The Role Of An Involved Father In A Child's Life

As we celebrate Father’s Day (June 21), we look at how an ‘involved father’ can make a great difference to a child’s life. Learn from real experiences and research in our exclusive article.

By Sindhu Sivalingam

The Role Of An Involved Father In A Child's Life

In today’s world, ‘version upgrades’ are not limited to software alone, but also to the role played by fathers. It may sound weird at first thought to compare software to fathers, but we are talking about the rapid pace at which changes are happening. From the grand old days of ‘lone breadwinners’ to becoming ‘also a breadwinner’, a father today is more involved in parenting than ever before. The good news here is that research has proven that a child with an involved father enjoys an edge. Studies indicate that when fathers play a positive role, the child does better, socially, emotionally and academically.

Hear it from Fellow Dads

On that note, we asked some fathers about little things they do with their children that helps them establish deep connections. Here’s a compilation of their enthusiastic responses. Psst…Take tips!

1. Be present: From changing nappies to being present for school meetings, I’ve always tried to be there for my now three-year-old child.

– Ramnath Govind

2. Connect, love and play: My son is three. I’m always there for him when I’m at home. On weekdays, my son is still asleep when I leave for work, but on weekends, there is always a group cuddle once he wakes up. From that time on, it’s daddy time right from preparing his meals. He loves our rough and tumble plays. He loves to talk to me, and I enjoy listening to him.

– Arun Krishnan

3. Communicate: I have a packed schedule at work, but I make sure I’m there to give my four-year-old his bath every single night. We talk to each other about our day and ask each other a lot of questions ‘What was your favorite activity at school?’, ‘Did Ashik (his best friend) come today?’, and so on. We also sing and make funny faces. During weekends, we cook and play together.

– Arun B

4. Discipline: I never yell. It has been that way since he was a toddler. Instead, I speak to him. And of course, there are consequences when my son crosses the boundaries we have laid for him or when he behaves defiantly. But these are consequences we (my son and I) have agreed upon earlier. My son is now 10 and we enjoy a great relationship.

– Bala Murali

When fathers play a positive role, the child does better, socially, emotionally and academically

5. Show her she can do it (life skills): I have two daughters in their early twenties. From when they were little, I encouraged them to challenge themselves. I'd take them trekking, climbing, running and cycling and they loved it. I would also take them along on many of my business errands. I encouraged them to fill up cheques, bank challans and applications and that has made them handle these things with confidence. Once they were 18, I taught them to ride the gear bike and the car. I believe experiences and exposure give children life skills that will help them face life. Today, I’m proud my daughters have the courage to steer their own lives.

– Siddharth Nath

6. Academic support and guidance: My children are 7 and 13 years old. Every evening, I help them with their homework and projects. Sometimes, if I don’t immediately know the answer, we go and dig up answers together. I don’t study for them but I tell them I’m around when they need me.

– Dheenadhayalan M

7. Educate: I strongly believe that my children’s education should be based on what they ‘learn’ from things happening around them rather than what they ‘study’ through academics. One thing that I have been doing to help my teens gain this wisdom is getting them into the habit of reading newspapers, every day. I buy them four newspapers daily (two in Tamil and two in English), which we read and later discuss. I’m so happy that I’ve made my children avid newspaper readers, which I believe, will go a long way in enriching their lives.

– Saravanakumar

The Role Of An Involved Father In A Child's Life

The Role Of An Involved Father In A Child's Life

What about children with no contact with biological father?

Under many circumstances, a child may not get to be with his biological father. Although studies show that a father is pivotal in bringing up a well-rounded child, none of them say the father must be biological! If you are a single mom, and your dad, brother or a friend showers your child with love and if your child looks up to this male adult, there you go. Your child has got his father-figure who can be a positive influence on him as much as a biological father can. And remember, a child who has a single loving parent is better off than a child being raised in a two-parent household with an ‘absentee’ or an abusive father.

The Role Of An Involved Father In A Child's Life

The Role Of An Involved Father In A Child's Life

As if you need motivation, here is some research that shows how a father’s positive involvement exactly helps in a child’s growth and development.

1. Better behaviour

An article published by the American Psychological Association titled 'The Changing Role of the Modern-Day Father', states how a father’s involvement is essential for a child’s social and emotional growth and development. A study along similar lines, 'Do early father-infant interactions predict the onset of externalising behaviours in young children?' Findings from a longitudinal cohort study, 2012, conducted by professors of the University of Oxford, shows how children whose fathers were ‘involved’ since childbirth showed lesser behavioural problems later.

