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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Fathering: The Most Important Job in the World

A brand new year. A brand new experience. That's what school children across Singapore went through last week, the start of a brand new school year. Anxious parents across the country accompanied their children to their new schools, hopeful that their little ones would adjust to the biggest change in their lives as yet. My good friend Edwin remarked sadly that he was not able to join his oldest daughter, A, who is entering Primary One this year. For my step-sister Priscilla, her son, E, has been eagerly anticipating school even before the year began, and he enjoyed his first day in Primary School.

Also present in school was the Education Minister Heng Swee Kiat. Addressing the parents, Mr Heng stressed that fathers should take a more active role in raising their children. He noted that involved fathers have a postive influence on their children, a role that should be shared with the mothers.

Research studies concur with Minister Heng's comments. For instance, an article in the US-based journal Child Development observed that fatherly involvement tended to have a protective effect which helped to keep their children out of delinquent activities such as stealing and drug use. The longitudanal study of more than 600 adolescents, published in 2007 by Rebekah Coley and Bethany Medeiros, explained that such a phenomenon was due to fathers having more regular contact and conversations with their children, and who took greater responsibility for their children's care.

Another study, written by Dr. Armand Nicholi Jr. and published in a White House Paper in 1984, noted that an emotionally or physcially absent father contributes to a child's (1) low motivation for achievement; (2) inability to delay immediate gratification; (3) low self-esteem; and (4) susceptibility to group influence and juvenile delinquency.

These studies have emphasised the importance of the father's role in a child's life. It is no wonder that the writer Josh McDowell, in his book The Father Connection, describes fathering as the "most important job in the world". He concurrently describes it as the "most frightening job in the world", as well as the "most rewarding job in the world". Josh elaborates that unless fathers are present, pay attention and are close to their children, the father influence would become a distant third when compared to other influences such as peer pressure and the media. He stressed that it's so important for fathers to provide their children with unconditional love and acceptance.

Fathering is especially important for me personally due to my family background. Since my parents' divorce years ago, I did not have a strong fatherly involvement in my life. While I am thankful that I still meet my dad occasionally, it is not the same as having an active father play a daily role in my life; and that was what I really missed in my growing up years. I saw that in my good friend Edwin's father, who would get up early each morning to pray for the family, as well as to take time to bring his children out for breakfast on a regular basis. Since then I have told myself that I would like to be such a father to my son.

John Eldredge, the author of Wild At Heart, shared stories of how he would take his sons on special nature expeditions to spend quality father-son time. That is the type of father I would like to be. Of course my son Z is still young, barely 17-months-old; but I treasure the special evening walks with him. Just over the weekend I took Z alone to walk along the canal near our home; Sue was busy baking and I thought the walk would give her some space alone. It was such a meaningful time to tell him Bible stories, to sing with him, and to teach him scientific facts about plants and nature. I'm glad for this special "Daddy Time" that we have set aside each evening for him; it complements the "Mummy Time" that Sue has with him in the mornings. In fact I believe the time spent with him has already borne fruit. Just this evening he said his first complete sentence, "Where did Daddy go?" To which my wife replied, "To the computer room." And the little boy promptly made his way from the dining room to the computer room to look for me. What a precious moment which highlighted how important his daddy's presence is to Z!

I'm glad that the Education Minister is taking time to share his concerns on fathering. Minister Heng's comments echo the societal trend in Singapore for a greater emphasis on the role of the father in the family. Already, we are beginning to see increased media exposure for organsations such as the Centre for Fathering; and the Dads for Life movement is beginning to make splashes locally. It is truly my desire to see more fathers take on the mantle of leadership in the household. In a frightening world where peer pressure and media influences can take precedence over familial influence, it is all the more important for us fathers to rise up to the challenge. We need to give our children the unconditional love and acceptance they need - so that they can become the men and women they were meant to be.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate your writing, and your obvious dedication to your family. I am interested in how faith informs parenting, and more generally, how people can be more intentional about their parenting, so that their words and deeds are consistent with their values. I believe this is a practice that is sorely lacking in most households. Thank you for your work. (drjohnrich.com)

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