The contribution of your DNA makes you a father, but what will make you a dad, a true parent? Here are a few points that will help fathers make this transition early on in your child's life.
The sense of touch is very strong. Babies realise when they are being held by the mother and when by the father. Young fathers often feel that the baby is too fragile and delicate to be handled and thus baulk from being hands-on. This reduces the amount of valuable input you can give your baby about you. When you wrap the baby in your protective hands, he feels secure and peaceful. Lift your baby, carry him, and play with him.
Rajesh, 44, a businessman, shares a very strong rapport with his teenage daughter. He says, "In the initial stages, she would be fast asleep when I would get back from work. I would just lie down next to her, hold her hand, rub her little feet and at times even wake her up! We would then play till the wee hours of the morning, when she would go back to sleep, tired but happy. My wife was blissfully unaware of this routine. Later on, when she entered school, I stopped waking her up, but she knew that once I came back from office, I would spend some time with her. I would go through her books, her school diary and things like that, so that I could connect with her at her level. Today she is 15, and I'm like her friend. She discusses 'math to males' (as I call it) with me."
I do not want to use the cliched term "quality time", but the essential thing is to really be with your child and not just around them.
I do not want to use the cliched term "quality time", but the essential thing is to really be with your child and not just around them. SMSing your friends or checking emails while giving the child a mobile or a video game to play with does not count as time spent with her. Most young parents have their babies at a time when they are also concentrating on their careers. Travelling over distances to reach work places, managing tough bosses, or rising to your own expectations can be very taxing. I get it. But you have to make the time somehow. Prioritise it. Connecting with your child at a very young age ensures they grow up knowing that you are a rock solid support when needed.
The father's role as a nurturer helps boys as well as girls. Boys grow confident of their masculinity and girls do not look out for premature romances and relationships.
Mahesh, 55, is a father of two grown-up children. His son today works in a multinational company and is expecting his own child soon. Says Mahesh, "The only advice I give my son, Jatin, aged 27, is that he needs to nurture his child. Talking to them, playing with them, keeping peace when their minds are in turmoil is the best way a father can nurture his children. When Jatin was in school and had a showdown with his friends over a class programme, he was very upset. He raved and ranted about it for an entire week. All I did was listen to him. He found a confidant in me. He could crib to someone who wasn't judgemental about the entire situation. As I gave him a third person perspective on the situation, he could figure out the solutions for himself. This incident taught him to reflect, and today he is a stronger individual, capable of taking the right decisions with the right perspective."
The tendency of most fathers is to confuse discipline with anger. If your wife's favourite tactic with your child is "wait till daddy gets home", then you need to have a relook at your techniques for disciplining. If children begin to equate daddy's disciplining with anger, then rebellion is not too far away.
If your wife's favourite tactic with your child is "wait till daddy gets home", then you need to have a relook at your techniques for disciplining.
Gautam, a father of a 7-year-old, recently told me about his encounter with his son. "I was jolted out of my senses the day I saw Rutuj banging away at the table shouting, 'Why can't you listen to me? Is it so difficult to follow a simple thing?' I left my newspaper and ran over to him to ask him what happened. Rutuj was upset that the cat was not listening to what he said! 'But why are you shouting like this?' I asked him. He yelled back at me, 'When you do it to me, I listen na! From now on even I am not going to listen.' That day I realized raising your voice and getting angry was leading me nowhere."
5. Protect and provide
The father is historically and traditionally seen as a protector and provider. The role continues but in a changed manner. Research has consistently shown that fathers who are ably employed and are able to provide and protect have happy families. Fathers who are not usually do not have meaningful relations within the family.
6. Guide your child to the world outside
Children realise role demarcations very early in life. Often fathers are the ones who leave the house the most often. Children thus believe the father is an authority on the world outside. Use that to your benefit. Guide your child through his journey through life.
The more involved you are with them in their younger years, the more they will confide in you when they get older. Talk to adolescents about the problems you envisage. Talk about drugs, alcohol, pre-marital unprotected sex, and other sensitive issues to your teenager. The bonding that happens during the teenage years lasts a lifetime. Once your child is convinced he has a friend at hand and not a preacher, he will not fear in confiding in you. Mingle with his/her friends. Children whose parents know most of their friends tend to develop stronger friendships in life.
7. Be a positive role model
Do what you want your children to do. If you ignore road signals, bribe policemen, use abusive language, and berate all and sundry expect your child to do the same. The qualities that you display will be the ones your children imbibe. If you have many friends, your child will imbibe the quality and have many friends too. Acknowledge your mistakes. This is usually seen as a weakness but it is a positive quality. It helps children to know that while making mistakes is a part of life, accepting mistakes and the willingness to learn from them is more important.
Maintain a respectful relationship with the mother of your child. Your child values her and you should be able to give importance to that value.
Mahesh tells me about another incident with Ketan, his younger son, when he was around 15 years old. Ketan had a curfew of 10pm for a party that he wanted to attend. But he came back only at 12 in the morning. 'Why are there rules only for me? Papa goes out and comes by 2 am after saying that he will be back by 11 pm. No one yells at him. So he can do what he wants.' I realized the truth in what he was saying and since then I too have maintained curfew times. Ketan fell into track and never again broke his curfew. Now he is past his curfew age but he makes it a point to let us know if he will be late. He knows that we worry about him.'
8. Have a good relationship with the mother
Children who witness affectionate, caring, and loving behaviour by the father towards their mother usually instinctively realise that they can trust their father. Research shows that children who grow up seeing strong and happy marriages are usually strong and well rounded individuals themselves. In today's world of fragile marriages, holding on to a meaningless relationship may cause more damage than good.
Whether married or not, as a dad, maintain a respectful relationship with the mother of your child. Your child values her and you should be able to give importance to that value. How the father behaves with the mother has different implications for the son and the daughter. Boys who see their fathers misbehave with their mothers grow up confused about the right way to behave with women in their adult life. As far as possible, handle your issues with the mother of your child constructively and peacefully. Girls who grow up seeing their father in an abusive relationship with their mother usually have tumultuous relationships in their own lives. They generally tend to distrust men.