Friday, October 12, 2012

Dad, You're a Role Model, So Date With Care.

Photo Credit: Jill-Marie Parella Vaughn
When my son was about four years old, I bought him a few pairs of single-color Hanes boxer briefs. You know, the same ones that Michael Jordan and, well, his dad wears, except his are quite a bit smaller. He thought they were so cool, he couldn't stop giggling. He wanted me to wear a pair that were the same color as his so the two of us could be the same.

Courtesy of Kathie Austin Photography
It’s pretty clear that a father is an important role model for his children, regardless of the family circumstances. For single fathers the influence is even more acute. In my own case, I don’t have to look far to see the affect I have on my son. My favorite baseball team is the St. Louis Cardinals, and his favorite baseball team is the St. Louis Cardinals. I like to eat sushi, and he likes to eat sushi. Of course, while he and I don’t always wear the same color briefs, my son gets a kick out of the fact that he wears the same kind of underwear that his dad wears.

For daughters, the relationship is different than that that dad has with his sons, but no less vital. A father’s attitude women, his respect for himself and others, and his unspoken behaviors are cues, which his daughters will observe and develop expectations for their own relationships with men as they mature into women. 

A daughter's relationship with her father is usually her first male-female relationship. From Dad, little girls gain their first reflection of themselves as a female. They develop a sense of acceptance or non-acceptance; they feel valued or discounted. Self-respect is initially based upon respect received from others. Their self-concept as a female person is largely shaped by this early relationship. In short, children regard themselves as they think others regard them . . . and Dad is an important person in her life.[i] 
It goes without saying, single dad, your behavior influences your children’s opinions of themselves. For girls, the equation is shockingly simple. Spending “time with a dad who provided high-quality fathering reduced risky sexual behavior. More time with a dad who provided low-quality fathering actually increased risky sexual behavior.[ii]” Considering your parenting decisions will substantially influence your daughters’ decisions about their own sexual behavior, well, make good parenting decisions.
When the single father dates, his children are watching. Here are some of the things they might learn based the decisions you make:
Dad’s Behavior
Children May Learn
Dad is a gentleman with the women he dates: opens her door, walks on the outside (street side) while walking, pulls out her chair at a restaurant, etc.
Sons will learn to be gentlemen; daughters will accept nothing less.
Dad only introduces to his children a woman who is a lady and whose actions and words are caring, constructive, and consistent with his family’s values.
Values, manners, and attitudes are reinforced; Dad’s romantic interest may become a role model, but will certainly be a tangible example of the personal qualities Dad holds in high regard.
While his children may not know the details of Dad’s personal life, they’ll know he’s taken the time in his relationships with women and hasn’t rushed into a new commitment.
Commitments aren’t to be taken lightly; take the time to make sure a relationship is “right.”
Dad marries soon after the end of his previously ended (or failed) relationship.
It doesn’t really matter to whom you make a commitment; one person is as good as the next.
Dad is verbally or otherwise abusive to the women he dates.
Women are second class citizens; it’s okay to treat women as such.
Dad permits women who he dates to be impolite or abusive toward him or his children.
Other people who are not part of the family are more important.

Your daughters take “cues from you, her father, on everything from drug use, drinking, smoking and having sex, to self-esteem and moodiness[iii].” Of course, as I’ve already illustrated, your sons are little “you’s.” You’re a role model for your children. In dating and in all things, be the kind of man you want your son to emulate and be the kind of man whose values and actions you want your daughters to value in the men they date.

[i] “From Dr. Jane’s Notebook: Father Daughter Relationships.” Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. Copyright 1995 by Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
[ii]“Role Modeling By Dad Influences Daughters’ Sexual Behavior.” Rick Nauert PhD. June 15, 2011.
[iii] “Dad as a role model for his daughters.” Cheryl Wetzstein. Washington Times. June 14, 2010.

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