing if they never get it. But we adults do. It’s up to the dads to make it happen.
Father’s Day is coming. Too many kids don’t have a dad to honor or don’t honor their dads. The people who can change that are the fathers. Rather than expecting another polyester tie or a barbecue, the fathers in America need to step in and step up. The best gift a father can give his kids (regardless of whether he is married to their mother) is to be an involved dad. The best gift he can give himself this Father’s Day (and every day) is the love and respect he’ll gain from his children.