The acronym “POPS” stands for protector, order keeper, provider, and stabilizer. In last week’s episode of the Fathering Strong blog, we shared some thoughts about being an order keeper. The main takeaway was that boys need present, mature, and healthy adult father figures to show them what it means to be responsible and well-behaved males.

In this article, I will discuss fathers as Providers.

More Than An ATM

Every sound-minded adult male knows that being a breadwinner is essential. Bringing home the bacon is necessary to meet the financial needs of families and children. No question. But is that all there is to being a provider? As long as pops brings his earnings home so the bills can be paid, his family has a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, and clothes on their bodies, that’s it? Obligations met? Noncustodial fathers are treated that way by some mothers, family courts, and child support collection agencies, and it can be infuriating. In truth, children and families benefit greatly when fathers also provide for their needs in a holistic sense – emotional, social, recreational, educational, familial, spiritual, and other ways.

Serving the Family’s Holistic Needs

Emotional Needs

Availability

Being present emotionally involves actively listening to one’s partner and children and empathizing with their emotions. It also means putting away distractions and showing genuine interest in their feelings.

Validation and Support 

Fathers can create a safe space for their family members to express their emotions without judgment.  By validating their feelings, they show their children their emotions are important.

Open Communication

Fathers can model healthy emotional expression by openly communicating their feelings. Talking about challenges and frustrations in a constructive way sets a good example.

Positive Reinforcement

Fathers can celebrate their children’s achievements and offer encouragement during difficult times.  This fosters a sense of security and self-worth in children.

The key is to be present, involved, and attuned to the emotional needs of your family members.

Social Needs

Fathers play a key role in shaping their children’s social skills and confidence in interacting with others. Here’s how dads can be champions of their children’s social development:

Playful Engagement 

Fathers often bring a different energy to playtime compared to mothers. Roughhousing, active games, and silly challenges can help children develop social skills like turn-taking, navigating emotions in play, and handling friendly competition.

Modeling Social Interactions

Children learn by observing. Fathers who engage in positive social interactions with friends, family, and even strangers show their children healthy ways to connect with others.

Encouraging Exploration and Independence

Dads can create opportunities for their children to interact with peers in safe settings. This could be enrolling them in group activities, playdates, or even just taking them to the park.

Conflict Resolution Skills

Fathers can help children navigate disagreements with friends by talking through situations and offering guidance on communicating effectively and resolving conflicts peacefully.

Expanding Social Circles

Dads can introduce their children to new people and activities, broadening their social circles and exposing them to different perspectives.

Celebrating Social Successes

When children make new friends or overcome social challenges, dads can acknowledge and celebrate these achievements, boosting their children’s confidence in social settings.

Building Self-Esteem

A strong sense of self-worth is crucial for healthy social interactions. Fathers who offer encouragement, praise their children’s strengths, and create a supportive environment foster this self-esteem.

Remember, a father’s involvement in a child’s social life doesn’t have to be elaborate or structured. It’s about being present and engaged and creating a foundation for them to thrive in social settings.

Recreational Needs

Fathers are fantastic resources for creating fun and engaging experiences for the whole family. Here are some ways dads can take the lead in meeting the family’s recreational needs.

Initiate “Family Fun” Brainstorming

Get everyone involved by holding a family meeting to discuss ideas for activities. This can spark creativity, ensure everyone feels heard, and lead to activities that cater to various interests.

Champion Affordability and Creativity

Fun doesn’t have to be expensive! Dads can explore free or low-cost options like game nights, picnics in the park, exploring local libraries or museums, or even backyard camping adventures.

Embrace Active Fun

Many fathers enjoy physical activities. Dads can lead hikes, bike rides, frisbee throws, or even organize family sports tournaments. These activities not only get everyone moving but also create lasting memories.

Plan Themed Adventures

Take inspiration from a favorite book, movie, or historical period. Themed adventures can involve dressing up, creating scavenger hunts, or planning meals that tie into the theme.

Balance Individual and Group Activities

While family time is important, some downtime is crucial, too. Dads can create a “family activity calendar” that incorporates both group activities and individual hobbies for everyone.

Embrace Spontaneous Outings

Sometimes, the most memorable moments arise from spontaneity. Dads can be the ones to suggest a last-minute trip to the zoo, a stargazing session in the backyard, or joining a community event.

Become a “Yes Man” (within reason)

Dads can be more open to trying new activities their kids suggest, even if it seems outside their comfort zone. This fosters a sense of adventure and creates opportunities for shared discovery.

Delegate and Share Responsibilities

Planning and executing activities shouldn’t fall solely on Dad. Involving everyone in setting up, cleaning up, and participating creates a sense of teamwork and shared ownership of the fun.

Remember, the key is to find activities that everyone can enjoy and create a sense of togetherness. By taking initiative and being open to new ideas, dads can become the architects of many happy family memories.

 Educational Needs

Dads are instrumental in their children’s educational journeys! Here are some ways fathers can be super supporters in the classroom and beyond.

Building a Love of Learning

  • Read Together: Reading exposes children to new worlds and vocabulary and ignites a love for language. Dads can read bedtime stories, take turns reading chapters, or even explore comics and graphic novels together.
  • Curiosity Champions: Encourage their children’s natural curiosity by asking open-ended questions and exploring answers together through books, documentaries, or even simple experiments at home.
  • Connect Learning to Interests: Show children how their hobbies and interests connect to different subjects. For example, if they love dinosaurs, explore paleontology or geology.

