By Ashley Corbaley
When I was younger I accidentally broke a very special family heirloom. After several failed attempts to fix the precious heirloom, I decided to replace it. The replacement, however splendid or similar to the original, did not and could not replace the broken heirloom. It simply did not hold the same value or significance as the other one had. My attempt had failed because I tried to replace the irreplaceable.
If something can be easily replaced it is also easily dispensable. Society today has a growing number of dispensable items. Perhaps the most significant replaceable item is fathers in the lives of their children.
Could a neighbor, youth leader, teacher or coach really replace a father in the life of a child? Some people think so. There are many who believe that another man or woman can replace a father.
In America it is estimated that about 24.7 million children live without their biological fathers. Despite the growing number of fatherless children, there is substantial evidence regarding the significance of a father in a child’s life.
Do Children really need their Fathers?
- Fatherless boys and girls are: twice as likely to drop out of high school; twice as likely to end up in jail; four times more likely to need help for emotional or behavioral problems.
- Teenage girls whose fathers left their family when they were between the ages of 0-13 are more likely to become pregnant and engage in premarital sexual activity than teenage girls who grew up with their fathers in their homes.
As the evidence suggests, fathers do play a very important role in the lives of their children. They are their child’s main protector and provider. They are their child’s heroes and role models. Both boys and girls alike need their fathers.
What do Fathers give to their Children?
If fathers are irreplaceable then they must be able to provide children with something which others cannot give. Surely mothers are just as important as fathers in the lives of their children. However, mothers tend to parent differently than fathers.
In Gender and Parenthood: Biological Social Scientific Perspectives, W. Bradford Wilcox and Kathleen Kovner Kline share the four distinct ways in which fathers parent. Each way is backed up by substantial evidence:
- Physical (“roughhouse”) play characterized by arousal, excitement, and predictability,
- Encouraging risk through embracing challenges and encouraging independence,
- Protection of children through physical size, strength, and “public presence” (a deterrent to would-be predators)
- More frequent and firmer discipline.
These four ways that father’s parent lead to positive outcomes for children supported by research. The findings indicate that there is no substitute for this parenting style that comes from a child’s father.
What do Children need from their fathers?
There are five crucial things that children need from their fathers:
- A role model: to look up to and rely on.
- A listening ear: to listen to them through good times and bad times.
- A coach: to support and guide.
- A comforter: to lean on for peace and understanding.
- A source of wisdom: to give advice and teach life’s lessons.
Fathers can be all of these things to their children. Another man or woman in the child’s life may be able to provide some of these things but not in the way that a father can.
We cannot underestimate the significance of fathers. Let fathers know how much they are needed and valued. Let future fathers be aware of the incredible impact they may one day have on the lives of other human beings. We need to stop trying to replace the irreplaceable and embrace the fact that fathers were, are, and always will be indispensable.
My father is the greatest man I have ever known. He is my support, my friend and my hero. I am forever grateful for the many sacrifices he has made on my behalf. My dad has, and always will have a special place in my heart. My love and appreciation for him only grows with each passing day. I am forever grateful for my father and for fathers everywhere who understand the important work they are called to do. No one could or will ever replace my father. Not now, not ever.