Seven Qualities of an Effective Father – Part One

In 1992, the Executive Director of the National Center for Fathering, Ken R. Canfield, wrote a book entitled, “The Seven Secrets of Effective Fathering”.  Over the course of the next several Thursday blogs, I will share with you the things that I took away from Canfield’s work.  These were qualities that resonated with what I was already learning and applying within my own life as a father.

Effective Father Quality #1: An effective father considers himself important.

Some men think that they are not that important to the development of their children.  After all, it’s mom’s job.  In actuality, dads are vitality important to the growth and well-being of their children.

Let’s look at God as Father.  God desires us to relate to Him as Father.  The psalmist wrote, “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:13.  Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven…”  Matthew 6:9.  If God is referred to as Father, then the role of father must be important and vital.

Some years ago, a study was conducted among Peace Corps volunteers.  Researchers took a random sample of volunteers and split them into two roughly equal groups: those who completed their tour commitments and those who returned home early because of “problems of adjustment and conduct (including psychiatric terminations).

Unlike many studies, this one was nearly unaffected by the volunteers’ race or socioeconomic background.  Almost all of them were college graduates from white, middle-class families.  The study did not differentiate between reasons of father absence, “psychological” instead of physical absence, age at separation, or other father figures who may have stepped in.  So an “absent” father was said to be one who was away from the child’s residence, for whatever reason, during at least the child’s tenth through fifteenth years.

The results were startling.  Of the people who completed their duties, 9% came from absent-father backgrounds; but among those who came home early, 44% had absent fathers.  The study was repeated, and again there was a wide gap of difference: 14% and 44%.* 

The results of study after study yields that same conclusion: Children need their fathers.

Fathers are important to their children because they are different from their mothers.  Fathers are normally concerned with tangibles; “thing” or “gadget” directed; task-oriented or goal-oriented; strives for completion and believes that the doing is secondary. 

Mothers are usually more comfortable with intangibles, relationship directed, process-oriented and enjoy the moment, the doing; completion is secondary.*

Your child will learn certain things from father and certain things from mother.  When one parent is absent, the child’s learning curve is skewed toward the other parent. 

Dads, you are important.  Remember this, before any father can become effective, he has to believe that he is vital to the development of his children.

You are absolutely critical to the parenting process in the life of a child.  There are certain things only you can do for your children. 

Something to think about…


*Citation: Peter Suedfeld, “Paternal Absence and Overseas Success of Peace Corps Volunteers,” Journal of Consulting Psychology (1967: 31:424-25). 

**Citation: Dr. Frank Minirth, The Father Book, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1992, p. 40.