Every daughter sees her father as larger than life. Every son sees his father as the smartest, strongest man he has ever met. Whether or not these are true is immaterial — this is what the child sees.
Children see these things because they need them. Deep inside, they long for someone to protect them, to make sure that they are safe, loved and shown how to live life. These are primal needs that we tend to forget about as adults.
In fact, children ascribe the role of hero to their fathers early in childhood. Fathers do not need to prove themselves worthy or do anything special to be their child’s hero because this is a role that all children bestow upon their fathers. The father’s work is not to earn the role, but to maintain it.
If you are a father, you must understand that your children want to respect you, imitate you, and admire you. Your opinion of them means everything to them because they see you as a much better man than you see yourself. Therefore, as you parent them, do so according to what they see and need, not according to what you think you are capable of doing.
A hero in your children’s eyes will always have their backs. You are expected to be the one who will stand up for them when they can’t — you are to be the one who will always bring good from a bad situation. You are the one who will make life right when they feel everything is going wrong. You will make sense of things, and when their friends, teachers, and coaches tell them that they can’t, you will teach them that they can.
Heroes aren’t afraid of pushing others through struggle. In fact, psychologists have said that fathers are more comfortable watching their kids struggle than mothers are. This makes sense. Are fathers more insensitive? Of course not! They are simply wired to allow others to figure their way out of tough situations — rather than to rescue them right away.
Learning how to struggle and find one’s way out is a critical skill for children if they are going to be successful in life.
In a child’s eyes, a father is one who has authority with a capital A. Mothers have authority and influence, but it is a different kind from a father’s. In a child’s mind, a mother has to love her children, but a father’s love is negotiable. Even if the child has a father who is very devoted to his family, a child will hang on to what his father says because he believes that he can do something that will cause his father to stop loving him.
He believes that it is harder to shake off his mother’s love.
Being a great dad to a child is simple but hard. A father who wants to be a hero doesn’t have to be super-intelligent, make a lot of money, or even be great at many things. But he does have to be willing to sacrifice for his child, be honest, exercise courage, and live with integrity.
Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years. She is the author of the best-selling book “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters,” as well as a number of digital parenting resources and online courses, including The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.