Fathers and father figures: The need for male role models

Over the years Father’s Day has become a day to not only honour your father, but all men who act as a father figure. Stepfathers, uncles, grandfathers and adult male friends are all honoured on Father’s Day. So, even if you are not a biological Dad, if you make some special contribution to someone’s life, don’t be surprised if they wish you a Happy 
Father’s Day.

Irrefutable research shows that mothers are typically nurturing, soft, gentle, comforting, protective and emotional. Fathers tend to be challenging, prodding, loud, playful, physical, and encourage risk taking. Children need a balance of protection and reasonable risk taking. If a positive male role model is not present in the life of a child there is a void in this area. Studies have shown that involvement of a father or a positive male role model in the lives of children has profound effects on them. Father-child interaction promotes a child’s physical well being, perceptual ability and competency in relating to others. These children also demonstrate greater ability to take initiative and they evidence self-control.

Child and teen development expert Dr. Robyn Silverman describes seven characteristics of a positive role model that remain constant.

Model positive choice-making

Eyes are watching and ears are listening! When it comes to being a role model, you must be aware that the choices you make not only impact you but also the children who regard you as their superhero.

Think out loud

When you have a tough choice to make, allow the children to see how you work through the problem, weight the pros and cons, and come to a decision. The process of making a good decision is a skill and one your children will learn through example.

Apologise and admit mistakes

Nobody’s perfect! When you make a bad choice, let those who are watching and learning from you know that you made a mistake and how you plan to correct it.

Follow through

We all want children to stick with their commitments and follow through with their promises. However, as adults, we get busy, distracted, and sometimes a bit lazy. So, if you say you’re going to do something, make sure you do.

Show respect

You may be driven, successful, and smart (but whether you choose to show respect or not speaks volumes about the type of attitude it takes to make it in life.)

Be well-rounded

While we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin, it’s important to show children that we can be more than just one thing. Great role models aren’t just parents or teachers. They’re great teachers and challenge themselves to get out of their comfort zones.

Demonstrate confidence

Whatever you choose to do with your life, be proud of the person you’ve become and continue to become. Psychologist Albert Bandura believed that much of learning comes from observational learning and instruction rather than from obvious, trial-and-error behaviour. Imitation of a model’s behaviour when the model is no longer present is a powerful learning skill. The critical features of imitation are that the child need not produce the behaviour right away, and the model need not be reinforced in order for the observer to learn. Social learning theorists believe that personality is learned and that new behaviours can be acquired by simply watching a model.

The effects of modelling on behaviour are:

Teaches new behaviours.

Influences the frequency of previously learned behaviours.

May encourage previously forbidden behaviours.

Increases the frequency of similar behaviours.

Keep in mind that children are like sponges. They soak up everything they see and hear. Why no let them soak up the positive? Today one can find many different kinds of fathers. Some are what we would think of as a traditional father, others are long-distance dads, step-dads, grandfathers, uncles or simply role models. No matter what kind of father he is, he impacts the life 
of his child.

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