“One of the most important ways that men can be good fathers is by treating the mother of their children with affection, respect, and consideration. The virtues that a father displays in his relationship with the mother of his children set an important example for the children. Children who witness affectionate, respectful, and sacrificial behavior on the part of their father are more likely to treat their own, future spouses in a similar fashion. Just as child maltreatment and domestic abuse can be passed on from one generation to the next, so can respect, caring, and kindness. These children are also more likely to be happy and well-adjusted.

By contrast, children who witness their father’s anger toward or contempt for their mother are more at risk for depression, aggression, and poor health. The stress of parental conflict can have a negative effect even on the immune system, which can result in health problems for children.

The research on fatherhood suggests two implications for fathers. First, fathers need to accentuate the positive when interacting with their wives and to show affection for their wives on a daily basis. While for many men this comes naturally, for others it does not. Many men, especially those who grew up without a father, simply did not have role models for how men can and ought to relate to their spouse or partner in a positive fashion. Further, the way a man treats and interacts with the women in his life is frequently connected to how he views himself as a man.

The second implication is that husbands need to be able to deal with conflict with their wives in a constructive manner. Conflict, in and of itself, is not a bad thing in a relationship. Indeed, conflict is often necessary to resolve issues, grievances, or injustices in a relationship. Couples who can raise issues with one another constructively, compromise, and forgive one another for the wrongs done generally have happier marriages and happier children than those who do not handle conflict well or who avoid addressing issues in their relationship.

Men should try to avoid two pitfalls of relationships: criticism and stonewalling. Criticism entails attacking a partner’s personality or character as opposed to addressing a specific concern about her behavior. Stonewalling means that one partner disengages from the relationship when conflict arises, either by failing to speak, being emotionally distant, or by physically leaving the scene. In conflict, women tend to resort more to criticizing and men are more prone to stonewalling. Both of these behaviors can be enormously destructive to a relationship.  By contrast, fathers who can keep calm in the midst of conflict, who can speak non-defensively, validate their partner’s concerns, and attempt to respond to legitimate issues raised by their partner are much more likely to have a strong and happy relationship with their wife and children.”

Taken from The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children, a link in Stavros’s thought-provoking reply to my earlier post.  There are many other interesting sections in the on-line Manual.  You can scroll through an Index at the beginning. This extract is taken from Section 4.1.

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