How to be a Dad

Is fathering something that we should just all know how to do?

For a lot of men, their dad was either not around or was not present. So they don’t have a role model for how to be a dad. But even if they had a good role model, pretty much every dad has to learn what to do. No one ever teaches you how to be a dad. All you can do is reflect on how your dad did things, and maybe take a bit of that on board.

The Fathering Project began out of a few things. One is some books that were written about busy dads and good ideas collected for guys to spend time with their kids. The Fathering Project isn’t primarily to help dads. It is really to help kids, because kids need a good father figure input. It came out of the medical school at UWA. Professor Bruce Robinson, head of The Fathering Project, is a lung specialist and looked after men who were dying. They would say things like, “if I had one regret in my life, now that I know I’m dying, it’s that I didn’t spend more time with my kids.” At The Fathering Project we work to help dads do just that.

A father figure is so important in the lives of children who does not have an effective father

Many mothers wonder, can I fill the father figure roll in my child’s life? Well the short answer is you do have to be a man to be a dad, or a father figure. For example, there are lots of mums out there where the child’s father isn’t around. We encourage them to find father figures. That might be, for example, the kid’s uncle, grandfather, school teacher, or sports coach. It’s important to actually have a genuine male presence. For a lot of people, a father figure has been a much more important person in their life than their father. There are hundreds of stories of boys and girls whose lives were changed by a father figure rather than a father.

If you have a same sex marriage with two ladies, do you still need to find yourselves a male father figure to help bring the kids up? You do. You need to talk to your brothers or your dad. The research shows that father figures can have a huge impact on children. Find a man in your child’s life that is willing to spend a bit of extra time with your child.

The statistics say that kids who don’t have good fathering have a much higher risk of doing drugs, being involved in crime, losing their way at school, bullying, getting depressed, and so on. There are also statistics about health – such as drug addiction and depression – and the powerful effect of the strong father figure in protecting kids against those things. The most powerful force to help young people in Australia with their problems is having a strong father figure.

The university has driven this project to help the health of the community. That’s why it’s in the school of medicine. The Fathering Project has significant community benefit. It’s a health promotion activity, in the same way that you promote exercise. This is about the health of Australian children growing into the future.

This article is an excerpt from Bruce Robinson’s interview with 6PR.


Be present

Engage in the activity. Make eye contact and really pay attention to what is going on.


Stimulate your child’s curiosity

Help your child to become more aware of the world around them; encourage them to ask questions and help them find out answers.