Supporting School Life

  • Stay Informed: Talk to teachers regularly about their child’s progress, learning style, and any areas where they might need extra support.
  • Homework Help (Not Just Math!): Offer help with homework, even if it’s not your strongest subject. Guide your child through the process, teach them study skills, and celebrate their achievements.
  • Be a School Volunteer: Participating in classroom activities, field trips, or even volunteering at school events shows your child the importance you place on their education.

Creating a Supportive Environment

  • Dedicated Learning Space: Create a quiet and organized space for homework and studying, free from distractions.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Praise effort and celebrate academic achievements, big or small. This builds confidence and motivates them to keep learning.
  • Role Model Lifelong Learning: Show your child that learning doesn’t stop at school. Talk about your own interests, read together as a family, and explore new things together.

Fathers can also be champions for equity in education

  • Challenge stereotypes: Show your children that all children can excel in any subject, breaking down prejudice and bigotry.
  • Advocate for all learners: Advocate for your child’s educational needs, whether they require extra support or gifted programs.

Remember, a father’s involvement can significantly impact a child’s educational success. By being present, engaged, and fostering a love of learning, dads can make a world of difference in their children’s academic journeys.

Familial Needs

Fathers provide their side of the child’s family, which can be an essential source of support and joy for the child.

There are many benefits for children to have strong familial relationships with both sides of their family, but it’s important to consider the quality of those relationships as well. Here’s a breakdown:

Potential Benefits:

  • Stronger Sense of Identity: Knowing and connecting with both sides of the family can give children a richer understanding of their heritage, traditions, and family history. This can contribute to a stronger sense of self and belonging.
  • Diverse Perspectives: Having relationships with different relatives exposes children to various viewpoints, personalities, and life experiences. This broadens their horizons and fosters empathy.
  • Increased Support System: A larger network of loving family members can provide more emotional and practical support for children throughout their lives. This can be especially helpful during challenging times.
  • Double the Love: More positive role models, mentors, and sources of love can have a significant impact on a child’s well-being and development.

Important Considerations:

  • Quality over Quantity:  While having many relatives is great, the quality of those relationships is crucial. Toxic or dysfunctional family dynamics can be detrimental to a child’s well-being.
  • Respecting Boundaries:  Children should always feel safe and respected within family interactions. If relationships are strained or unhealthy, limiting contact might be necessary.
  • The Child’s Comfort Level:  Ultimately, the child’s comfort level should be a priority. Don’t force interactions if they feel anxious or uncomfortable.

Remember: Strong, healthy relationships are key. If both sides of the family provide a loving and supportive environment, it can be incredibly beneficial for children. However, it’s okay to limit or even avoid relationships that are unhealthy or cause distress.

Spiritual Needs

In some Christian traditions, the father holds the role of the spiritual leader of the family. This concept stems from interpretations of specific biblical passages and ideas about family structure. Here’s a breakdown of the traditional view, which I also hold:

  • Spiritual Guidance: The father is the primary figure guiding the family’s spiritual growth. This might involve leading prayers, reading scripture together, and initiating conversations about faith.
  • Role Model: Fathers are expected to be role models of Christian living, demonstrating Christ-like behavior daily. This includes honesty, kindness, forgiveness, and service to others. It also includes leading—not merely sending—their children to congregational worship services, Sunday School, and Bible study. 
  • Spiritual Provider and Protector: Similar to providing for the family’s physical needs, the father is seen as someone who safeguards the family’s spiritual well-being. This might involve protecting the family from negative influences and fostering a faith-filled environment.

Important Considerations:

  • Shared Responsibility:  Some Christian denominations emphasize a more egalitarian view of family leadership. Spouses are seen as partners, working together to raise their children in faith.
  • Focus on Love and Service: Ultimately, the core message of Christianity is love and service. Regardless of the leadership structure, the father’s role is to nurture a loving and supportive home environment where faith can flourish.
  • Focus on Individual Needs:  Every family is unique.  The most important thing is for parents to find ways to connect with their children spiritually in a way that feels meaningful for everyone involved.

It’s important to remember that this is a traditional view within some Christian denominations, and practices may vary depending on the specific branch of Christianity.

Conclusion

These are only some of the ways in which fathers are to serve their families as providers. Clearly, then, our purpose as providers is much more than for financial provision. Our role is essential for the well-being of our children and parenting partners.

Next time, we will wrap up our POPS series by looking at Fathers as Stabilizers. To read the first two blog posts in the series, go to the blog index page.

Instruction from the Holy Scriptures

The husband has the responsibility of being the spiritual leader of the family.

Ephesians 5:23: “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, he himself being the Savior of the body of Christ.”

Fathers are to participate in their children’s spiritual upbringing.

Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

About the Author

Eli Williams is a father, grandfather, and father figure to many. He and his wife Judy have served in community outreach ministry since the late 1980s and founded Urban Light Ministries in 1995. Eli has been a professional fatherhood practitioner since 2008 and is an ordained Christian minister helping to pastor New Hope Church in Springfield, Ohio. Reverend Williams authored Father Love—The Powerful Resource Every Child Needs in 2018.

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