2. Confidence and better judgment

Several studies suggest how fathers ‘play’ differently with their children. There is a lot of rough and tumble and pushes to explore. These early exposures to enjoyable challenges foster the skill of ‘secure exploration’ when it comes to facing new situations later in life, according to a study titled The Uniqueness of the Child–Father Attachment Relationship: Fathers’ Sensitive and Challenging Play as a Pivotal Variable in a 16 year Longitudinal Study, 2002, conducted by the American Psychological Association.

3. Better school performance

When a father or father-figure is positively involved in a child’s academics, the child does better at school. And, fathers need not even be strong in the subject matter. Accompanying the child to school, going to the PTA meets, speaking to the child about activities at school, about the classes, being around the child during homework and eating together helps the child perform better academically. The child also tends to enjoy school more! A study titled Time parents spend with children key to academic success, 2019, conducted by Ohio State University states it is not the genes but the active involvement of the father and mother that helps in the child’s performance at school.

4. Better Cognitive Ability

When fathers are positively involved in child-care and interaction, the child tends to have improved cognitive abilities, according to a report titled The Effects of Father Involvement: An Updated Research Summary of the Evidence, 2007, conducted by Centre for Families, Work & Well-being, University of Guelph.

Q&A with a busy, yet involved dad

Dr Muffazal Lakdawala, Founder and Chief Surgeon – 'Digestive Health Institute by Dr Muffi', father to his five-year-old son Kiaan, talks about his parenting and the role his own father played in his life.

1. You’ve been inspired by the values your father has demonstrated and taught you...

My father taught me virtues of hard work, simplicity and living within one’s own means. He taught me that one could achieve much if one is honest and caring for the poor and that’s where my passion for philanthropy comes from. My father-in-law, a father figure to me, is an Indian Army General. He taught me punctuality, team-work and the ability to dream big but with open eyes, as no limit is too high once you set your eyes on it. Both my father and father-in-law have been such big influences in my life.

2. And you are an ‘involved’ father yourself...

Kiaan (my son) is five years old. I make it a point to be there at least for some of his school interactions. My schedule is often controlled by my patients and surgeries, so I am never 100 per cent sure I will be anywhere. There was this one instance when I was supposed to be at Kiaan’s school for a story-reading session as he insisted that I come. I cleared up my surgery schedule to make sure I would be there at the allotted time. As luck would have it, I got stuck in an emergency case and was delayed. I ran to the school in my operation scrubs as soon as I finished. I was relieved that I managed to reach five minutes before the class ended. But it was worth the rush. I saw the look on my son’s face as he showed me off to his teachers and friends! He is still quite far from the world of homework, but we do engage him in a lot of reading, team sports and activities that make him happy!

We must make the most of the time and opportunity we get with them

3. Given your profession, and its time demands, do you feel the ‘daddy guilt’?

None of us mothers or fathers should be guilty of not being there all the time with our children. But we must make the most of the time and opportunity we get with them.

My wife is from an army background and has stayed months on end without seeing her father. On many occasions, they haven't had a chance to even speak to each other over the phone. Two decades ago, it was impossible to talk every day or send pictures. She used to write a letter to her father in a blue inland letter and tell him what's happening in her life. My mother-in-law posed as both father and mother then. We are indeed lucky to be in an age of FaceTime, aren't we?

4. Do you have dreams for your child's future – education and career?

All parents wish the best for their children and hope they do better than them. So do I. I have no dos and don’ts for what he should pick as a career. All I’d say is - whatever you do, do it with passion, and then aim at being the best in that. I hope Kiaan progresses into a smart, young, healthy adult and pursues his dreams with passion.

And I will be there to offer my support and counsel when he makes his decision. I am absolutely sure that Kiaan is not going to pursue surgery…just looking at the way he hits the ball! He loves football and cricket and I would be thrilled if he takes them up seriously.

Let’s take more ‘Dad’spiration from some other dads who are being the ‘Rock’ to their child.

Here are three youngsters sharing their stories of how their dads helped in building their lives by supporting their dreams, leading by example and literally being there through their ups and downs.

The Role Of An Involved Father In A Child's Life

The Role Of An Involved Father In A Child's Life
The Role Of An Involved Father In A Child's Life

Isn't it wonderful to hear these youngsters gush about their dads? And it's equally lovely to know that dads nowadays are giving it their all for their children. Let's wish all fathers and father figures a very Happy Father's Day. Keep rocking! 

Also read: 10 Reasons My Dad Is My Hero

5 Bad Habits Every Father Should Quit For A Happy Family

About the author:

Written by Sindhu Sivalingam on 11 May 2020.

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