What was your father's best quality

The importance of the father in the child's life

Margarete Blank-Mathieu

When do boys and girls need the father?

  • as developing human life in the womb
  • as an infant in the first year of life
  • as a toddler up to the age of three
  • as a kindergarten child
  • as a school child
  • than pubescent
  • as adults

In all phases of the growing up of children, the father's presence is necessary in different ways for the development of the child.

Why do boys and girls need the father?

  • The father takes an active part in the incarnation of his child by accompanying his wife (both emotionally and practically) and by helping her in all problems of pregnancy. A happy and carefree pregnancy has an impact on the future child.
  • In the first year of life, the father takes part in care measures (changing diapers and bathing etc.). He feeds his child and gives him the bottle. That creates an emotional basis for the relationship. The father accompanies the child in the first steps and shows him many things.
  • The second and third year of life are marked by many "advances" in the child's life. He and the child (and his wife, of course) are happy about them, and together they show the child "the world".
  • The time in kindergarten is particularly important for the child's independence. The child learns to build relationships with other children, experiences himself as an independent personality, as a boy and a girl. Children need the help of the father in order to be able to turn away from the mother. Boys need the father as a living male model in order to gain their gender identity. Role models from advertising and television are not "real men".
  • School is a time in which boys and girls constantly compare themselves with their father and mother, receive a lot of information from them and have to deal with men and women.
  • During puberty, the girl needs the father to try out her effects on men. The boy needs the father (or another father person) to see how men live and to be able to talk to them about the development of his masculinity. It must also be possible to name feelings.

The father continues to mirror the male world to the adult child. The girl can approach him without any sexually interpreted intentions; through him the boy can deal with the world of men.

How can the meaningful devotion of the father be possible?

When it comes to the affection of the father, it is not the frequency that matters, but the quality of the relationship. If fathers really use the little time they can give to build a relationship with their child, that is more than if they are constantly available, but busy with other thoughts and work.

Some tips:

  • The mutual decision for the child must be shown by the father and mother.
  • "Male" and "female" work must be presented as equally important. Mother and father are not allowed to play off against each other.
  • Fathers take part in all everyday tasks (which ones are, that must be agreed in every family) when they are at home.
  • The day care center is an important living environment for the child. Fathers should take advantage of opportunities to experience this together with their child. A few hours or a day off from time to time are sufficient for this.
  • School is very important for children. Not only the grades and the school subjects determine success and failure, but above all the relationship with teachers and classmates and the participation of parents in such often painful encounters. Talking to each other, listening to the child, a father can do that even with little free time.
  • From father to partner, that is the most important task in a father's life during puberty and the adult relationship. The child should not become as father and mother imagine, but rather it has to "learn" its own life. What ideas do young men and women have, what questions do they ask and how can I, as a father, answer them without tying the child down to my ideas?

Recipes for how and when fathers have to be present to make it easier for their children to start their own lives cannot be given. Depending on the family situation, it is particularly important in one or the other phase of life that a father is available. Whether this is in a phase of divorce or in puberty must be checked on a case-by-case basis. A father who knows that he is connected to his child in all phases of life can find out for himself when he has to deal with his child once more and once less.

Fathers face many pressures outside the family. Their chances of engaging with their children are usually less than those of mothers. But children need both parents. Single mothers often find it difficult to understand their children's "father hunger".

In order to find their own role as men or women, boys and girls need women and men in their environment. If fathers and mothers make an effort, they will give their children their own image of men and women.

further reading

Blank-Mathieu, Margarete: Boys in Kindergarten, Brandes & Apsel, Frankfurt / Main 1996

Blank-Mathieu, Margarete: Small difference, big consequences? Herder, Freiburg 1997

Kreckel, Marga: Power of Fathers, Sickness of Sons, Fischer 1996

Lutz, Christiane: The masculine in fairy tales, Bonz 1996