Life Lessons to be learned from Dad

The influence of fathers is profound, shaping everything from persistence, self-control, learning ability and confidence.

And the current crop of Aussie dads — who begin fatherhood at the mature age of 33 — are engaged, hands-on fathers deeply involved in rearing their children, experts said yesterday.

‘‘The new generation of dads have seen their mums and dads working too hard and made really clear commitments. They are making time for their children — they want to be better dads,’’ said Raymond Shanhun, executive officer of The Fathering Project.

‘‘Even the lower tone of a father’s voice activates a baby’s brain in different ways to the mother. And when children spend time with their dads they create ‘war stories’ together, special memories that they draw on in their teenage years. It is a very powerful relationship.’’

The importance of physical ‘‘dad play’’ was this week recognised by the federal government, which has funded the Fathers for School Readiness website to encourage father fun time.

Horseplay with fathers has been linked by researchers at Newcastle University to fewer behavioural problems in pre-schoolers, improved learning and a broader vocabulary.

Father of two, Ben Russell, recognises his father Graeme’s gentle touch has guided him both in his career and his own parenting. Mr Russell, a childcare educator, said his dad’s influence became more apparent after he became a father to Tobias, 3, and Elliot, 1.

‘‘I am realising how much my dad influenced who I am today,’’ the 35-year-old said.

‘‘In regards to where I work, my views, my acceptance that there are no gender roles. I hope to instil that in my son.’’

The three generations of Russells plan to celebrate Father’s Day tomorrow with a family brunch in Rozelle.

Graeme Russell, a renowned international expert on fatherhood and co-author of First Time Father, said dads “have an independent and significant influence over their children’s development.”

“But the fact is there is something in it for dads – they are more rounded human beings,” Dr Russell said.

“For a lot of men, fatherhood changes their perspective on life and can translate into psychological maturity.”

Modern fathers are busy dads, with more than 90 per cent of those with kids under 15 working full time – about 42 hours a week – the Australian Bureau of Statistics said.

Up to 46 per cent still find time to volunteer with sport or other groups and a growing number are turning to organisations such as Playgroup.

Dads are seeking more than traditional games and routines, said Playgroup NSW CEO Sandy Kervin.
“It is quite exciting to walk into a dad’s playgroup as it has a different feel and the children are so excited,” she said.

“Often community playgroups have singing and craft as the centre of the activities but a lot of the dads-only playgroups have a lot more robust activities and the volume is a lot louder. We are seeing more and more dads and it is very positive for children.

“Dads sometimes don’t realise just how powerful an influence they can be.”

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