The role of supportive fathers in raising successful young men

While the role of mothers is quite aptly lauded, one of the unsung heroes in a child’s life is their father, especially when it comes to raising young boys.

Studies show that children who have a supportive father that shows both emotional and cognitive assistance with learning have stronger peer relationships and also perform better in school.

The Parent Centre’s dedicated Fatherhood Training Programme assists fathers in building strong connections with their children, to better serve them in life.

“From our experience, when you we ask any group involved in our training programmes about the role of their mothers in their lives, there is usually ample positive response.

“In contrast, many are ambivalent or negative when  it comes to talking about their fathers and the role they have played,” says PACES (Parent and Community Empowerment and Support) manager, Jonathan Hoffenberg.

There are generations of normative expectations for young boys, which still negatively impacts how they father their own sons today.

A recent report by Equimundo, titled Step by Step, Navigating Boyhood in SubSuharan Africa, describes the landscape of challenges and expectations that boys face as they grow older, especially around being strong and self-reliant.

The report highlights that boys are being left behind, they aren’t doing as well at school as their female classmates, and they aren’t socialised in the same way. They are raised to not be open about their emotions or to display expression.

One of the ways supportive fathers can avoid this is to be more nurturing, more playful, and to show their sons a full range of emotions.

A lot of men (who are themselves repressed) get to access those feelings and emotions that they are not normally used to expressing when they play with their children, while at the same time modelling good behaviour for their children.

“Hands-on fatherhood creates a shift in culture. It breaks cycles of men not knowing how to be a father because they did not have a father figure in their own life. Involved fathers serve as role models who are able to positively influence men and boys in need of guidance and inspiration.

“Furthermore, involved fathers have the power to reduce the rate of gender-based-violence, because it can undo a lot of the unwanted rhetoric around gender equality,” says Hoffenberg.

Fathers and babies

  • Fathers and mothers encourage their babies to explore the world, however fathers have a different style to mothers as their play is more physical and involves verbal stimulation. This type or style of play fosters a healthy development of the baby’s brain and has a lasting effect on their social emotional and intellectual development

Fathers and small children

  • Fathers who play with their toddlers provide a safe but challenging environment so that they learn how to interact with the world and with others. Through ‘rough and tumble play’ fathers create obstacles for their children and demand respect for limits and boundaries. Fathers also encourage toddlers to explore their own strength, their abilities to try new things

Overall benefits of father involvement for children

  • Fathers’ positive presence contributes to children’s cognitive development, intellectual functioning, and school achievement
    • Children growing up with fathers who are positively involved are less likely to experience depression, fear, and self-doubt
    • When fathers are positively involved, boys are less likely to search for alternative sources of masculine identification and validation like gangs
    • Children are more secure in their relationships with partners of the opposite sex
    • The presence of a father in the household is associated with positive outcomes such as children’s improved access to resources in the community, increased protection, and higher levels of household expenditure

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