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The color, symbolizes the sun, the eternal source of energy. It spreads warmth, optimism, enlightenment. It is the liturgical color of deity Saraswati - the goddess of knowledge.

The shape, neither a perfect circle nor a perfect square, gives freedom from any fixed pattern of thoughts just like the mind and creativity of a child. It reflects eternal whole, infinity, unity, integrity & harmony.

The ' child' within, reflects our child centric philosophy; the universal expression to evolve and expand but keeping a child’s interests and wellbeing at the central place.

The name, "Maa Sharda;" is a mother with divinity, simplicity, purity, enlightenment and healing touch, accommodating all her children indifferently. This venture itself is an offering to her........

The Role Of A Father In Child Upbringing


This essay won the first prize in National essay competition Mindapple, 2006: organized by Indian Academy of Pediatricians.

 

When someone asks about a mother’s role in child rearing, it’s easy to enlist the duties to be performed by a mother. But when the question about a father’s role arises one has to scratch the head. Traditionally the society has stamped the duty of father as “bread-earner” and that of the mother as “child-rarer”. To a certain extent this type of distribution of responsibilities is correct. As by nature, male are physically strong to face the hardships of moving out and earning, while female are gifted with emotions and gentleness required for child rearing. Her responsibilities are more clear and specific than fatherhood. Father’s role has remained ill defined and their absence in child upbringing has been taken for granted. Mother is a physical, emotional as well as a psychological need for healthy growth of a child, whereas fatherhood is more of a social role. Genetically a father’s duty ends even before the birth of a child (i.e. conception). Should he continue his involvement in child upbringing beyond conception to childbirth and up to adolescence? Whether a father’s involvement affects child’s potential? If yes, than what should fathers do to bring out best of his child? These questions are timely asked in this era of equality of man and woman. It is a time to rediscover the role of father with more and more families becoming nuclear and more and more mothers working out side.

 

Changing scenario – past & present

During the colonial period, fathers played a very active role in their children’s development. Industrialization in the 19th century separated the home and work place. Women stayed at home and men worked outside. This took fathers away from child rearing. The role of father is changing again in the 20th century. Today’s father is struggling with the new notions of manhood. Today’s ideal father is gentler, more child oriented. This trend has been “in” in the developed countries but still in our society even in double income families mother spend more time caring for children.

 

Indian concept

Indian history is also rich of examples where father had greatly influenced the child rearing. There are numerous famous personalities in various fields who have succeeded because of their fathers. But this is only the silver lining. The dark cloud consists of many families where fathers seem to have nothing to do with the child rearing. Not to think of helping or guiding their children, they cannot help themselves even for their own needs like making a cup of tea or filling a glass of water for drinking. Surprisingly, they take pride in this attitude of staying apart from the responsibility. Ultimately the mother bears the burden of child rearing and gets the blame if the child turns out bad. The father just gives his name to his child without really performing any duty.

 

Fathering styles

Actual fathering differs from father to father and society to society. In some societies father is just the chief of the family with an attitude of a dictator. In some cases father is just an ‘absent donor’ to the family, bringing home money but no time for the family. Some fathers care for sons only. They think daughters are responsibility of mothers. In more pitiable situations, a father neither earns nor cares for the children but still he remains a boss of the family. In few cases mother is the sole decision maker, the father remains hands-off in all the matters.

 

Why father’s involvement is needed?

Today’s economic demand has pulled the mother into the workplace. Today’s family is moving towards a more democratic partnership. Also the feminist movement has stimulated the fathers to play active role in child rearing by arguing that children are equal responsibilities of both parents. Most important, now it has been well recognized that a good father is essential for a healthy childhood.

 

Benefits of father’s participation in child upbringing

Father’s active role is not only beneficial to the children but also to the mother, family as well as the father himself.

Benefits to the family: Shared responsibility is beneficial to everyone in the family, even though the sharing may not be exactly fifty-fifty percent. Active participation of both parents helps in better involvement of other members in family responsibilities whether related or unrelated to child upbringing.

