By Mark Brandenburg
It happened when I least expected it. During an afternoon in which I had been lamenting my role as a "janitor" with my family, my seven-year-old daughter put things back into perspective for me. "You're the best daddy in the world," she whispered to me as she gave me a big hug.
I was thankful as she ran down the hall, for I was too overwhelmed to respond to her comment in a reasonable manner. My vision of myself as an unappreciated victim had been extinguished in a flash; in its place I felt a joy and sense of gratitude that was overpowering.
On further reflection I was reminded of a painful law involving family life: The more you believe you deserve appreciation, the less you'll get. Seeking appreciation and gratitude from your kids won't lead you anywhere but to resentment. But if you stay involved long enough, you'll find moments like this one that are worth hanging on to.
It's easy for fathers to feel unappreciated and to feel like they inhabit a place outside the emotional "core" of the family (mom and the kids). But the value of involved fathers to their families is becoming increasingly clear. Recent research has pointed out the absolute necessity of a father's positive influence on his children.
The first bit of research is from a collection of agencies, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Center for Disease Control, and the National Principals Association. The translation of these studies show just how valuable fathers are to their kids. The statistics are remarkable:
Children from a fatherless home are:
-5 times more likely to commit suicide
-32 times more likely to run away
-20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders
-14 times more likely to commit rape
-9 times more likely to drop out of school
-10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances
-9 times more likely to end up in a state operated institution
-20 times more likely to end up in prison
Perhaps even more interesting was the pooling of parenting research that the Wall Street Journal did in June of 2003. The research suggests that "interactions with a father are equally, if not more, important than interaction with a mother in a child's positive development."
While we don't want to turn this into a debate over who's more important, the fact that this notion is now being considered is a testament to the growing realization of a father's importance.
So the next time you're questioning your value to your family, remember that these are just feelings of victimization from your past. They have very little connection to the present moment.
Your value to your kids is immense.
Know that they need you to be involved and that they need your approval.
And then give it to them.
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