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Father's Day

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Taken from Growing Concerns -- A childrearing question-and-answer column with Martha Erickson

Question: I'm a single male who just read your article entitled "Many Ignore Child Abuse Due to Lack of Knowing What to Do". Can you tell me the difference between Abuse and Discipline? Can a light spanking be viewed as abuse? The problems of today's children and teenagers goes back to early years when discipline wasn't used. Parents need the tools to enforce discipline.

Answer: Rather than answer a question from a reader today, I want to wish all of you dads out there a happy Father's Day. And I want to remind you just how important you are in the lives of your children. The love you give your children from the first day of their lives will become a part of who they are. Each time you respond to your baby's cry or listen to your teenager tell you about the day, you are giving a gift of love that will be passed on through the generations. The interest you show in their schoolwork and outside activities assures your children that they are competent people who can shine at work and at play. And the clear guidance and firm, gentle discipline you provide today prepares your children to be responsible, caring citizens tomorrow. As a father, you are the primary example for your children of what it means to be a man. Your strength, gentleness, and moral courage demonstrate to your son who he can be. And these same qualities become the standard against which your little girl will measure the men that she meets as she becomes a young woman. The respect you show for the mother of your children -- regardless of the status of your own relationship with her -- becomes a legacy for your children and their future partners.

Of course, being a father is not easy. Some of you struggle to find the economic security that will allow you to provide for your family in the way you wish. Others long for the time and energy to be the emotionally engaged parent you know your children deserve. Some of you are physically separated from your children and desperately seek to maintain closeness. In many families, you find yourselves in new roles. As more and more women have moved into the workforce, you dads have been expected to share in childrearing tasks that used to be considered women's work. The challenges you face trying to comfort a fussy baby, change a messy diaper, or calm a toddler who's throwing a three-alarm temper tantrum are compounded by the fact that many of you grew up with few opportunities to learn these basic parenting skills. Unlike most women, you dads didn't get on-the-job training by babysitting. And the Boy Scouts didn't offer a child-care badge like the Girl Scouts did. But you keep on, building on what you know and stretching to learn the things your own dad may never even have thought about.

So this Father's Day week, whether you are sole provider for your family, a stay-at-home dad, or anything in between, remind yourself that you are engaged in the most important job there is. And know that there are many other dads out there who are on this same wonderful journey. In communities around the country there now are classes and support groups to help dads be a strong and positive force in their children's lives. Many of those programs are part of the national Father to Father network, which you can learn about through our Children, Youth & Family Consortium website. Join us on the web at www.cyfc.umn.edu, or write to us and we'll help you find a way to connect. Meanwhile, happy Father's Day.

Editor's Note: Dr. Martha Farrell Erickson, director of the University of Minnesota's Children, Youth and Family Consortium, invites your questions on child rearing for possible inclusion in this column. E-mail to mferick@tc.umn.edu or write to Growing Concerns, University of Minnesota News Service, 6 Morrill Hall, 100 Church St. S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455.
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