The First Six Years are Crucial for Dads
Experts now say that the first 6 years of a child’s life are the most important years. During those years he develops his basic personality, self-esteem and outlook on life. By about age 4, he has developed 50% of his intellectual growth through stimulation. By age 2 he has become a social being, and active fathering has encouraged a child who will be explorative and independent. By age 1 the child has developed his self-concept, and this is influenced by the atmosphere in his home.
In the past many fathers postponed active fathering until the children were old enough to play games, sports or activities that were also fun for the father. Fathers often indicated playing with babies was boring and tedious. Much of this was due to lack of information on children’s developmental stages and what can be done from month to month, year to year, to stimulate growth and learning in children.
Fathers are now enjoying reading about their developing children and are finding it challenging to stimulate a certain trait or ability in their children. Children are benefitting from the different types of attention from each parent and are leading truly interesting, fulfilling lives.
The time for fathers to be especially giving of their time and energy is during those first six years when intelligence, social capacity, personality, and self-esteem are being developed. This is also the time when the new mother especially needs the active participation of the father. Not only does the baby or child benefit from active fathering, but the mother, the father, and the husband/wife relationship also benefit.
When a baby enters the picture where it was previously just a husband and wife, things begin to change at a rapid pace. Especially in today’s society, where a large number of marriages remain childless for many years, and have developed certain constant habits and lifestyles, change associated with a new baby can become a major upheaval in a couple’s life. Sharing in the care and nurturing of a child can make a marriage stronger. Both parents bond and attach to the baby and can share feelings, experiences, frustrations, and joys more effectively.
In certain areas of caretaking mothers are more effective, but also in certain areas fathers are more effective, such as rocking or walking the baby. Studies have shown that many babies as young as 8 months prefer playing with their Dads. The child can perceive an atmosphere of calmness or tenseness from his handlers and in his home. When a mother is given respite from constant baby care she is much less tense and experiences less stress. When both parents are involved in caring for the child, a child learns that his needs will be met. If one parent is overly stressed, the other parent takes over and the child’s needs are met in a much calmer atmosphere. These children will have a great sense of being able to influence their environment.
Fathers are also discovering that through strong interaction with their children they are getting to know themselves better and are rediscovering interests and pleasures that they enjoyed as children. The new forms of interaction also include child-care. Fathers report the close contact involved in child-care often enhances a close, loving relationship. Child-care time has become “quality time” for many fathers. Indeed, fathers are changing their priorities. Effective parenting and personal, family life have become top priorities for many men.