Fathers Matter [Getting Involved; Father-Child Bonding; Everyday Fathering; negotiating Parenting with your Partner]

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Fathers Matter

Summary:
– fathers make a real difference to child parenting, & aid learning & development
– research shows fathers play an equally important role in child development, including in the formative years
– fathering is different to babysitting
– fathering role is often under-estimated
– fathers are more similar than dissimilar to mothers, & can similarly respond sensitively to the needs of their children
– & yet there are also subtle differences,particularly regarding father play
– father involvement with children is shown by research to continue to be less than that of mothers & yet research also shows high-levels of father involvement are linked to better social & academic skills in children
– research also shows a link between disengaged fathering & illnesses such as depression,
& anti-social behaviour
– unlike mothers, modern fathers do not necessarily have accepted fatherhood scripts / universally-accepted father role models due to significant social & generational change (father’s role was seen primarily as provider & protector)
– what constitutes good fathering is in a state of flux
– & the role can include teacher, carer, role model &/or guide
– & fathers now have a choice about how involved they wish to be

Getting Involved
– gain experience as a father when your child is a baby
– get “hands on”
– Dressing
– settling
– Playing
– Washing
– Nappy changing
[Resist the urge to hand the baby over when things get demanding]
– This is when you gain experience and confidence
– Take care of feeding
[do this alone, so that necessity becomes the mother of invention]

– remember not to compare yourself to your partner
– gain feedback from your partner & keep learning & gaining experience
– there are many ways to the same positive parenting outcome – do not be afraid of putting your own stamp on parenting tasks
– negotiate with your partner & work as a team
– stressful work often spills over into a man’s parenting – consider how it is affecting you & problem-solve so it does not spill over into home & your parenting
– fathering is a journey not a destination – I.e.myou never stop learning about fathering & working on & improving what it is you do [get information & get talking about it]
– more time with your children is not necessarily the answer, rather how you spend that time & connect wi your children

Having fun with your kids is a great way to connect
– take regular walks &/or trips with your kids
– read together
– get busy on a small project together (making lunch, repairing a puncture)
– play pretend games at home
– enjoy some music together

Bonding with the newborn – essentials:
– one-on-one time
– pay attention to what the baby is telling you
– help out the partner with feeding (& formula preparation) where breastfeeding is not possible
– babies need assistance with sleeping & feeding, but babies also need “conversations” which act like brain building exercise for babies (frowns, tongue-pokes, grunts, mouth opening & smiles from 6 weeks of age)
– watch for signs when tired – yawning, looking away, turning their head

REMEMBER: it’s never too late to start bonding with your child

Hormonal Changes for Men
– these changes have been measured in men before, during & after pregnancy
– changes to testosterone, cortisol & prolactin
– these changes have been linked to increased sensitivity & nurturing in men

Remember also that affection literally grows the baby’s brain:
– cuddles & smiles induce natural feel-good chemicals such as neuropeptides in the baby’s prefrontal cortex & dopamine in the brain stem which induces tissue growth
– these also induce neural connections which grow the baby’s brain

High quality interactions do not have to be expensive gifts or holidays
– everyday interactions are more than sufficient
– high quality interactions include:
– taking a moment to listen attentively (stop what you are doing, look fully at them) & respond to what the children is saying
– making a special effort to explain something
– taking the time to offer choices & listen to the child’s opinions

Talking to children
– talk about what you are doing
– talk about what they are doing
– talk about how you are feeling
– also make small talk
– tell your children about things
– offer comments on what they are doing
– focus on their interests & offer your thoughts
– try to be nice & keep atmosphere positive [children emulate your tone]
– turn discipline moments (saying “no”, setting boundaries) into learning opportunities
– be clear behaviour about behaviour you want
– give them time to respond
– praise them when they cooperate
– model politeness
– when the child is not allowed to do something, explain why & offer alternatives
– show the child you can be strong & persistent, as well as gentle & respectful
– create challenging opportunities just “out of reach” so as to stretch & achieve success
– offer choices instead of commands

Note: a father’s warmth & physical affection is associated with higher self-esteem & fewer social & emotional problems in their children

Active, rough & tumble play (aka “rough housing”) is more than just fun:
– & it is not just priming for aggression
– research shows rough-housing teaches social skills & getting along with others (presumably because rough-housing is about neither person being injured)
– for e.g. What is fair (no eye gouging); what it feels like to be physically in control; learning how to manage him/herself when emotions are running high; & keep trying/persevere
– pick time & place, & ensure there is calming down time

Negotiating Parenting with Your Partner
1) look after your relationship
– maintain own friendships & interests
2) teamwork – work as a tag team
– listen to your partner’s interests & concerns (good & bad)
– be ready to step in
– to give your partner a break if/when needed
– back each other up
– avoid giving unwanted advice
– listen without necessarily giving advice/problem-solving
– catch up regularly about the children
– jointly discuss approaches & ideas for dealing with problems [do when stress is low]
3) managing conflict
– keep the lines of communication open
– be committed to working through differences
– children’s safety & well-being is closely associated with how you behave towards your partner
– show children disagreements are “normal” & can be resolved respectfully
– show children healthy strategies for coping
4) Division of labour
– disputes about household tasks have been shown to be second in terms of disputes, with money being the main source of disputes between couples

Source: http://www.parentingrc.org.au/images/Resources/Fathers-matter/fathersmatter_2009_web.pdf

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