Saturday, 15 June 2013

Celebrating Father's Day

Sunday is Father's Day. For many of us it will be a day to thank our dads for the impact they've had and are having, in our lives. Looking through our family album this week I found a few pictures of my son, my father and me all together. Three generations, two sets of fathers and sons and one person, who is both a father and a son at the same time.

Growing up, my father was frequently unable to attend my school functions, but he was always a supportive, if sometimes intimidating, presence at home, where he emphasized the importance of doing my best at everything I tried.  I wondered about why he seemed to be missing from many of my various school milestone pictures before it dawned on me that he was the one behind the camera taking the pictures. Its a pretty good metaphor for a lot of dads - men who do their best to support their children who may not always be directly in the picture but are always important in bringing what matters into focus.

CIVITAS, an organization dedicated to helping bring out the best in students who find themselves behind at school, emphasizes the important roles fathers can play in the lives of students. CIVITAS suggests that one reason that fathers have such an influential role at is because they tend to challenge children to try new experiences and to become more independent. Challenged children have more opportunity to develop problem-solving skills. In one study, children whose fathers expected them to handle responsibilities scored higher in tests of thinking skills. Accomplishing tasks is so important, and fathers' involvement is so crucial, that fathers may have a larger influence on their children's self-esteem at during the elementary years than do mothers.

CIVITAS further suggests that by encouraging children to take on new challenges, fathers help them not only to learn new skills, but also to take responsibility for their own actions. Fathers with strong commitments to their family provide a model of responsible behaviour for their children.  Such children have an internal sense of control, and are more likely to believe that their successes and failures are due to their own efforts rather than due to external factors. These children tend to take more responsibility for their actions and rarely blame others for their mistakes.

Education.com further supports the importance of fathers pointing out that "when fathers are involved their children learn more, perform better in school and exhibit healthier behavior. Even when fathers do not share a home with their children, their active involvement can have a lasting and positive impact"

My own children have lots of school days photos that include their dad, but as a teacher and administrator at their school I had an almost unfair advantage of daily opportunity. Father's Day may be observed but once a year but the potential for fathers to play a valuable role in the education of their children exists all year round.

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