Benefits to the children: It gives a message of equality and respect to both male and female roles in the society. A father who cares for his children will also thrive to bring home a good amount of income. Economic support is necessary for better nutrition, health and education of the children. Children get benefited from experiencing a variety of styles of leadership and control by both parents that can be different but complementary to each other. Children learn to be fearless from father while mother teaches them about dangers.  He also provides security to the children.

Benefits to the mother: For a working mother a little help from the husband is always welcome. She is stressed and overburdened with the dual responsibilities of job on one hand and children and home on the other hand. Even with mothers as housewives, their patience would thin out by the end of the day. A father’s active participation lightens her pressure and provides companionship, especially in nuclear families.

Benefits to the father: It gives him sense of increased self confidence and emotional satisfaction of being an edge over other fathers. It also helps to strengthen the marital bonding.

 

Effect of father on child psychopathology

Fathers contribute on their child’s mentality through direct interactions as well as indirect processes such as marital conflict and family stress. Kids of troubled dads develop hyperactivity disorders, conduct disorders, and delinquency. Father’s external problems such as alcoholism and antisocial personality disorder often contribute to external problems (behavior disorders) in kids. In such cases a father should recognize his problem and feel free to take professional help not only for his sake but for his children and family.

 

What fathers need to do?

Realizing that a father is crucial for the development of a child’s pluristic potential let’s define how this role is to be played.

 

Father’s participation starts before conception

If a father thinks of participating in child care he should start it as soon as he has a mind to do it – even before planning for a child! He should establish a stable marital relationship with his wife. This is the time to sow the seeds to get a yield of happy confident children.

The expectant father should make arrangement for a consistent source of income to meet with the extra expanses. Also he should make such working arrangements so that he can spend more time home.

This could be a good time and reason to abandon habits like smoking, tobacco chewing, drinking. This change is advantageous not only for his health but also for the future of the child. For the best way to restrain your children from such habits is to set a good role yourself. Again the ill effects of passive smoking on the fetal growth and children are well established.

He should prepare himself emotionally for the added responsibilities that are attached with the joy and pride of becoming a father.

 

Getting the good news!

Once the father receives the good news he often have mixed feelings; feeling of increased joy in marriage, protectiveness of his wife, and pride in his virility (one thing men always worry about to some extent). At this stage he should help his wife in household errands, help her take rest and proper diet. He can also help himself clear his doubts by attending antenatal visits with his wife, reading books on childbirth & newborn care. Anything that he feels will make his wife happy is appropriate for him to do.

 

Active fathering starts after childbirth

Mothers have many ways to bond with her baby; she can breastfeed, give kangaroo care, give baby massage. She has already been in close contact with her through out the nine months. Fathers have a disadvantage for neither can they carry the pregnancy nor can he breast feed. He shouldn’t get discouraged for there are other ways to bond with his baby. The key is beginning as soon as possible! He can help change nappies, bathe, massage or clothe the baby. He can calm down a crying or colicky baby by gentle stroking or rocking (Try to sing only if one has a good voice!!!). Benefits of fathers involvement with their children begins in infancy. In a study infants with closely involved father, were found to be more cognitively developed at one year of age. Father’s sensitive and positive attitudes toward their infants were related to their children’s problem solving competence later in their lives. A father’s involvement should be multifaceted. He can successfully play his role by considering all the aspects of child rearing.

Spend quality and quantity time with them. This gives children a stronger emotional bond and a healthy self-esteem. Costly toys or gifts or occasional outings do not compensate for the few special minutes spent daily. A busy father can manage to find time with children by taking the family alongside in tours if possible. Keep the home and work place as near as possible to minimize the time lost in traveling. Don’t bring home the work and tensions. Make the best use of whatever time available.

Provide financial support. Money is no doubt necessary for food, clothing, shelter, quality medical care which facilitate healthy development. With the increasing cost of life, plan ahead and do proper investments for the future expanses of education, medical treatment etc.

Care for the health A healthy mind grows in a healthy body. Take care that the children eat healthy diet and develop good habits of washing, brushing etc. Best way to impose these habits is to be a role model himself. Have a watch on medical check-ups and vaccinations. Keep a separate fund for use during illnesses.

