The Difference a Father Can Make

Fathers have it a bit rough when it comes to being involved in their children’s educations. It’s often the mother who drops kids off at school and picks them up, and many times the mother is the only one who attends the parent/teacher conference.

Speaking generally, mothers are also more likely to help their children with homework and to volunteer at school or with extracurricular activities. And moms are usually the primary educators if the family has chosen homeschooling as an option.

The good news, according to the American Sociological Association, is that the time fathers spend with their children has doubled in the past 40 years. The bad news is that over 50% of fathers report being involved very little or not at all in their children’s education.

father_daughter All children benefit from having their fathers involved at home and school. The U.S. Department of Education says that children are more likely to do well academically, participate in activities, and have a positive attitude about school when their fathers are involved. This appears to be especially important for students who have learning disabilities.

Divorce can make it even more difficult for a father to be involved. I remember when I was teaching, there were times that I had to schedule two parent/teacher conferences for a child: one with the mother (and possibly stepfather) and one with the father (and possibly stepmother).

And you know what? I was happy to do it, because I could definitely see the positive effects when both parents were involved in a child’s education, even when the parents themselves didn’t get along.

So, is there a way for fathers to be more involved? I think so. Let’s look at a few.

Ways Fathers Can Be More Involved

1. One of the simplest things you can do is to take the time to ask your child what she learned that day, then to listen and ask questions about it. Children want to know that their fathers are interested in what they think, and fathers can learn a lot about their children when they take the time to listen.

2. Join a support community or message board for dads involved in their children’s education. Not only will you get ideas about how to support your children’s education, you’ll be a part of a community that values the importance of fathers in their kids’ lives.

3. Dads can teach incredibly important life skills – how an air conditioner works, how to repair a car engine, how to plant a garden, why a checkbook must be balanced – just by interacting with their children and getting them involved in every day life.

4. If your family homeschools, try to take a day off of work during the school year to observe their homeschooling so that you know what goes on during that time. Plan some educational activities that you can be a part of.

5. Go on family “field trips” on the weekends. A fun filled day at the zoo or beach with your children can be a perfect opportunity for you to guide them in hands-on learning.

6. Read to your children and have them read to you. Set aside a specific time (before bed, perhaps) and make it a daily ritual.

7. Take your child with you to work. Not only will it give him a visual representation of what you do when you mention “work,” but he’ll have a chance to observe workplace skills like communication, time-management, and teamwork, beyond what he’ll learn about your specific job.

8. Involve yourself in your children’s formal education. Volunteer at school. Become familiar with your child’s curriculum so that you can support his or her learning. If you homeschool, find educational projects that you can do with your children.

9. Tell your child that you love them, and tell them often. ‘Father love’ sustains a child through negative peer pressure and gives them strength to make tough choices and avoid destructive behavior. My dad used to tell me and my sisters that he loved us every day, sometimes running out to the car as we backed out of the driveway to go to school (once we were in high school and driving) to come to the car window and say “I love you!” We were slightly embarrassed but also highly pleased that we always knew our dad loved us.

10. Help your children set goals for the year, both academic and personal. Periodically check in with them to see how they are doing, and think of ways you can support their goals.

11. Use time with your children to impart to them something they can’t learn from textbooks: your values. It’s from you that they’ll learn about good sportsmanship, honesty, loyalty, and hard work.

12. Take a special interest in an academic area, and create a special time for it with your children. Start a writing club, and spend one Friday night a month researching, writing and revising at a local bookstore with your children. Or start an architect’s club, and use weekend time to build a clubhouse in your backyard.

13. Build a relationship with your child’s teacher. If they have an email list, ask that you be added so that you can receive email updates about class activities. When you drop off your child or pick them up from school, make a point of saying “hi” to your child’s teacher. Keep the lines of communication open so that you can approach them if necessary. And be sure to attend your child’s parent/teacher conferences.

You Can Do It!

Fathers, your job is of utmost importance! Your child’s relationship with you is the number one factor that influences their academic success, their relationships, their decisions about drugs and alcohol, and their career prospects. Use that influence for good, and amazing things will happen!

My own father was a hugely positive influence in my life. You might enjoy reading my tribute to my dad.