Text: Monika Pedersen
In decades past, the traditional role of a father was to be the breadwinner and the disciplinarian. The remainder of child-rearing was left to the mother. Fortunately, this approach has changed drastically, and fathers are expected to play a significant part in a child's life. A father's role is different from a mother's, and it complements the parenting team in whichever gender configuration.
A father's responsibilities
Though the primary bond is between mother and child, a father reinforces the safe environment created by the mother by interacting with the new-born and later toddler. A father is the second person from whom a child feels love and security, and so the concept of connecting and trusting others begins.
Fathers can be good listeners. Men are often a little more neutral and detached and can provide a child with a different perspective - this can help diffuse tensions.
Fathers also have responsibility for financial matters, household chores, and child activities or supervision. Active involvement in parenting means that similar pressures and challenges mothers experience are appreciated.
Moreover, a more equitable split in tasks allows a partner to support the mother, who then can experience a better sense of balance. This benefits a child as there is a greater sense of tranquillity within the household. It also helps keep the parental relationship on a more even track. Furthermore, it can allow a mother to return to work, giving the household more choices.
Denmark is forward-thinking regarding paternal leave, and its laws give fathers the right to time off work to connect with their new child. They can have two weeks within the first fourteen weeks of the birth, and then there is a period of 32 weeks where they can take paternal leave. Of course, economic decisions or work pressures may prevail, but the law clearly highlights the serious stance towards fathers taking time off for the vital family bonding process.
Research confirms that a father who takes paternity leave connects far better with a new-born than one who continues to work.
In the long term, this promotes a more meaningful relationship. In some of the larger cities in Denmark, father parenting classes are offered, so father groups can learn and prepare for the role and discuss their concerns and questions. Once more, this highlights the keenness to advocate for the significance of the fatherly role.
“Denmark is forward-thinking regarding paternal leave, and its laws give fathers the right to time off work to connect with their new child.”
Studies indicate that a father actively involved with a child's upbringing increases their offspring's likelihood of academic success. It is documented that boys often underachieve in school, especially in their early to mid-teenage years, and a positive role model in a father can help keep a child motivated. Research indicates that fathers can help to advance language and numeracy skills through their interactions and assistance with school studies. For example, reading regularly with a child and discussing books and stories increases a child's literacy progress. In the same way, working through numeracy exercises and constructing games or fun activities that involve the use of numbers solidifies a child's mathematical learning. These actions help build strong foundations that allow the new knowledge to sit firmly and ensure that a child's academic pathway is more successful.
It can be argued that either parent could promote this, yet, schools are actively encouraging fathers into the school environment as, traditionally, participation has been low. Where there has been an increase in fatherly engagement, positive outcomes have been experienced.
It is not only in school that this is important, as the impact also comes through activities such as sports and recreational hobbies. For boys, the more tactile activities help build physical and mental resistance. While for girls, the protective and sensitive father instils a sense of worth and presents a well-adjusted role model that often helps prevent involvement in dysfunctional relationships and teenage pregnancies.
The inclusion of fathers in a child's caregiving is vital and beneficial whether within the same household or if parents live separately. Being a reliable force, giving time regularly, ongoing, makes a powerful difference to a child's start'.