“The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother”
– Theodore M. Hesburgh
With the first Young Dad’s Guide being a guide to Pregnancy it made sense to begin the articles on a similar topic. The book focuses on how to be a good husband through the pregnancy process. Scientific research has shown that pregnancy, like marriage is something that can have a real and lasting impact on the well being of Children.
The quote at the top of the article indicates that the most important thing a dad can do is love the mother of his children. There is a fair amount of research that shows how important a home with both parents is for children. Even more important than just physically being in the same house is how the man treats his wife. This is typically thought of as a marriage topic rather than a topic about being a dad but there are some pretty far reaching benefits to loving their mother and some real detrimental effects for not showing that love.
Children Learn Indirectly through their Parent’s Relationship
The biggest influence a father has on his children is indirect. The way you and your wife treat each other is a major factor in the way your children will view relationships. The US Department of Health and Human Services explains some of the effects of a healthy relationship between a man and his wife on their children’s future relationships:
“Fathers who treat the mothers of their children with respect and deal with conflict within the relationship in an adult and appropriate manner are more likely to have boys who understand how they are to treat women and who are less likely to act in an aggressive fashion toward females.”
Possibly even more importance than how boys will grow up thinking about relationships, girls will learn how they should be treated in a relationship by the actions of their fathers. Someone said that “A daughter needs a dad to be the standard against which she will judge all men.” No truer statement could be said of a dad’s example. As dad’s our actions, or sometimes our lack of action, towards our wife has a far more lasting impact than we could imagine. The Department of Health goes on to explain the effects of a marital relationship on the future relationships of daughters:
“Girls with involved, respectful fathers see how they should expect men to treat them and are less likely to become involved in violent or unhealthy relationships.”
One of the more important lessons to learn after becoming a dad is that you have to be always mindful of your actions effect on your children. Ask yourself, “what will my kids think of this, or that”. We teach our children much more than we realize, it just happens to be that they tend to learn when we stop trying to teach.
Writer Clarence Budington Kelland wrote of his dad, “My father didn’t tell me how to live, he lived and let me watch him do it.” As your children grow up you will begin to see that they will show many of your traits use this power of example to give them the right idea about relationships.
Both Parents Improve with a Healthy Relationship
A good relationship between husband and wife creates a sense of stability, greater involvement between a father and his children, and children who are more “psychologically and emotionally” healthy. However, a healthy relationship is not only beneficial for the kids. The US Department of Health talks about the benefits of a mom and dad working together in the following quote:
“They are more responsive, affectionate, and confident with their infants; more self-controlled in dealing with defiant toddlers; and better confidants for teenagers seeking advice and emotional support.”
Having a kid in general is tough work. Defiant toddlers bring being a dad to another level that at the moment you will not see any harder challenge ahead. Throw in a teenager’s emotional needs and you could get completely lost in the efforts needed to provide parental support. Anything that makes these easier to deal with is a win. The easiest way to handle this is working on the marriage early and often. That healthy relationship between spouses is of extreme importance to the outcome of your kids and yourself as a parent.
A healthy relationship not only breeds a better dad, but a better mom as well. When she is happy she is healthy and can focus on being the mother she needs to be and you can become the dad your wife and kids need. The Art of Manliness talks about how marriage is like a bank account (read the article here). The article explains that marriage, like a checking account, needs to stay balanced to avoid overdraft or potential bankruptcy (divorce).
Effects of a Negative Relationship
Kids need strong examples to guide them through the various roads in life. Some kids will be able to see bad examples and learn how to turn the situation into a positive learning experience. However, the majority will not be able to make such a transformation. Having a healthy relationship takes a lot of hard work, but aside from all of the positive benefits already discussed in this article, there are some negative effects from a mom and dad not being able to have a healthy relationship or to work together civilly if they are divorced or separated. The final excerpt from the Department of Health lists out a few of the effects of an unhealthy relationship.
“…research has shown that husbands who display anger, show contempt for, or who stonewall their wives (i.e., “the silent treatment”) are more likely to have children who are anxious, withdrawn, or antisocial.”
Teaching your kids starts before you hold your son or daughter in your arms. It starts from the moment that you begin a relationship with your wife. Developing a strong relationship with your wife will better your children’s lives in many ways. If you want to be the best dad you can be for your kids the answer starts with your marriage simply by “loving their mother”.
1. The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children. US Department of Health and Human Services. 2006.
2. Why the Secret of a Happy, Successful Marriage Is Treating It Like a Bank Account. Brett and Kate McKay. Art of Manliness. 2017