The Father Factor

The importance of getting involved in your child’s life

Here’s a heartfelt question: What are your best childhood memories of your dad? I bet you have several, and hope you have at least one good memory of your father that makes you feel warm and safe inside. For me, my heart rested on dad and me playing Old Maid; dad at my piano recital taking pictures; and dad and me dancing the waltz to Beethoven on an LP. Yes, times have changed since I was a kid. Chances are you may be dancing to Beyonce singing “If you liked it then you should have put a ring on it” on an iPod, or strumming to Rock Band on Wii, but all in all, the rules for great dad memories haven’t changed: The best gifts from dad are not wrapped in paper or shiny bags with cellophane bows. The best gifts are wrapped in his arms in love, attention and care.

The National Fatherhood Initiative at cites staggering statistics as it relates to “The Father Factor” on how a father’s involvement impacts his children. The areas of impact are diverse, including infant health, crime, educational achievement and obesity. The bottom line in all of these statistics is that there is a positive correlation between increased quality involvement of fathers and increased positive outcomes for their children.

The ideas for getting involved are endless. From recreational activities to home, work and school, your children are interested in interacting with dad in a positive way.

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Ian and Hyde Heckman at the “All Pro Dad” breakfast at Cedar Fork Elementary School in Morrisville. Hyde and Ian started a chapter through the school’s PTA to promote father involvement.

“It’s fun for the dads to eat, talk father-to-father and discuss topics and issues,” said Hyde. “It’s rewarding because afterward, you’ll see the dads walking their children to class, and the first time I saw that, I got teary-eyed.”

Ian noted that starting the chapter was “pretty easy.” “I just went online to to sign up. You can download the presentations and videos, and it’s a great way to get dads involved with their kids and education,” he said.

“People really make an effort to be here” said PTA president Daphne Stam. “It is one of our most popular programs.”

And what are the dads saying? “It is good bonding time — and you see the kids’ faces just light up, saying, ‘Wow! My dad’s at school with me!’” said Steven Oakley. But the real expert on the matter is his 6-year-old son, Nathan Oakley. His response was: “It’s awesome!”

No matter how you decide to get involved, be it Internet groups, coaching baseball, reading stories or folding laundry with your child, some good rules of thumb to follow include:

  • Get on your child’s eye level in playing, reading and all interactions.
  • Remember to praise and cite specifics like, “I like the way you drew those swirly red circles!”
  • Use simple language: Too many words get lost in the shuffle. One strategy is to use first/then statements: “First we’ll read, then we’ll go to sleep.”
  • State it in the positive. For example, instead of saying, “Don’t walk in the puddles,” say, “Remember to walk on the sidewalk.”
  • Give affection.
  • Use the “OWL” method: Observe, watch and listen for opportunities to join your child in play.
  • Cooperate with other caregivers in your child’s life: Consistency in parenting is always best.
  • Keep up with your child’s developmental milestones. If anything concerns you, contact your pediatrician or a local agency. The Child Developmental Services Agency in Raleigh offers free evaluations for children birth to age 3. Wake County Public Schools will evaluate children at risk at no cost beginning at age 3.

A father’s investment of time in his children yields positive results for all involved. It is a win-win scenario. My own father once told me his wish for me in life was to dance. As I look at my life today, I know that when I dance, it is because my father danced with me.

So dads: Come on, let’s dance!

Cathy Frederick, MEd, ITFS, is an early intervention coordinator/developmental therapist at White Plains Children’s Center in Cary. The center is a five-star inclusive program serving children with and without disabilities in the Cary vicinity. For more information about the center, visit

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