Parenting Resource

Celebrating All the Dads Out There

Jun 17, 2017

TV portrayals of fatherhood have changed a lot in the last 50 years; actually being a dad may have changed even more.

Aywan88 / Shutterstock

It’s been over 50 years since Ward Cleaver first shared his fatherly words of wisdom on “Leave It to Beaver.” Parents of young kids today may be able to catch a rerun, but they’ll never see Ward Cleaver strangle Wally or “the Beave” the way Homer Simpson strangles Bart.

In the 1990s, Carl Winslow cracked a lot of jokes, put up with Steve Urkel and had a tough job as a police officer on “Family Matters,” but he was always there when his TV kids needed him. That same decade, we saw Al Bundy criticize and ridicule his kids on “Married With Children.”

Let’s face it: Hollywood doesn’t always get it right when it comes to showing us what fatherhood is really like.

This Father’s Day, ZERO TO THREE wants to let all you dads out there know – we get you!

In fact, dads gave us many things to think about when we conducted our national Parent Survey, Tuning In: Parents of Young Children Tell Us What They Think, Know and Need. For instance…

Dads are more than babysitters.

They love being involved fathers, and want – and deserve – more credit. The dads in our discussion groups expressed resentment about the stereotype that being present and engaged in their young children’s lives is the exception rather than the norm.

Two-thirds of moms and dads agree that dads don’t get enough credit for their involvement in raising and caring for young children. And, many dads report feeling frustrated and shut out. About 40 percent of dads, vs. 17 percent of moms, agree that “I’d like to be more involved in raising my child, but my parenting partner interferes with my involvement.” At the same time, 43 percent of dads vs. 16 percent of moms agree with the statement “My parenting partner often takes too much control of parenting.”

“The biggest thing I hate, [when people say] ‘Oh, you’re babysitting your kids?’ They’re my kids. I can’t babysit my kids… How do you babysit what you brought into this world?”
~ Damien, Dallas

“There may be times I went outside when I was a kid throwing the football to myself because dad wasn’t there throwing the football to me. I want to be the catcher. I want [my kids] to know that they’ve always got a safety net.”
~ Donovan, Dallas

Dads believe that parenting can be learned.

They tell us that if they had more positive parenting strategies, they would use them. In fact, 81 percent of dads agree or strongly agree that good parenting can be learned. More than 60 percent of dads want more information on how to be a better parent, and 58 percent wish they had known more about brain development when their child was younger.

“I sit back and think, my gosh, how much damage could I have done?”
~ Victor, Dallas

“From zero to five, anytime you walk past them, anytime you make eye contact, they are watching you. They are recording you, and your bad habits become their new habits.”
~ Chris, Chicago

Dads are parenting differently than their fathers did.

Dads from all backgrounds report that they are more present and engaged with their children than they recall their own parents were with them. More than 50 percent of dads say they show more affection to their kids than their fathers showed them. Almost 50 percent say they participate more in playtime and other quality time, while 46 percent say they read more to their children. And, one surprising fact – 54 percent tell us they say “I love you” more to their kids than they heard it from their own parents.

“My dad was always so strict. It’s like ‘dude, why are you so damn mean?’ I’d say about five years ago, he finally gave me a hug and I was blown away. I said, ‘wow, I don’t want to be that.’ I hug Destiny and kiss Destiny every day I see her.”
~ Bobby, Dallas

“That’s why I say the more you’re in their life, the more you’re teaching them or showing them, the less they have to go out and look for it [elsewhere]. Me having a daughter, I always thought I don’t want her to have to search for love or whatever it is from another man. That’s why I’m here. I’m her dad. She doesn’t need another dad. I’m here.”
~ Donovan, Dallas

Even though it’s not easy, dads love being dads!

The vast majority of dads are passionate about the positive role that fatherhood plays in their lives. In fact, 90 percent of dads tell us that being a parent is their greatest joy, 85 percent say that being a father is the best job in the world, and 73 percent say their lives began when they became a dad.

“I love being a dad. It’s like the best thing ever – just knowing I have a reason for being here. So when I go to work, and when I’m out here knowing that the decisions I make reflect on [my daughter’s] future… I know I have priorities and responsibility, and I have to be here for my kids. So, that’s how it is.”
~ Chris, Chicago

We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves.

Happy Father’s Day from ZERO TO THREE.