When TV cameras pan a sports field, how many times have you noticed players mouthing “Love you, Mom.” How often have you noticed dads getting credit when sportscasters are interviewing athletes after a big win? My recollection is that moms are receiving most of the public praise. Why do fathers seem to be forgotten or avoided?
As a child growing up in a single-working-mother family without any father contact, some of the discrepancy can be chalked up to the single-parent family structure. I believe another portion can be explained by the lack of emotional bonding between fathers and their children. Although I do not have all the answers, I do know that dads play a vital role in the lives of their children, and what boys need from their fathers differ from what girls need.
Eldredge (2004) proposes that every boy wants to be a hero and continually asks himself the question, “Do I have what it takes?” Boys want to impress others and are often doing things that allow them to say, “Look at me!” Since every boy is seeking validation that he has what it takes to be a man, boys often look to their fathers to help them answer that question. Even God said of his Son, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, NKJV).
On the other hand, Eldredge (2004) suggests that a girl has a different question she is looking to her father to answer. Girls try to capture their father’s attention to answer the question of whether she is lovely and worth pursuing? A father answers that question by letting her know that he is thinking of her and delights in her.
When fathers do not validate the core needs of their children, Eldredge (2004) proposes boys feel like a failure and girls feel abandoned. Boys will forever try to prove they are a man and shy away from anything that might reveal otherwise. A father’s silence can wound a son. Since a father cannot give what he does not have, it is not uncommon for generations of fathers/sons to struggle.
Girls, whose worth is not validated by their fathers, may seek male attention outside of the family. Children who are emotionally starved by their biological fathers, should seek a spiritual father. Many wonderful fathers can step in to provide that need to non-biological daughters. I am one of those girls, whose stepfather became my spiritual father. These needs cannot be fulfilled by a mother, only a father. Mothers, on the other hand, give unconditional love, teach about mercy, and provide comfort (Eldredge, 2004).
If you are a father, consider looking for those authentic opportunities to say the words that convey to your son that you are proud of him and has what it takes to be a man. For a daughter, make sure she knows that she is delightful and worth fighting for. Fathers are the most powerful men in their children’s lives.
Eldredge, J. (2004). You Have What It Takes: What Every Father Needs to Know. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring. She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops. She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships. You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website www.shinecrossings.com