It seems obvious, but in this day and age, it bears repeating: A father is not just a parent. He is a male parent who contributes things to his child’s life and development that are unique as a father. A mother can never replace a father in a child’s life – and vice versa.
It’s one of the great lies of today’s culture that moms and dads are interchangeable. In fact, the social science confirms what most every generation knew instinctively since time began.
Scholars at the Yale Child Study Center report “research has shown just how important involved men are to the raising of healthy children, increasing the chance that they will be healthier emotionally and socially, stronger cognitively and academically, and stable throughout their lifetimes.” They add, “That men and women parent differently, for whatever complicated reasons, is in most cases a great advantage for children.”
So what is it that fathers should specifically concentrate on in building their children’s healthy development?
One of my colleagues here at Focus on the Family, Glenn T. Stanton, has written a well researched book that addresses this very question in a creative way and he shares some helpful insights into what fathers can and should uniquely teach their boys and their girls.
Let’s start with dad and their girls.
Fathers must recognize the immense privilege it is to raise young girls into strong, smart, confident women and send them out into the world. That’s because the world needs more strong women. Here are two things every father needs to teach his daughter:
1. Father must help their daughters see themselves as capable, not victims or extras in their own movie.
Life is hard and bad things happen on a regular basis that will challenge us on many levels. These things also happen to our girls – but a father can build confidence in his girls like no one else by reminding them they can overcome nearly anything that comes their way if she resolves to do so and believes she has the loving support and confidence of her father.
2. Fathers must help their daughters fight for their modesty and dignity.
Fathers are called to physically protect their sons and daughters. But as fathers, our daughters’ femininity is something that requires greater attention because it is uniquely special and vulnerable. If daughters fail to receive affirmation from their fathers, they’ll seek out alternative unhealthy male affirmation.
What must fathers teach their sons? Just as our girls are unique in their femininity, our boys are in their masculinity.
1. Fathers must teach their boys to use their strength for good.
Most boys tend to have two very strong but competing and seeming contradictory drives. They simultaneously want to save the world and destroy it. They want to be a hero – but also break, burn and blow something up. Anybody who has a boy – or was once a boy – will understand.
Dads uniquely help their boys focus these two competing desires in the right direction, their strength should be used to the make the world a better, safer place. Yes some things need to be knocked down or destroyed to be built better. Destruction is never an end, it should serve a greater purpose. Dads help boys know the difference.
2. Fathers must teach boys physical and mental discipline.
It’s a sociological fact that males tend to live more at the extremes, for good and bad. Girls tend to be more even keeled in terms of creative energy. Feminist scholar Camille Paglia illustrated this when she said, “The reason there are not more female Mozarts is the same reason there are not more female Jack the Rippers.”
Boys tend to be more intense. They have more energy, more passion, more strength. And fathers must teach their boys the proper disciplines needed to direct each of these in healthy and disciplined ways. The military and sports do this for men. Every father can serve as their boy’s most dedicated, loving coach or commanding officer helping them channel that energy toward the service of others.
Men have a unique role in the lives of their daughters and sons that no one else can fulfill.