Dr. Ben Carson, ‘The Big Picture’
Why do some men live for their kids and others brush them aside? Dr. Ben Carson, a famous pediatric neurosurgeon, was raised without a father yet became great fatherhood advocate. Dr. Carson is just one example of the thousands of men who see the value of a father because they did not have a good fathering experience of their own, and felt the pain. On the other hand, there are men who were raised by very good fathers but fail as dads themselves. A very common cause for bad fathers, however, is the fact that they themselves had inept fathers. We see, therefore, that one of the biggest influences that determines what kind a father a man will be, is his own father, or lack of one.
Beyond their own experience, what factors determine a father’s style?
Here are some other factors that play into how a man fathers his children.
Culture: “There is a strong connection between culture and parenting. What is acceptable in one culture is frowned upon in another. This applies to behavior after birth, encouragement in early childhood, and regulation and freedom during adolescence. There are differences in affection and distance, harshness and repression, and acceptance and criticism. Some parents insist on obedience; others are concerned with individual development. This clearly differs from parent to parent, but there is just as clearly a connection to culture.” From “Parenting Across Cultures” by Helaine Selin
Time and place are significant factors in fatherhood. When I was a kid in the 50’ and 60’s, fathers were more authoritarian and emotionally detached. Nowadays, caring fathers are becoming more involved and nurturing. Certainly men from the Middle East have different styles than men in Sweden. Since America is a melting pot, we can have a whole range of parenting styles. More often than not, parenting styles are mimicked by their children for good or for bad.
Where does a man get his prestige? Historically it is in a man’s occupation that he gets recognition and praise. Even Fathers of the Year are usually accomplished men in some field other than parenting. Dadhood does not get the attention it deserves, although that situation is improving.
Pop Culture: Television has done nothing to help the image of fathers since Father Knows Best, last produced in 1963. These days you will find few heroes as dads, just men who have super powers or super egos. Many naive people are led to believe that's how men, in general, behave as fathers and this behavior is expected. Look here for examples.
Personality: A selfish man is not a good father. Neither is a lazy man nor one who can’t finish anything. If you are flashy, egotistic, impatient or irresponsible – forget it! Stop before you become a father! If you already are a father, re-evaluate yourself and try your best to get a better perspective of your responsibilities. You have a lot of leeway because your children will likely love you for who you are, at least for a while. Get to know them and let them know you by being open and getting them to talk.
Nurturing: Mothers are known for nurturing. Fathers are often forgotten when nurturing is discussed. But fathers can nurture better in certain areas, such as how to be a man, for sons; or how to be treated by a man, for daughters. They can also nurture in most of the same areas as the mothers do. Really, it takes a team that compliments each other to give the best examples to your children. Nurturing and protecting are the two main responsibilities of parents. An earlier post of mine talks about nurturing.
Drugs and alcohol: If you abuse either, your example and priorities will be compromised! Do I need to say more?
Government: The government has become more and more involved in the lives of families. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on the make-up of the family and the direction you would like society to take. Read “Don’t Feed the Bears”.
These are just a few of the major influences that may determine what kind of father you are, or will become. Most parents, who have difficulties raising their children, do not look into alternative ways to parent. They are stuck making the same mistakes, over and over! We must learn from each other! No matter the influences discussed herein, there are things you can do to be the best dad you can be. I discuss some of these in, “The Seven Be’s of a Successful Dad”. Be open to the possibilities!