Satisfy emotional needs. Let your children know that you love them. Be a part of children’s joy, sadness, anger, fear and frustration. This helps children to be less inward looking and more aware of others. Teach them to overcome tantrums.  Be careful yourself not to shout at wife and servants. Children are good observers and followers.

Provide security. A child needs security from a father in different aspects.

  • Security from the real dangers of the outside world like a bully in neighbor, ragging in school or college, staying apart from wrong friends and addiction to smoking and drugs.
  • Security against child’s own fears of darkness, monsters and belief of being left away by parents.
  • Security against mothers too much protectiveness, while protecting her respect too.

Help intellectual development and academic success. It is desirable that a father helps in his child’s homework but if he is very busy he should at least find time to ask them about their homework and just have a look on it daily. By involving in their education he helps them achieve higher verbal and math test scores and greater problem solving and social skills. These academic benefits appear to extend into adulthood. He can offer a bedtime story; can encourage a love of books and language in the home. He can be a valuable source of information for a child who is naturally curious and full of questions.

Guide and discipline the children. Setting and enforcing healthy limits teach them proper behavior. He should maintain a balance in being friendly and imparting strict rules. The child should not be afraid of confessing a mistake however big it may be and at the same time he should not disregard any of his advices. Being overly permissive gives a message that ‘I don’t care’ and to a child not caring means not loving. A father should be strict in a case where a mother is more lenient. Remember that a child needs both mother and father, not two mothers. The best way to do this is through family meetings. There should be rules set out by discussion with the children. Both parties should try to follow them strictly. The children should not be punished or praised in an unfair manner.

Play with children. This helps them develop special bond. Fathers often play with their children in different ways than mothers do. He tend to use more physical style of play such as cricket, wrestling etc. that offers a number of benefits to children including enhanced cognitive abilities, better coordination. Limit the use of television and computers as the mode of entertainment. Outdoor plays help healthy life. Occasional

Family outings help create love for nature, teach them about planning and managing an event.

Show different perspectives. Parenting styles differ between parents, even if those parents share the same children. Exposing children to these differing out looks can be healthy. He can help children develop a sense of right and wrong that serves as a foundation of establishing a moral character.

Teach them life skills. Most of the essential life skills that children need to survive are learned within the home. Good manners, communicating skills are learned at home. Father can be the best teacher for other skills like driving , swimming, road crossing,  minor problem solving in plumbing, electric appliances, vehicle and toy fixing, according to the age of the child.. This help child become confident and self-dependent.

Help in daily family chores. He can feed, bathe, break up quarrels or read stories and help with homework of his children. He can also help preparing food, shopping and bed making. When he helps parenting he shares responsibilities which need not be exactly a 50-50 division. He not only lightens the workload of his wife and gives her a company but shows that he believes in equal responsibilities. This is what children, sons & daughters need to see in action if they are to grow up with equal respect for the abilities and rights of men and women. Sharing domestic burdens can help both parents to pursue fulfilling careers, and can strengthen marriages by boosting mutual understanding.

Help children to be men or women. Boys and girls by age of three years focus on their parent’s role. A boy senses that his destiny is to be a man, so he particularly watches his father- his interests, speech, his attitude towards work, his relationship with wife and children, how he gets along and copes with other men. A girl’s need of a father at this time is not as obvious on the surface but is just as great as underneath. Some of her relationships throughout the life will be with males. She gets her ideas about what males are supposed to be, primarily by watching her father. The kind of men she eventually falls in love with and marries will probably reflect the personality of her father.

Help in family stability. Fatherless families are a better predictor of violent crime than poverty or race. A father’s active involvement reduces the chances of children becoming sexually active too soon, or failing in school, becoming a juvenile delinquent or an adult criminal or committing youth suicide.

 

What fathers need to avoid

While glorifying the story of Do’s, the story of Don’ts often remains unsaid. In a joy and enthusiasm of child rearing; a father often forgets to practically implement the things not to be done. Conscious efforts are needed to avoid certain things for better rearing of children.

