THE IMPORTANCE OF MALE ROLE MODELS IN CHILDREN’S LIVES




In celebration of Father’s Day, we look at the importance of male role models in children’s lives.


A 2017 survey by Statistics SA revealed that as many as 62 percent of children under the age of 18 in South Africa are growing up without their fathers. And according to the World Bank, 25 percent of households across Africa are headed by women.


There’s a saying, ‘Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad’. For boys growing up without their biological fathers, men who play the role of dad are extra special. Male role models encourage boys to explore sides of themselves that women might not be able to help with, says Claudia Abelheim, educational psychologist and head of Youth Services for The Family Life Centre in Joburg. ‘Things such as risk-taking, challenging boys, being loud and physical often come from the father figure in a home,’ she says. ‘Children learn through modelling, so boys can learn many things about being a man from a strong male in their lives to help guide them.’

RESPECT & RESPONSIBILITY
This places a huge responsibility on men in raising the next generation of youth. All men, whether they have kids or not, need to be good role models to the children around them, says author and relationships expert Bheki Zungu, who’s father to a 13-year-old daughter. ‘As a black man who grew up in the village, this was just part of life,’ he says. ‘We saw and respected male figures as our own fathers and uncles. They also lived up to that expectation by carrying themselves in a certain manner, knowing that all children looked up to them. They respected themselves and were very careful about what they did and spoke about in the presence of children, regardless of whose kids they were.’

BIOLOGICAL OR NOT
Zungu says men should make it their aim to be great role models. ‘Every time I look at my daughter I feel proud to be a father and want to make sure I’m a good role model to her, her friends and other kids too,’ he says. ‘There’s so much rot in our society and more men need to step into the lives of those kids who don’t have father figures.’

‘Despite the many influences, including social media, there are certain standards that all male figures should uphold,’ says Zungu. ‘They must always question whether their behaviour is what they want children to emulate – whether their own children or not. When talking to boys about how to handle themselves – and especially how to treat women – it’s pointless to preach a good message and then do the opposite, like verbally and physically abusing women while finding “excuses” for doing so.’

HANDS-ON DADS
Abelheim says even when fathers are present, they don’t always take the lead role in raising their children, leaving it more to the mother. However, modern fathers are becoming more hands-on, which means being more involved and available to their children. 



Abelheim has the following advice for fathers who want to play a positive, meaningful role in their children’s lives:

· Spend quality one-on-one time with your kids. It doesn’t have to be every day, as long as the time is regular. Stay off your phone and computer. Be fully present.

· Do something physical. Watching TV together doesn’t count! Find an activity or hobby you can do with your child, that can become the focus of your special time and a bond that only you share.

· Talk to your children. Don’t leave chats up to their moms. Let your kids know they can come to you with any problem. Ask deeper, meaningful questions so that your children know you are open to talking about anything that’s important to them.

ADVICE FOR SINGLE MOMS
If you are raising children as a single mother, how can you make sure your children have positive male role models in their lives? Abelheim offers the following suggestions:

· Be very conscious of the need for a great role model and take time to find the right person. It could be another member of the family (a grandfather, uncle, older cousin), a friend of the family, neighbour or male teacher, counsellor or coach.

· Don’t be shy about speaking out if you feel a male friend or family member is setting a bad example for your child. If you say nothing about it, the child will think you are okay with the behaviour. So take the time to explain to them why it’s not okay.
THE IMPORTANCE OF MALE ROLE MODELS IN CHILDREN’S LIVES THE IMPORTANCE OF MALE ROLE MODELS IN CHILDREN’S LIVES Reviewed by Jet Club on June 04, 2019 Rating: 5

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