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Sunday a reminder of what it means to be Dad

Published on -6/13/2013, 2:24 PM

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Father's Day on Sunday is a great opportunity to recognize the hard work and important contributions Dad makes to his family.

While Dad might take the lead in working to provide for the family, one Extension expert said the most important work a man ever will do is within the walls of his own home.

"Many men become biological fathers, but becoming a successful dad is the work of a lifetime," said Sean Brotherson, North Dakota State University Extension family specialist, writing on eXtension, the national Extension educational network.

Here are the expert's ABCs of successful fathering:

* A is for being available, attentive and participating in activities. Being around is the first step to being available to your child. To a child, love is spelled t-i-m-e. This could require some effort on the part of a father.

"Examine your work schedule," Brotherson said. "Come home a little earlier. Take more time together in the evenings. Children want parents to be available for time with them."

Attentiveness means focusing attention to their feelings and activities. Do you know your child's favorite color? Do you know what activity your child would most like to do with you? Attentiveness is crucial to seeing and following a child's invitation for a father to be involved.

According to research, the most significant way for fathers to connect with their children is through participating in shared activities. The key is doing something together -- not just talking. Men feel close to their children when they are doing things together that are fun, engaging or focused on learning. This can range from reading to playing checkers or going fishing.

* B is for big moments, being playful and being a model. Be there for the big moments of your child's life, such as at birth, birthdays or school performances. Dads excel at being playful with their children. Playing together is an underrated but important aspect of parenting. It builds great relationships and fosters learning. Fathers can challenge a child's abilities, provide opportunities for growth and build connections through play.

Fathers also are role models, whether they want to be or not. Children learn by observing and imitating. Consider the personal values you wish to instill in your children, and then model that behavior.

* C is for connecting and coaching. Connecting for fathers occurs when they are involved in their child's activities and by talking and providing support. Making a connection is among the most important aspects of parenting, according to research.

To be a good coach, a father should give time, listen, create teaching opportunities, share stories and introduce new skills. A father should be gentle in discipline, firm in providing boundaries and clear in his message of support.

The ABCs of successful fathering provide a foundation as fathers seek to build healthy and caring relationships with the children they love. If you begin with the ABCs, you are laying the foundation for success.

Linda Beech is a Kansas State University Research & Extension agent in Ellis County specializing in family and consumer sciences.

lbeech@ksu.edu

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