Author: Alison Johnson
As Father's Day approaches, lots of us are thinking of good gifts or fun outings to celebrate the dads in our lives. Maybe it's a homemade card, breakfast in bed or a family hike or fishing trip, or perhaps some tools for the garage, sports equipment or a day in full command of the TV remote control.
But the biggest thing mothers can do to make a father feel valued is to simply notice his involvement in his children's lives, says Dr. Will Courtenay, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and an internationally recognized expert in helping men and fathers.
According to Courtenay, author of the 2011 book Dying to Be Men, 89 percent of fathers say their wife, partner, or child’s mother is the greatest source of help that they draw upon to be a better father.
"A mother’s encouragement is one of the biggest factors contributing to a father being involved with his kids," he says. "Mothers can play a big part in helping Dad realize how important he is to the family."
That doesn't just mean bringing home the bacon. “Everything we know about the positive impact fathers have on their kids has little to do with income," Courtenay says. "It’s about how engaged and emotionally involved dads are. It's the simple things like a conversation on a walk, reading a book or throwing a ball that really make difference for their children."
Fathers have a unique impact on their kids, in part because they tend to interact differently with children than mothers do, parenting experts say. For example, they tend to engage in physically active play more often.
The more dads are involved in daily activities such as eating meals together, going on outings or helping with homework, the less risk a child has for behavioral, academic and social problems, numerous studies have shown. Boys whose fathers offer praise and compliments also perform better on tests of cognitive achievement than boys whose fathers are cool and aloof. And sons learn many lessons on how to treat a wife or partner based on how their dads treat their moms -- while daughters can see how they should be treated, too.
So this Father's Day, tell a dad all the great things he does for his family. Be specific. Have his kids tell him, too, whether in a card or a conversation (or both!). And then try to remind him of how you feel throughout the year. Nobody should need praise to be a good parent, of course, but we all do better with encouragement and recognition.
Happy Father's Day!