Exploring the challenges society places on fatherhood
Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 29, 2012 22:11
“I learned so much from my dad; I learned how to act around people from him. I feel like I even learned to dress from him, just how to carry myself in general,” Kelly McClelland said.
McClelland, a communication major, described how her father taught her these and many more of the basic elements of being a happy, healthy person.
This is has been the basis of fatherhood for decades, but in a world that is growing and changing so rapidly, fathers are struggling to do the same job their fathers and grandfathers once did so well just a few decades ago.
A study done by the Pew Research Center found that 47 percent of Americans believe fathers are doing a worse job at parenting than previous fathers of the last 20-30 years.
Societal factors such as outside influences, peer pressure and interruptions and distractions from technology are the main challenges men face against being good fathers today, according to the same Pew study.
“Families can go on a road trip, and what are they doing?” asked Jon Swaner, 37. “They’re watching the built in TV or they have ear buds in. No one is talking to one another.”
People of all ages are so connected to technology, that they are slowly losing touch with people right around them.
Smartphones have almost replaced teething rings in some homes. Most smart phones have special child modes which allow a young child to play with the phone without accessing anything they can disrupt. There are cellular phones designed just for preteen children that come in funky colors with game applications. Parents also have to fight for their children’s attention from countless video games, social networking and other media. Unfortunately, it seems too many fathers have not overcame this challenge.
Jon Swaner, an Indiana State University lecturer in communication, believes in the power of simply spending quality time with his 11-year-old daughter, Cami.
“You have to be there when your kid needs you,” Swaner said. “Being there when she has those bad days at school, or when she’s scared, unsure of herself — That is when the real bonding takes place.”
The Pew study also indicated the public belief that modern fathers are failing to teach their children morals and failing to effectively discipline them.
Dr. Jim Jacobs, Indiana State University professor of special education, has a very straightforward view on teaching children to make appropriate decisions independently.
“I taught my daughter a modified version of the same basic life rules my father taught me,” Jacobs said. “Whatever you choose to do in life, first ask yourself; is it legal? Is it moral? And is it ethical?”
Jacobs says many parents have somehow allowed their children to develop a sense of entitlement.
“My father made sure I knew that if it’s not a right then it’s a privilege, and privileges have to be earned,” Jacobs said.
Fathers can be influential in so many ways to children. But as those children grow into adults and parents themselves, they sometimes take a more objective look at their fathers’ parenting philosophies.
“My dad would yell at us anywhere, and I think there is a time and a place to yell,” Jacob Stevenson said. “I’m not going to do that with my kids.”
Stevenson, 22, says he first considered what type of father he wanted to be when he was about 15 years old.
Stevenson and McClelland, who are engaged to be married, have briefly discussed when they would like to start a family.
A modern change of fatherhood is the trend of becoming a parent later in life.
The percentage of new mothers older than 35 has recently surpassed the percentage of new teen mothers, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.
The main reason for this trend seems to be that adults are interested in accomplishing their goals before starting a family.
“You sacrifice so much for your kids; you give up your own aspirations,” Swaner said. “A lot of people are waiting to have kids so they can accomplish their career goals and live their life for themselves first.”
McClelland, who was born to older parents, shares a different perspective of this trend.
“I don’t want my kids to go through what I went through,” McClelland said. “My mom and dad never had the energy to do fun things with me like my friend’s parents could.”