Friday, November 6, 2015

What is the Father's role in the family?

 When my children were little, they loved watching a show on T.V. about a girl who was sort of like a super hero.  It was a satirical yet educational animated series about a young girl who is secretly the superhero Word girl, armed with superhuman strength, abilities, and a skilled vocabulary.  It was annoying, but my kids liked it and they would learn a little from it.  But then I began to notice, that the parents in the show, especially the father was always portrayed as a complete idiot. This really bothered me and we stopped watching that show. 

Some also think and write about fathers from a perspective of skepticism, wondering if fathers are essential to children's development or for productive family life.  From my own experience in my family of origin and also my own family, I KNOW that father's are very important.  John Snary, who investigated the contributions of fathers to children across generations in a multi-decade research project, summarized his research in saying, 

"Good fathering, it seems, really does matter.  It matters over a lifetime, and even over generations" (1993, p. 356).

So, fathers matter, their choices matter, the work they do in raising the next generation matters tremendously.

Five principles of fathering:
1.  Preside
2.  Partner
3.  Be present
4.  Provide
5.  Protect

From "The Family:  A Proclamation to the World" fathers are directed to take upon themselves the responsibility  of spiritual leadership in family life as part of a loving Eternal Father's plan for family functioning.  President Ezra Taft Benson reinforced this key principle of fathering in a conference address, "God established that fathers are to preside in the home.  Fathers are to provide, love, teach and direct" (1984, p. 6).

Parenthood is a partnership. When an individual becomes a parent, he or she enters into a community of relationships.  The proclamation to the family also explains that, "In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners" (paragraph 7).  To partner in fathering is to accept the responsibility of rearing a child in cooperation with others, particularly the child's mother, and assist and give support in doing the work of nurturance, love, and guidance in a child's upbringing.

President Howard W. Hunter encouraged fathers in his November 1994  talk, "Being a righteous husband and father:
 "You share, as a loving partner, the care of the children. Help her to manage and keep up your home. Help teach, train, and discipline your children."

Fathers need to be present for their children.  This means to be there (physically), be aware (psychological), and to give care (practical).  To be there physically means to be present, or otherwise available to a child (for example via cell phone) and be responsive to their needs and concerns.  

This is one of the many ways I felt my father was there for me.  He has always been available to talk or council me if I need it.  As a father, he is always concerned about my well being and wants me to succeed in life.  Whenever I have a problem or question, he has always been there for me.  

The latter-day prophets emphasize in the proclamation that in rearing children, "parents are to provide for their physical and spiritual needs" (paragraph 6) and fathers in particular are "responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families" (paragraph 7).

 Fathers should participate in instilling a child with needed skills and knowledge.  This sets up yet another fundamental principle of fathering, to protect a child from harm and also equip him or her to both avoid and manage life challenges.

There may be some who are reading this that don't have a father in the home, or their fathers have chosen not to be involved in their lives.  Perhaps there is a father in your life who is a good example to you and is there for you.  These principles of fatherhood are the ideal and are what fathers should be striving for.  We all have our free agency and can choose whether or not to be the kind of father that God wants them to be.  

I am grateful for the fathers in my life and the examples they are to me, especially my Heavenly Father.  He is the ultimate example and loves each one of us unconditionally.  

Here are some good resources for fathers:

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