Do fathers know their natural focus on fixing problems rather than just addressing hurt feelings is a useful, even irreplaceable, aspect of nurturing, especially as children grow older? That measured, problem-solving approach is a critical strategic form of nurturing, especially in emotionally charged situations. It also explains why men become more involved in bedtime talks, confidences and emotional well-being as their children grow and need help with practical concerns, such as finances and educational and career decisions.
Do dads know their fatherhood has an irreplaceable effect on the sexual development of their daughters and sons? It has long been known that an absent father is the single greatest risk factor in teen pregnancy for girls.
As Brad Wilcox wrote in The Atlantic, “Girls raised in homes with their fathers are more likely to receive the attention, affection, and modeling that they need from their own fathers to rebuff teenage boys and young men who do not have their best interests at heart.” At the same time, boys who grow up with their fathers “are more likely to acquire the sense of self-worth and self-control” so critical to appropriate sexual behavior.
My own dad left a beloved life of sheepherding and returned to college to give his nine daughters and two sons a life he knew we needed. As he began decades of what must have felt like cooped-up monotony compared with the freedom of roaming the mountains, we knew we were the great work of his life.
In a way only he could do, he challenged us to do more while strengthening us in his sense that we could do it. In his closeness and care, we felt strength. In his teaching and challenging, we developed confidence that we could do whatever was put before us. When we each left Dad’s care to embark on our own work as mothers and fathers, academicians, nurses, professional musicians and engineers, we carried with us the confidence and capacity he had worked so hard to imbue us with.
Dads truly matter. As fathers commit their lives to their children, they build something in their children no other can do in the same way. And it makes all the difference.
Jenet Jacob Erickson teaches in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University. Her opinions do not necessarily reflect those of BYU.
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