GUEST POST by Jonathan McKee has become a regular guest blogger on this site! He is the author of numerous books including the brand new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, as well as youth ministry books like Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation. You can find his excellent blog here.
“Show me a girl that dresses like that, and I’ll show you a girl whose father was absent.”
That’s what my friend said. I didn’t believe him when he said it. Sure, he was a 20-year youth ministry veteran, but I thought the statement was dogmatic and shallow. How can he make such a generalization!
I was only a couple years into youth ministry at the time and I hadn’t spent but a few years with teenagers. Years passed, and as my wife and I ministered to a growing number of teenage girls who dressed especially risqué and craved sexual attention, we began to notice a common denominator: the absent dad.
Perhaps my friend was right.
This goes beyond my personal observation. More research is surfacing, even in the last few months, pointing to the vital need for “Daddy’s” presence in his kids’ lives. Presence extends further than just being there physically. Our kids need dads who are actually available for conversation.
The journal Pediatrics released an article on October 15, 2012 titled Paternal Influences on Teen Sexual Behaviors, available for download as a PDF . This review concluded the simple fact, “fathers influence the sexual behavior of their adolescent children.” The review investigated 13 different studies about the effect that fathers had on the sexual behavior of their kids. The studies suggest communication between fathers and kids is especially influential. Or, in their educated words:
“Paternal attachment was associated with decreased older adolescent sexual behavior, whereas maternal attachment was unrelated, and paternal disapproval of adolescent behavior delayed adolescent sexual debut slightly beyond the effect of maternal disapproval. Specifically, adolescents with increasing paternal or maternal disapproval, independently, were less likely to ever have sex.”
In short, it’s important for parents to have ongoing conversations with their kids about sex… especially dads.
Interestingly enough, these studies all emphasized “conversations,” not rules. The review suggests kids are actually more likely to have sex earlier if they have either extremely strict or extremely lenient parents. Either extreme is bad (not the first time you’ve heard me talk about the overprotective and over-permissive parents’ guidelines). A balanced approach of providing information in frequent conversations is what made the big difference.
In my 20 years of youth ministry and talking with parents after my parenting workshops, I have witnessed the impact a dad can have. Dads make a huge difference when they choose to actually be present in their kids’ lives. The question dads need to ask is, “Do I want to work those extra hours for that Christmas bonus… or do I want to give them a gift that will actually make a lasting difference in their lives: my presence?”
The gift of presence helps your kids in numerous ways. A new study published in the August issue of Child Development proposed that a parents’ time spent with their kids may even raise a teenager’s self esteem and social confidence, especially if it’s time spend with Dad. US News summarizes the study.
Something about the father’s role in the family seemed to boost self-esteem among the teenagers in the study. What most differentiated some families from others was how much the dad was typically around and whether he devoted some of that time to be with his children.
Dads… are you listening?
Question: What do you think? Why do you think these studies are discovering the role of a dad to be so important?Do you think Jonathan’s friend was right about a “promiscuous” girl’s relationship with her dad? Share your thoughts here.