Listen: Collett Smart gives Emma Mullings her top tips on how men can help raise children well.
Men have the power to help children develop confidence, self-control, good behaviour, social skills and intelligence—even if they’re not the child’s father.
That’s the good news from adolescent psychologist Collett Smart, who spoke to Hope 103.2’s Emma Mullings in the lead-up to Father’s Day about the powerful role of men in a child’s life.
Collett encouraged all men to consider how they can positively influence children – not just their own, but other children in need of positive role models too. She said her advice applies to men who are separated or divorced, too, as they have the power to make a big difference in the time they do have with their children.
Men can help children to develop by taking the following steps:
1 – Spend Quantity Time With Kids
“Contrary to old beliefs, children need to bond with both parents not just their mums,” says Collett. “The more time a father spends with his children, the stronger the bond becomes.“
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The good news is that the amount of time dads are spending with their children has tripled from 20 years ago.
2 – Make it Quality Time Too: Focus on the Job
If you want to engage with the kids in a way that influences them positively, handing them an ipad while you answer emails on your laptop doesn’t really count. Quality time is essential.
“Spending quality time with your children helps instil self-control and social skills – even if you’re a single dad,” says Collett. “The more involved and engaged dads are with their children, the more that love and engagement develops.”
3 – Start From Day One
Children are influenced by their parents’ presence from infancy. “From the minute they’re born, be in your kids’ lives,” is Collett’s advice to dads.
4 – Let Them Know You Love Them
Find out what speaks love the most to your children and make conscious efforts to communicate your love, even if it doesn’t come naturally at first.
“It’s a father’s duty to nurture their children, make them feel loved, and not wait until they become teens to try and do this,” says Collett.
5 – Be Mindful of How You Talk About Others
Your attitudes towards other people will filter down into your childrens’ attitudes, so be careful about how you speak about others; particularly their mum.
“The things that you say about the childrens’ mum, even if you’re not married to her, really communicates what you believe about women, and about the role of men in society,” Collett advises.
6 – Get Your Game On And Play With The Kids
Dads tend to spend more time playing with their children than mums do, and that’s not a bad thing, says Collett. She says time spent playing with your children has many benefits.
“If you engage in play with your children that helps them with language and cognitive development, they learn to interact with adults and peers.”
7 – Be Aware of Your Behaviour
Children are a sponge, and will look to their fathers or male role models for cues on how to behave from a very early age. Be aware that your choices, behaviour and attitudes, your language and treatment of others, all have an influence.
“Dads are the first male in their childrens’ lives, and children are watching, even if you think they’re not,” Collett says.
8 – Look To Others To Improve Your Fathering
All men can learn to be a great father or father-figure, says Collett, even if a great example wasn’t set for them as a child.
“Even if you’ve had a shocking role model or an absent father, you can still be a great dad to your own children. Learn from people before you who have done it well,” she says.
9 – Be A ‘Dad-Figure’ or Role Model for Fatherless Children
It’s no secret that plenty of kids don’t have a father present in their life. The good news, though, is that male role models can make a significant difference and help fatherless children to be just as well-adjusted as their nuclear-family friends.
In fact, one Canadian study showed that children with positive mentors are more confident academically, and less likely to display behavioural problems.
Collett encourages men to consider whether they can make a difference for a fatherless child in their community.
“If you’re not a dad, or you may be struggling to have children, there are so many children that need positive role models,” she said.