A famous baseball player, Harmon Killebrew, is credited with saying, “My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, "You’re tearing up the grass." "We’re not raising grass," Dad would reply. "We’re raising [children]." This story sheds light on what some experts say is an important difference between mothers and fathers. Dr. Kyle Pruett, an author and professor of child psychiatry at Yale University, writes, “Fathers do not mother, they father…Fathers tend to do things differently.” Both parenting approaches are important in raising healthy, productive children in safe and stable environments.
The FRIENDS National Center on Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) provides training and technical assistance to CBCAP State Lead Agencies (SLAs) in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. CBCAP is a federally funded program managed by the Children’s Bureau within the Administration for Children and Families. This community of federal, state, and local programs aims to reduce child abuse including neglect through evidence-based and evidence-informed programs.
Many populations are targeted and strategies are typically based on building protective factors within individuals, families, and communities. These protective factors include
- building social and emotional competence in children
- building resiliency in parents
- supporting families in need of concrete support
- helping parents make social connections
- increasing knowledge of parenting and child development
While the presence of a father in the home has decreased substantially in the last forty years, CBCAP-funded programs know there are many ways to engage fathers who may not be living with their children, and help fathers who are disconnected become reconnected with their children.
When this is not possible, other men become even more important in the lives of children as healthy male role models. These men may be uncles, grandfathers, neighbors, teachers, coaches, and many others. Research indicates father involvement promotes better outcomes for children including increases in
- overall academic achievement
- prosocial behavior
- lower levels of alcohol and drug use
- and other high-risk activities
The field is learning more each year about the importance of both fathers and mothers in children’s lives.
Sam Blue from St. Louis Missouri serves on FRIENDS National Center Parent Advisory Council (PAC) and is a family engagement specialist with Project Launch.
Mr. Blue’s Perspective on the Diversity of Fatherhood
My name is Sam Blue. I am thankful for my wife of 25 years and 9 children. I have 7 daughters, and 2 sons. My children all have unique and different personalities. I’ve learned to appreciate and value diversity through my children. I have daughters that are outgoing, strategic minded, funny, risk-takers, studious, Hollywood quality, and creative. While one son is gifted with music the other brings a curious and adventurous spirit to everything he does. As a community engagement specialist for Project LAUNCH, I’ve learned to appreciate and value diversity in fathers as well. I work with fathers with cultural differences, racial differences, different employment statuses, and all levels of income. Amongst all of the differences, the fathers are each still looking for effective ways for them to grow in their fatherhood.
I’ve learned to appreciate and value the diversity of my children and the many different fathers I work with. I’ve learned to be open-minded, and to celebrate the diversity of fathers and their children.
For specific resources on engaging fathers’ and their importance in the lives of children, please visit the FRIENDS’ website www.friendsnrc.org.
Whether a father teaches his children to cook, sew, pitch a ball, or work productively, we know what he brings to the table cannot be easily dismissed. A parent and participant on a FRIENDS’ Peer Learning Call once said, ‘Mothers prepare the world for their child, while fathers prepare their child for the world.’ Not many could argue that both types of preparation are critical to growing up healthy and productive in a challenging world.
The balance of having someone help pave the way for you in the world, and being taught how to manage one’s place in the world as it is, is something a baseball player, a parent, and many experts agree on, and is best taught by a mother (or mother-figure) and a father (or father-figure).
Resources from NFI
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month > NFI understands the importance of training fathers to be involved because dads are vital to their child's lives. We recommend two resources, Creating a Safe Home for Your Family and Understanding Domestic Violence Workshop to help the fathers and families you serve.
Valerie Spiva Collins is the Training and Technical Assistance Supervisor for the FRIENDS National Center on CBCAP. Sam Blue is a member of FRIENDS National Parent Advisory Council, a community engagement specialist for Project LAUNCH in Missouri and a supportive husband of 24 years and loving father of 9 children.