A good father guides and directs the family. Such a role is not merely the result of an accident, a custom, or tradition, but it is advocated in the Bible. Many studies have indicated that where the father is respected as the leader, the family is less prone to emotional difficulties than when the father’s authority is missing.
Leadership in this sense, however, doesn’t imply the dominating, dictatorial, unquestionable authority with which some men tend to rule their families. Family leadership concerns both husband and wife. It is not one-sided. It doesn’t mean that the husband always commands and the wife submits. In a mutually supportive relationship, the husband exercises ‘soft’ leadership.
An intelligent husband understands his wife’s position on matters and will not make unreasonable demands on her or the children. He is sensitive to each family member’s needs. He may not always give in to his wife’s requests, but makes every effort to deal fairly with her and the children. He considers each person’s feelings in matters, sympathises with their position, and recognises each person’s rights. A supportive leader is respectful, fair-minded and kind. The entire family is secure when operating under this type of leadership.
Many problems arise when leadership roles become confused. A child who grows up in a home where the parents have reversed their roles often establishes a pattern of rebellion and delinquency. Studies have revealed that a dominating mother-figure can confuse a boy searching for his identity. A study of unwed fathers in the US showed that 85 per cent of them came from homes where their mothers assumed the dominant role or where there were no fathers at all.
Take this case study for instance: A group of 369 high school boys and 415 girls were asked to list the ten most desirable qualities for fathers. The quality that received the most votes was ‘spending time with his children’. The absent father can trigger mental illness, juvenile delinquency, and homosexual tendencies in his children. A researcher on mental health says a father has the power to reduce delinquency and has an influence on his child’s mental health and IQ.
So who is an absentee father? A father is absent if he is not home regularly. For instance, the busy doctor or the successful salesman who works round the clock. A good way to check up on this is to count the number of meals a week father eats with the children.
The time a father spends with his child is important. A child will remember affectionately the scenes of childhood only if the father was really there. Most of the time a child keeps score in terms of the time spent together more often than the place of action. He will fondly remember the day when dad walked with him to the park with more enthusiasm than the day dad brought home a new toy. And yet it is more difficult every day for the average child to spend a significant amount of time with his dad. It seems that there is an important correlation between higher pay for dad and less time for the family. If he’ll give his child undivided attention when he asks a question, if he’ll help him solve a problem the moment it arises, the child will rate it as quality time.
Fathers who aren’t around, who don’t make the decisions at home or aren’t an example for their children will one day find themselves on the outside. These men lament later in life that their children are strangers in their homes. Successful fathers are recognised by their children as caring, helpful, available, sometimes right and sometimes wrong, but consistently loving and approachable.
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