A Father’s Responsibility

by Dr. Benjamin Spock

reviewed by Robert Needlman, M.D., F.A.A.P.

I believe that both boys and girls should be raised with a deep conviction that the family is the richest and most enduring source of satisfaction in life…

At its best, in families where two parents are involved, parenting occurs in the spirit of equal partnership. Children will profit from experiencing a variety of styles of leadership and control by both parents–styles that neither exclude nor demean, but enrich and complement the other.

A father’s capability and responsibility

Men have been participating increasingly in all aspects of home and child-rearing. There is no reason why fathers shouldn’t be able to do these jobs as well as mothers and contribute equally to the children’s security and development.

Acting as role model

When a father does his share of the work at home as a matter of course, he does much more than simply lighten his partners’s workload and give her companionship.

It shows that he believes this work is crucial to the welfare of the family, that it calls for judgment and skill, and that it’s his responsibility as much as hers when he is at home.

This is what sons and daughters need to see in action if they are to grow up with equal respect for the abilities and roles of men and women.

Fathers and sons

A boy doesn’t grow spiritually to be a man just because he’s born with a male body. The thing that makes him feel and act like a man is being able to pattern himself after men and older boys with whom he feels friendly.

He can’t pattern himself after a person unless he feels that this person likes him and approves of him. If a father is always impatient or irritated with him, the boy is likely to feel uncomfortable not only when he’s around his father but when he’s around other men.

Daughters need a dad’s approval, too

A friendly father plays a different but equally important part in the development of a girl. She only patterns herself after him to a limited degree, but she gains confidence in herself as a girl and a woman from feeling his approval.

She gains confidence in herself from feeling his interest in her activities, achievements, opinions, and aspirations. The way she relates to boys and men later in life is influenced strongly by the kind of relationship she has had with her father throughout her childhood and by the relationship her parents enjoy with one another.