By: Dr. Meg Meeker – Good men, please listen. Your children need more of your time, your heart and your wisdom. You may not believe this because for 40 years you have been under appreciated, undervalued and under researched. On behalf of the son or daughter you love, let me say I am sorry for this because you and your kids have paid a terrible price. And that must change. Furthermore, the answer to many of America’s most serious social ills isn’t better schools or more sophisticated government programs. It is you – good fathers and we owe it to you and our country to get about the business of helping you be better Dads.
Here are some things that you must know.
- The best way to boost your daughter’s self-esteem is for you to show her more physical affection.
- When you live with your son, he is far less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety or low self-esteem. And he is more likely to get better grades, finish high school and go on to college and graduate school.
- If you spend more time with your toddlers, their IQ is measurably higher at 3 years of age.
- When you engage your little children, they are better at solving problems
- You are the best protection your daughter has from being sex-trafficked.
- Having you at home puts your daughter at much lower risk of being sexually active, getting involved in high risk behaviors, suffering from depression and anxiety or getting pregnant.
- You can struggle with postpartum depression.
- Your infants know the difference between you and their mother from the moment they are born.
- You create a template for how your children (especially your daughters) relate to male figures for the rest of their lives.
I list these facts to give you concrete evidence regarding who you are in your children’s eyes. I am convinced that if each one of you fathers could see yourselves through your child’s eyes for fifteen minutes, your lives would never be the same. Ever. You would discover something profound—you are needed and loved far more than you can imagine and it’s high time someone told you.
I know because I’ve met you. And I’ve met your children over the past 30 years in my medical practice and I’ve learned some things about both you and your kids. I’ve learned that if I want to help your daughter stop lying at school, I must recruit your help. I’ve learned that if I really want to help your teenage son stay away from the things that will hurt him and help him take the high road, I need you to engage him. Because you, not his teacher or even his mother, are going to determine the choices he makes.
I’ve watched you mourn the loss of your infants who die and seen your wife get the note cards and flowers. I’ve seen you be cut from your children’s lives after a divorce and seen the pain on your kids’ faces when their mother insulted you. I watched as you threw up your hands because you couldn’t stand one more day in an angry court. You knew you would lose, so you walked away.
I’ve seen the look on your faces when your son is picked up for driving while drinking or when your daughter starved herself from anorexia nervosa. More importantly perhaps, are the expressions I’ve witnessed on your children’s faces when you weren’t there. I’ve heard their sobs because they haven’t seen you in years, and I’ve listened to their anguish when they feel they’ve disappointed you. I’ve noticed that when you say something, they listen differently than when their mother speaks. They believe that she has to say nice things about them because that’s her job. But you are different. When you tell them they can succeed, in their minds, success is a done deal because you, they believe, have the choice to say what you want about them. This gives you an authority in their lives with a capital “A.”
Here’s one thing that I know for sure: every son or daughter takes one man to his or her grave and that’s their Dad. Why? Because every son or daughter wants more time to heal, reconcile and forgive or they want more time to enjoy your company. As an adult man you know this is true. You still want more from your father, whether he’s alive or passed on because you know that he is the one who gives you the freedom to like yourself.
Let me finish with the most important message: you determine how your child sees our Heavenly Father. Like it or not, you are your child’s introduction to male love. God made life this way. If your son learns that he can trust you to love and protect him and your daughter learns that you are dependable, then he or she will be open to receiving love from God the Father. If, on the other hand, your child feels abandoned or hurt, he or she will subconsciously close them self off from God for fear that He will do the same thing.
Having this power in a child’s life is no job for wimps. But none of you men who read this are. I know this too because God said something profound about you in Malachi 4:6- “I will send them Elijah and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
And then, God went silent for 400 years.
Thank you for reading. As I write, I am on my way to speak on your behalf at the United Nations because they too need to hear what you now know.
Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician, mother and best-selling author, including her recently-released Strong Daughters, Strong Fathers Devotional. Dr. Meg shares regularly at MegMeekerMD.com and has a #1-ranked parenting podcast called Parenting Great Kids with Dr. Meg Meeker. She is also founder of The Strong Parent Project which recently released its first digital course The 12 Principles of Raising.