What Makes Dad Indispensable?

by Joseph Cohen, President and co-founder, Empowered Fathers in Action (EFA) Foundation

Outspoken women from the entertainment industry to the corporate world during the past few generations have become influential. Their success has been a catalyst for a shift in conventional parenting roles. As a result, more women are having children outside of marriage and adequately fill the role of breadwinner. Dads seem to be dispensable.

Many dynamic women are no longer settling on a man just to have a child. This shift in parenting roles has caused some scholars and writers to grapple with an important question. Are dads really dispensable? 

What The Experts Say

“This view overlooks a growing body of research,” says W. Bradford Wilcox, Ph.D., author of Gender and Parenthood: Biological and Social Scientific Perspectives. “Men bring much more to the parenting enterprise than money, especially today,”  says Wilcox. 

Mr. Wilcox also writes for The Atlantic, an influential magazine publishing for over one hundred years. He wrote about child rearing in The Distinct, Positive Impact of a Good Dad – How Fathers Contribute to their Kids’ Lives. “Fathers are more likely to encourage their children to take risks, embrace challenges, and be independent,” says Wilcox.  “Whereas mothers are more likely to focus on their children’s safety and emotional well being.” 

Safety and emotional well-being are critical for helping a child feel secure and self-confident. Taking risks, embracing challenges, and being independent must be modeled and nurtured to foster a prosperity mindset. Risk taking is vital for accomplishing new things and the precursor for embracing a new challenge. Surmounting new challenges leads to personal development.

The combination of feeling self-confident and secure with risk-taking empowers children. “It teaches them to be braver in unfamiliar situations and to stand up for themselves,” says psychologist Daniel Paquette.

What the Research Says

Mr. Paquette has reviewed research about dads and found a few important things. They are more likely to have their kids talk to strangers. They encourage their kids to overcome obstacles.  And they even have their toddlers put out into the deep during swim lessons.  

The swim lesson study found that fathers tend to stand behind their children so the children face their environment. But mothers tend to position themselves in front of their children to establish visual contact with the children. In facing their environment children are being taught to welcome and confront new situations. Embracing new situations fosters risk-taking and accepting challenges.

The Foundation for Sustainable Success

A teenager or young adult that is willing to take a risk and accept a challenge will become more independent. Having a sense of independence will foster their desire to build skills and contribute to society. Being aware of their capability to provide value to others leads to having a prosperity mindset. A prosperity mindset can help a youngster make a difference in the world and lay the foundation for sustainable success. 

Joseph Cohen is a former New York city public school teacher and journalist who recently published Write Father, Write Son : A Bond-Building Journey.

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