  • Don’t  give too much love that spoils the child
  • Though you have earned all through years for your only child, your penny is yours. Let the child learn from the early years that he too will have to work hard to be prosperous.
  • Don’t allow him to make use of your fame and position as a ladder to success. Encourage him to climb the steps with his own potentials, though he may not reach the top.
  • Don’t try to compensate for not spending time with him by extra pocket money or gifts.
  • Don’t try to drive him on your footsteps, give him the freedom to make his path. Guide them when they ask for.
  • Don’t be too protective. Allow him to face small dangers and explore the world himself.
  • Don’t lecture him on manners and morals. Give a silent message by reflecting in your own personality, all good things you expect from him.
  • Don’t expect too much. Remember that children are not little adults but adults are in fact grown up children.
  • Don’t use him as a tool to fulfill your unachieved dreams.

 

Fathering in special circumstances

 

Families with absent mother

Children require both mother and father for their healthy development. In cases of death, separation or divorce, when mother is not available, fathers face difficulty. For a mother it is difficult to play the role of father but for a father it is still more difficult to play the dual role. A close female relative or grandmother can best fill the absence to a small child. As the child grows older father should be honest in disclosing the reason behind the absence of the mother. Little more time and extra love with companionship will help fathers deal such situations successfully.

At home fathers

Sometime a situation arises when mother is outside working and earning for the family and the father remains at home. Children of such Mr. Mums grow up as emotionally and mentally healthy as children reared in more traditional families. Fears that boys will  somehow grow up as sissies or that girls will grow up as unfeminine have no basis in fact.

Father and adolescents

Adolescence is the age rocking between dreams and reality. Being a good father to a teenager is a tricky job. He should be a friend but remain firm in setting limits. Keep a watch on their friends, phones, internet use, by being close to them and not spying. Gently teach them the hazards of drugs and sexual involvement. Discuss matters like finances, pocket money, expenses on education and recreation. This will help them develop responsibility and realize the value of money. Taking child along at the workplace occasionally will help him develop interest in the matter. He should separately prepare the son and daughter for their future roles without any partiality of sex. A father needs to be flexible too. He should be ready to accept a minor change in his own personality, habits, and clothing styles at the suggestion of his teenage child. After all you need not to dress like Gandhi to preach or follow his ideals!

 

How fathers can be encouraged?

Often fathers don’t know how much important their involvement with their child is. It may not be the indifference but the ignorance that keeps them hands off from child rearing. Just celebrating the Fathers day on 18th January is not enough. Schools can take the initiative of arranging fathers meeting to make them aware and involve them in children education. Just as a mother passes the tradition of good mothering and housekeeping to her daughter, a father can train a son from childhood. Special classes for good fathering have already been started in western countries. They can read books, learn from other fathers in neighbor and relatives. In our traditional Indian families, a father can learn from his own father. He can think back of his own childhood experiences. He can also ask his children where he is lacking. He can discuss with his children about their expectation from him as a father. Whatever efforts he makes should be appreciated by the family.

 

Limitations for a father

Long working hours keep fathers away even if they wish to spare time for children. Paternity leave of only 15 days is a good initiative but not enough. Some fathers are afraid of being labeled as ‘feminine” if they help in house and child rearing. In traditional joint families they have to look after elder people also.

 

Conclusion

There is a Chinese saying “Whoever male will help me in my homework, I’ll call him my father.” Fathers shouldn’t bear this humiliation. They need to awaken.

We, human being, have survived on this planet throughout eras because we have very well accepted the “law of adaptation” We adapt according to priorities in life and priorities change with time. Today’s priority is quality of life. To improve the quality of life, women have started earning apart from child rearing. But if this race is run blindly, the children would be the sufferer. To keep the balance, fathers should also take the duty of child rearing mandatory and not obligatory. He needs to go out of tradition to meet the need of time. Even if the mother is a housewife the fact that children are equal responsibilities and that a father’s job is as important as that of a mother will always remain a fact. A message to every father “Loving your children’s mother is not the only important gift you can give to your children. Raising kids is not only Mama’s job or an accident or fate. To make yourselves happy in old age begin the efforts early as a young father. Remember to communicate and be available when your kids need you. Enjoy every moment of your fatherhood and your kids’ childhood. It never returns!”

 

 

Dr. NEEMA SITAPARA

MD (Ped), PGDip. (Adolescent Pediatrics)