Singaporean fathers are important people. That is what the Public Perception Survey on Fatherhood in 2009 found. At least 97% of Singaporeans believe that fathers play a valuable part in their children’s lives. The survey was commissioned by the then Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, with more than 2,000 respondents. It also found that:
- 82% of fathers have a strong influence in shaping their children’s values;
- 96% of the fathers surveyed feel very committed in their role as a father;
- 95% of fathers feel that raising children is one of the most fulfilling experiences a man can have.
As a father, you play a unique role in your child’s life and you make a significant difference in shaping their self-esteem, character and values.
A father’s influence
Fathers have a huge impact on their children’s psycho-social development. Fathers who spend time with their children provide a sense of security and authority to the family. Children look to their fathers for comfort and assurance whenever they feel insecure or uncertain. Thus, it is important for fathers to make time for their young children and learn to interact positively with them. The more time they can spend with their children, the bigger the impact on their children’s lives.
Other studies show that when a child develops an attachment to the father, they will feel emotionally secure, confident to explore their surroundings and have better social connections with their peers as they become older. That’s not all. Play makes learning fun and inspiring for children. The way fathers play with their children has an important impact on their children’s cognitive, emotional and social development. Children with an involved, nurturing and playful father have better educational outcomes and are better able to regulate their emotions and behaviour.
The father’s role is significant and beneficial, not just to his children, but to himself too. Research suggested that men who are fathers are more satisfied with their marriage and have closer relationships with their children. They are also more connected and are able to cope with work-related stresses better.
Raising an all-rounder
Fathers tend to challenge their children to explore, learn new experiences and be more independent. As a result, children learn to build self-confidence and develop their problem-solving skills during their growing years, which is critical to their mastery of new skills and building of their self-esteem. On the contrary, fathers who discourage their children or impose their will on their children may hamper their children’s creativity, motivation and problem-solving skills.
10 steps to being a great dad and supportive husband
1. Be encouraged
Even as your wife is preoccupied with caring for your baby and has no time for you, do not be discouraged. Now is the time for you to build that special baby and dad bond. At the same time, pamper yourself a little more by exercising, relaxing and reflecting. A happier you will translate into positive vibes for the family.
2. Practice makes perfect
Show care for your baby by learning how to change diapers; give a bath; comfort them when they are fretful. It gets easier once you have done this a few times.
3. Make time
After work, put your baby in a pram and go for a walk. Alternatively, you can read to them, which is a good start to foster a reading habit. Spending more time with your baby is important, so if need be, review the extra time spent at work and your own favourite pastime. Your presence with your baby matters and will contribute towards their overall well-being.
4. Be calm
Your wife may get upset easily and your baby may need more attention. It is important to stay calm and be the pillar of strength so that you can make good decisions for your family.
5. Make a stand
If your wife criticises you for the way you hold your baby, or the way you fold their clothes or diapers, do not be discouraged or upset. Instead, assure her that you can do it and that you will get better with more practice. In fact, tell her to trust you to do the best you can for your baby.
6. Be your wife’s best friend
Encourage your wife as she may be easily distressed over your baby and breastfeeding after birth. Help her find ways to get comfortable. Get her some healthy snacks, books to read or even pop in her favourite DVDs so that she can relax while she breastfeeds. If your wife is expressing milk for your baby, you may want to take over the feeding of the baby. You can bond with your baby and give your wife her much needed rest.
7. Cuddle up
Cuddle up with your baby whenever you have the chance, so that you strengthen the bond between the two of you.
8. Uniquely yours
Your child’s personality, gifts and talents are unique to them. Affirm your child and they will believe in themselves, thereby cultivating a healthy self-image.
9. Role model
Your child will look up to you; so be a role model of healthy lifestyle habits for them. Your positive attitude will rub off and they will better relate with others as they grow.
10. More time with toddler
Once your child is out of babyhood, you can bond even more with them. Do this:
- Go for a walk in one of our nature reserves. It is great to spend some time outdoors.
- Spend an afternoon at the library. You will be helping your child with word recognition and introducing them to one of the greatest pleasures in life.
- Play with them. Your child will appreciate the good memory later in life.
- Set boundaries. Your child needs to learn responsibility and respect for others. When you set limits for them, they will learn to respect them and appreciate you for it.
Parents share their thoughts
‘Becoming a father has made me realise I need to take better care of my own health as I am now a primary influence on my child. For example, I have started eating more vegetables, which I didn’t like, to influence my daughter into eating them. She also feeds me corn, which is her personal favourite food. I can’t reject her as it is out of love that she has offered me!’
– Low Young Fei, 30 years old, father to Emma Low, 2.
‘I was at the playground with my son when he scrambled up a rock-climbing wall. The other parents were impressed at how brave he was because he was among the youngest kid there. I was really proud because I’m glad I’ve raised a boy who has the confidence to try new things.’
– Zhang Jin Hui, 33 years old, father to Zheng Jie, 3.
‘I play badminton with my three girls regularly and it’s a great bonding activity for us. I still play ‘catching’ with them – except they outrun me now! Other than the physical fun, fathers have an even more important role to play in developing their daughters’ emotional health. Inculcating good values and beliefs from young will affect their behaviour in future. The anchor lies in building trust. It’s all about being authentic and sincere when my wife and I communicate with our children. They learn by watching their parents.’
– Ng Sua Keong, 40 years old, father to E-dyl,16, K-cia, 14, and J-cyn, 12.
This article was first published by Families for Life.