Why a Father’s Example is More Important to His Kids Than His Words

The most recent Fathers Day brought to mind the words of the late American Inventor & Businessman, Charles F. Kettering (1876–1958): “Every father should remember that one day his son will follow his example instead of his advice.”

This still rings incredibly true (and not only of sons but daughters, too): Whether we realize it or not, our children are watching our every move. They learn how to negotiate life as a result of what they see. For certain, it will not go unnoticed if you treat your wife with the respect she so richly deserves, and be sure that your children will notice the thought and effort you put into both your professional work and the time you put into your children them self, be it reading a book to them or coaching his soccer team.

Children absorb and process everything. They learn kindness and respect from us. Self-esteem and integrity. The value of hard work and effort to achieve one’s goals. So many things, really, whether the love of reading, as a writer named Matt Duczeminski mentions in a post on the website Lifehack.com, or the love of music, as a woman named Joelle Previty writes on the site Odysseyonline.com.

Previty lists several other things she picked up from her dad, like how to love herself, love life, and be empathetic. She ends her piece this way:

My dad is sentimental and he’s an old fart. He’s a hero and a perpetual victim. He is an inspiration to be and not to be, but I love him overall. The most simple things he has shown me in life have all become things that make me who I am…

One of her points would appear to be that a dad doesn’t have to be perfect, but he does have to be present. Studies have in fact shown that when fathers are involved in their children’s lives, the kids are more likely to score well on tests, find a good job, and be involved in stable relationships. They are less likely to drop out of school, engage in high-risk behavior.

A post on the site Focusonthefamily.com neatly summarizes how fathers and mothers influence their children, and how those influences can be complementary. For example, kids learn competition and independence from Dad, equity and security from Mom.

The post also mentioned the conclusions of Dr. David Popenoe, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University and Co-Director of the National Marriage Project. Poponoe believes dads love “more dangerously” than mums — that they encourage their kids to take risks, while at the same time teaching them about right and wrong, and the importance of discipline.

And again, much of this is unspoken. But it is without question vital.

As the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato once said, “The best way of training the young is to train yourself at the same time; not to admonish them, but to be seen never doing that of which you would admonish them.”

That’s the crux of the matter: Set a good example. Lead a good life. Your children will notice and eagerly follow along after you.

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