Countless studies have shown that growing up with a father increases boys’ school performance and decreases their risk of committing a crime and abusing drugs and alcohol. Here are eight more ways dads influence boys—whether they live in the home or stay involved on a regular basis.
- Shape their identity. Boys look to fathers in their search for self. Without a father, boys have a harder time defining who they are and who they want to be. A boy’s search for self starts with his father.
- Help them belong. The need to belong to a family or tribe is a powerful force in boys. Having a father in the picture gives them this sense of alliance. Studies show that boys without fathers are more likely to join gangs—because they have to look outside the family for social acceptance.
- Influence their values. Boys with fathers are more likely than their fatherless peers to have economic stability in the household. This gives them a sense of self-worth. There are other values fathers shape: work ethic, having a healthy relationship, and persevering.
- Demonstrate character. Boys look up to their fathers and imitate what they see. Fathers can model good character traits like integrity, honesty, courage, restraint, fairness, foresight, and citizenship. When fathers are absent, boys look to celebrities, popular musicians, or sports figures for character cues.
- Teach respect. A father who does not show up for his boy epitomizes disrespect. Present fathers, on the other hand, can actively teach respectful behaviors such as listening, trust, tolerance, politeness, and understanding limits.
- Fill the void. Boys without fathers often feel as though there’s something missing, which is why some fatherless boys turn to sex, pornography, violence, drugs, alcohol, or other self-destructive behaviors. Having a father helps boys feel complete.
- Balance ideas about sex. Boys without fathers have a lot of unanswered questions about sex. A side effect is that they don’t talk about sex and get the practical advice that would carry them into healthy, fulfilling relationships as men. Fathers can give practical advice about girls, sex, wet dreams, contraceptives, pregnancy, and other topics they are not likely to discuss with their moms.
- Give them love. Boys who don’t have involved fathers often view love as vulnerability, and trust as a bad thing. Fathers show boys that love means satisfaction and completeness.
Byron Ricks is a certified trainer and seminar leader who has worked with such companies as Samsung, Fannie Mae, Pitney Bowes, and ESPN. His new book is Searching for Dad: Nine Side Effects of Growing up Fatherless and How to Overcome Them (Brown Books). Byron and his wife Florence are proud parents of a son and a daughter. Find out more at www.byronricks.com.