Written by Sindhu Shivalingam and published on 07 January 2022.
Take a 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
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.
On that note, we asked some fathers about little things they do with their children that help 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 tumbles 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 geared 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.
|The Military Dad |
I was deployed on the field when my twin girls (now four years old) were newborns. I sure missed being around them during the first few months. But after my return, I have ensured I am present and involved in every aspect of parenting —school drop-offs and pick-ups, taking them to the park, sitting with them to help with their homework, telling them stories, playing games, taking our dog for a routine night stroll...you name it.
And, here is a short poem I wrote for them.
"Blessed am I,
To be honored,
God made me your Dad,
Strive I shall ever,
To live up as a 'Father',
And love you both,
As much as my motherland."
— A Military Dad
|POSITIVE INVOLVEMENT||NEGATIVE INVOLVEMENT|
A father who positively influences the child is one who
A father who negatively influences the child is one who
|Is responsive or sensitive to the cues given by the child.||Is not physically or emotionally available for the child through childhood. He merely serves as a breadwinner or is simply not around.|
|Frequently communicates with the child and listens to him.||May be physically present, but is constantly discouraging the child, being verbally or physically abusive.|
|Keenly pays attention to the child's actions.||Does not respond to any of the child's cues in any manner, even if he is around.|
|Understands and responds as necessary, instead of merely reacting to the child's actions. For example, an involved father will be able to look at his crying child and immediately assess if his child is tired, hungry, anxious or sleepy, or is just seeking attention.||Is inconsistent in offering support, affection and care.|
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 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 Far-Away Father|
I work in a different city. My wife and daughter live in our hometown. But there isn't a day that goes by without me talking to my 12-year-old daughter. I want to be present in her life. I send her pictures of fun things I come across. Sometimes she calls me silly, sometimes she sounds too busy. But there are days when she calls me by herself. She blurts out issues she faces at school, or with her mom, or with studies and tests, or she talks about her anxieties. I am her sounding board then, and we discuss how she can handle the situation. I whole-heartedly believe my everyday calls, silly photos and inquiries about her studies have helped build this strong relationship we share. I may not be with her every day, but she knows I'm always there for her.
— Ramachandran, Ernakulam
|A father's journey|
Here is a father who tells us how he became the father he is today. When I was growing up back in the 80s and 90s, I was in a rather conventional household where gender-stereotyping was 'inadvertently' evident. I 'feared' my dad and therefore, my words and interactions were limited and confined to the report cards (with a couple of whacks on the hand each time the marks meter dipped) and requests for pocket money. Interestingly, this wasn't the case with me alone. I realized most of my friends too had similar 'engagements' with their dads. As I grew into adulthood, the interactions got better, but just when I felt it was getting conversational, he said goodbye to the world. It took me another decade to understand what the real issue was. For him, he was the head of the family and for me, it was a dad-fearing environment. So, when I was to become a father at some stage, I was pretty clear about the role I would play — engaging and open, with nothing for my child to hide or fear. For that, I also realized I needed to be a hands-on dad first up and connect as much as possible. My son is five and we share a lovable bond. I am fully aware that in parenting, time flies and with it, the expectations. I am ready to tackle issues that are bound to arise as my son hits his teens in a few years. What can definitely help is a solid foundation of connection I have managed to establish with my little one. Just live the moment, share the stage and feel good.
— Sameer, Bangalore
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.
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.
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.
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.
When fathers are positively involved in child-care and interaction, the child tends to have improved cognitive abilities.
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 the 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, teamwork, 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 percent 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.
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.
ASHWINI RAJA (22), SOFTWARE ENGINEER, CHENNAI
My father, Krishna Raja, was born and raised in Kolkata. He has been my pillar of support since school days. When I had a doubt in a subject, my dad and I would both find answers together. He's also made sure I did not reel under the pressure to perform. For him, giving my best mattered. He guided me through one of the most difficult decisions I had to make so far — the question of which career path to follow. I was torn between pursuing journalism and computer science. We had a detailed discussion about my interests, post which he asked me to take my time to figure out where I would be happier. And it helped me make a thought-out decision. He has taught me to evaluate situations from different perspectives and that communicating the right way could avoid and solve conflicts. This particularly helps me when working in a team.
ANANYA NANDA (24), KANPUR, WORKS AT THE NATIONAL SKILL DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
My father, Cdr. Gautam Nanda, has served in the Indian Navy for 25 years. His discipline and organized way of doing things have percolated down to me. When I was about to embark on my career, he told me something that always flashes in my mind whenever I face a challenging situation. He asked me to look into the mirror and envision a fully accomplished, independent, mature and worthy woman. That vision keeps me going and gives me that extra push to always be better.
DIVYA RAJKUMAR (25), MADURAI, NATIONAL LEVEL SWIMMER AND A PROFESSIONAL FITNESS TRAINER
My father, K Rajkumar, works as sub-inspector of police in Madurai. He has great interest in physical fitness which inspires me. He is a black belt in Karate and is also a Kabadi player. When I was in school, he encouraged me to enroll in a swimming summer camp. And now, I'm a national-level swimmer. Every morning, my dad used to wake up at 4.00 am, prepare juice, wake me up and take me to Alagarkovil rock and train me. Then we would go to the pool to practice. My marks at school weren't great, since I always had a handful of swimming competitions to train for. So, most teachers disliked me. But my dad never let marks define me. When I was in college, my HOD once got annoyed that I took an OD (On Duty) for a tournament. She marked zero for me in my internal examination in all subjects. My father made a big fuss about it, got my TC and sent me to a different college. Now, my father has had a heart attack and so, he cannot work out as he used to. But I'm here to carry his legacy forward. You can tell by my profession. Although I've completed B.E (civil) & MBA (HR), I am currently a fitness instructor.
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.
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