Texas Neighborhood

From the Desk of TNS - Head Start/Early Head Start Director:

Positive Male Engagement  In Early Childhood

“D.A.D.” Dependable. Affectionate. Didactical. While almost any man can father a child, there is so much more to being a positive male role model in a child’s life.

As the Director of Head Start/Early Head Start, our program has a long history of recognizing fathers and male family members as important contributors to the school readiness of children and the well-being of families. Male family members and father figures have important and unique contributions to our program.  Our programs consistently engage fathers as advocates, lifelong educators, first teachers of their children and are vital partners in achieving positive outcomes for children in our programs. 

TNS Head Start/Early Head Start - Father Engagement initiative is vital and integrates aspect of our parents, families, and community relation. TNS Head Start/Early Head Start program have enlisted fathers’ ideas to ensure cultural perspectives; father -- male role model-engagement; and activities support the relationship between fathers and their children for successful outcomes for children.

Why Do We Advocate for Male Involvement?

Positive male role model plays a significant role in fostering social-emotional, cognitive, language, and motor development in the lives of their young children. Studies show that if a child's father is dependable (loving and caring consistently), affectionate (showing love and doting), and didactical (conveying and teaching moral and life lessons), contributes greatly to their child's cognitive, language, and social development, as well as academic achievement, a strong inner core resource, sense of well-being, good self-esteem, and authenticity.

Children who are well-bonded and loved by involved fathers, tend to have less behavioral problems, and are somewhat inoculated against alcohol and drug abuse. Yet when fathers are less engaged, children are more likely to drop out of school earlier, and to exhibit more problems in behavior and substance abuse. Research indicates that fathers are as important as mothers in their respective roles as caregivers, protectors, financial supporters, and most importantly, models for social and emotional behavior.

Child development is part of a complex social system that varies widely from family to family. It is proven that fathers strengthen development when they take an active role early and consistently in the lives of their children, even before they are born. However, there is no single “right” way for fathers to be involved. Instead, there are many types of father involvement in all aspects of raising a child. Research has found that the value of father involvement is determined by the quality of the interaction between fathers and their children – for example, a father’s responsiveness to the needs of his child – rather than the amount of time fathers spend with their children.

How fathers influence our relationships.

A child's primary relationship with his/her father can affect all of the child's relationships from birth to death, including those with friends, lovers, and spouses. Those early patterns of interaction with father are the very patterns that will be projected forward into all relationships...forever more: not only a child's intrinsic idea of who he/she is as he/she relates to others, but also, the range of what a child considers acceptable and loving.

Human beings are social animals and we learn by modeling behavior. In fact, all primates learn how to survive and function successfully in the world through social imitation. Those early patterns of interaction are all children know, and it is those patterns that effect how they feel about themselves, and how they develop. A child is vulnerable to those early patterns and incorporates those behavioral qualities in his/her repertoire of social exchange.

It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of dad. For example, girls who have good relationships with their fathers tend to do better in math, and boys who have actively involved fathers tend to have better grades and perform better on achievement tests. And well-bonded boys develop securely with a stable and sustained sense of self. Who we are and who we are to be, fathers are central to that outcome.

Fathers not living with family.

Unfortunately, there are a number of reasons a father might be absence from their child. In this situation, TNS encourage positive male figures to serve as role models and mentors for the child. A competent, caring male figure can nurture and guide a young child effectively and contribute to all areas of the child’s development. When fathers are separated from their children after a divorce, we engage them to nurture healthy relationships with their children and remain bonded with their children.

Dads who are involved in raising their children make a positive difference in their child’s life. Involved dads provide a positive male role model, they are someone for their child to play and learn with, and children with active dads do better in school.

To support families and to benefit children’s learning and development, TNS encourage interested individuals, positive male role models, especially fathers, to benefit from this list:

  1. Be there now. It’s more about quantity than quality. You don’t have to be a teacher – just be present. That is one of the easiest ways to support a positive relationship with your children. Children love you to read a book, tell a story, play dolls, cars, doctor, vet, school and imaginary games of all sorts. Mainly, they just want to be with you.

  2. Take your child with you as often as possible. This not only builds vocabulary, but also a relationship that can both culturalize and socialize your child. All experiences build an associative mass of neuroconnections in your child’s brain, which have the potential to enhance your child’s IQ, especially when those experiences occur in relationship with you.

  3. Schedule special outings together without siblings. Alone time with your child helps you to catch up with your child, staying in touch with how your child is feeling, how they are doing, and lets you know if the child needs your help.

  4. Work together. Children imitate their parents and therefore are highly motivated to be just like you, so working together builds not only relationship, but also confidence and competence. Making things together, cooking, baking, cleaning, washing dishes, setting the table and crafting particular objects with the recipient in mind – these activities are both bonding and a lot of fun. Simple activities, whether inside or outside, that have a work ethic, can make your children feel that they are growing up to be just like you.

  5. Be your children’s greatest cheerleader. Show them that they are is valued and validated. This will encourage them to extend themself, beyond their last accomplishment as they reach towards new horizons building self-assurance, self-reliance, and the positive reinforcement of being prized and loved.

  6. Be your children’s support. Show your children that you are there for them whether they are right or wrong, because you are their home team, and that no matter what, you are in their court. You are their “go-to” person, who will help them make things better.

  7. Successfully communicate. Use rules of engagement a conversation process where both partners are invested. This really works to help you communicate with your child. Its rules are: active listening; equal time for uninterrupted conversation; and, no matter what is said, absolutely no defense. This is how your child can learn to mutually solve problems while being invested in solutions, outcomes, and consequences. As parents, it is all too easy to project your own fears and childhood experiences onto your child. By having empathy for your child, you are showing your child authentic kindness, and making a safe space for your child to return to, whenever necessary.

  8. Don’t isolate your child for poor behavior. You are your children’s ally, the one who will chart the course for their development. Therefore, it is important to guide children toward positive solutions.

  9. Keep consequences short and age-appropriate, keeping in mind your child’s stage of development. Remember, a young child under the age of nine thinks exactly and emotionally. Therefore, when asking questions, it is necessary to use language and distinct terms.

  10. When your young child is disconnected or detached too early, it is important to compensate (counterbalance) for your time away. You can do this by creating time together that can be relied upon and depended on. (Example: every other weekend, or 1st Saturday of the month, 5:30 PM phone calls, etc.) The important thing is to plan ahead.

I hope I conveyed the importance for dads, grandparents, uncles (positive male role models) to be actively involved teaching important life skills to children in your life. Your involvement in children’s life is important to them, and will be fulfilling for you.

A dad is fulfilled when he has sacrificed to nurture, instruct and raise his children in a way that brings honor to him. May you gain much honor!



Samie Williams

Director of Head Start/Early Head Start