The involvement of a father is vital to the normal
emotional development of a child. It is a formula for success
in studies and in developing healthy social interaction.
Rabbis and educators talk about the imperative involvement of
a father in education. "It is advisable for the child to see
the father studying at home," says R' Simcha Cohen. "He
should greet them with a hug and with joy, and should show a
genuine, wholehearted interest in them."
"I refuse to accept the excuse of `I have no time,'" says R'
Diamant. "It is all a question of priorities. If fathers
would only realize what resentments and suffering a child
nurses in his heart against a father who ignores his child,
they would be swift to change the situation."
A `Shabbos Abba' is Not Enough
Young children have the ingenuousness to say aloud what
adults think to themselves, and sometimes they are able to
clarify a matter by their naivete and open approach. Itzik
was not yet four when his father, R' Menachem, once heard him
talking with a friend who came to play. He unconsciously
absorbed fragments of a conversation that was to change his
"Who taught you how to play pick-up-sticks so well?" R'
Menachem heard his son ask with envy.
"My father," replied the boy naturally.
"Your father!" echoed Itzik in amazement, as if this were a
very dramatic revelation.
"He always plays with me," continued the child. "Before I go
to sleep he teaches me arithmetic problems and also tells me
stories about tzaddikim."
"My father never plays with me," he heard the boy say,
detecting a twinge of bitterness. "When he comes home, I am
already asleep and when I wake up in the morning, he's gone.
Sometimes I don't see him for days at a time. He's mainly a
`Shabbos Abba.' "
The neighbor boy was not particularly impressed.
But a sharp pain pierced R' Menachem's heart. "At that
moment, I felt like a stupid little boy," he later revealed.
"As if someone had come along and slapped me in the face and
made me sit up and see things right for the first time."
He continues candidly, "My conscience did prick me here and
there in the past for not devoting enough time to my
children, but I didn't imagine that they were suffering from
any lack. I innocently thought that they were proud of their
father. But suddenly I understood that I had never actually
sat down and dedicated any time to them. I never held a
regular conversation with them, to say nothing of actually
sitting down for a few minutes of play and games, which is
something they need, too."
From that day on, after he heard his son Itzik's revelation,
he became a changed man. "I began to devote times -- not only
to my Torah study -- but to short games here and there, talks
with my children and study sessions." He laughs, "I came to
regard this as a vital spiritual investment. I am glad that I
caught myself in time. Who knows with what resentments Itzik
would have grown up if I hadn't suddenly realized my
obligation in this area."
No one has ever doubted the role of a father in the field of
his children's education. But in some families, this role is
relegated chiefly to the mother, and hers is the main
influence that goes into the emotional development of her
At the end of the day, the mother reports the antics of her
unruly children, despite the fact that a auditory report
cannot compare to a visual impression and one cannot draw
correct conclusions from descriptions that attempt to
sythesize and encapsulate the experiences of an entire day
into a single conversation. The ideal of Torah study helps
women to deal with the difficulty of child rearing by making
them a partner in their husband's study. The husband is away
all day, doing his duty, while she is holding the fort. She
may feel that she's doing alright when it comes to the
household chores of cooking but children do not suffice with
her input. At some point it becomes clear that the presence
of the father is merely virtual and not actual. He is a
figurehead, a Shabbos or Yomtov father, and this reality is
liable to harm some children in some families -- to be sure,
not all -- and they may develop frustrations and emotional
Studies have proven that there is a definite importance to
the involvement of a father in the development of a child. A
mother, despite all of her efforts, talents and good will,
cannot replace a father figure. The father must complete the
A Father Influences Academic Success
The British Department of Education, in conjuction with
various organizations, held a study on this subject. It was
found that fathers are as important to children as mothers
and sometimes, even more so. A mother can go out of her way
to give her heart and soul for the sake of her children and
they will still sense a lack, the missing father figure who
exhibits no involvement. With boys, the presence of a father
is much more decisive, as is evident from other studies.
We do have to express certain reservations. A British study
that tested the contribution of a father to the development
of his children or the negative influence of the lack of his
involvement, claims that every child is influenced to a
different degree from the situation in which the yoke of
child rearing falls mainly upon the mother's shoulders. In
any event, the researchers found that when the father was a
dominant figure in their education, the children gain on all
fronts and to a degree that is beyond our imagination. They
are more successful in their studies and tests, they are more
sociable and less aggressive. Professor Charles Louis from
Lancaster University who headed the team of researchers said
that an active involvement of the father in education and
rearing is the recipe for a child's success in later life.
Children who played with their father achieved a greater
social maturity, became more cooperative and amenable to
sharing and yielding than children whose mothers were the
dominant factor in their lives.
R' Nochum Diamant is not overly impressed by these findings.
"It is not surprising. I often hear children who literally
weep to me, `I have no father!' " Some dropouts, he relates,
maintain that they never had the proper father figure, the
authoritative voice that set boundaries in their lives, the
deterrent that had to be taken into account. It was much
easier for these problem children to overcome the gentler
protests of a mother and do what they liked. These children
actually yearned for a warm word from their father, for some
interaction of conversation or play. Just by listening to
these children, one sees how much of a trauma they have
experienced, how much resentment they bear in their hearts,
what gaps of love they suffer from. Children have remained
with low self esteem and some even begin to stutter as a
direct result of the frustration they feel from the lack of a
signficant father figure in their lives. A child needs a
father who is involved in his life and sometimes even
intervenes. Many children who lost out on this basic element
in life have felt the results deeply, stresses R' Diamant.
Not on Bread Alone
"Is it possible for mothers to raise emotionally healthy
children when the father is hardly involved in their
upbringing?" Dr. Udi Oren, the chief psychologist in Kupat
Cholim Meuchedet formulates the psychological question that
begs to be asked.
"The answer is: yes. One can certainly raise children on
bread and water, but this is not the optimal situation. The
potential contribution of the father to the normal emotional
development of a child is very high and is significant in
channels that the mother cannot provide. Each of the parents
has a different psychological and ethical makeup, abilities
and characteristics that complement one another, and when
both parents accompany the child with love and commitment,
these are heavyweight components. When a father figure is
almost non-existent, a situation can arise that is
professionally termed `father-deprived'. In many cases this
is a condition forced upon the father who may be holding down
two or three jobs in order to overcome economical problems.
He may be a workaholic by nature and spend most of his waking
hours outside the home with a resultant negligible, if not
non-existent contact with his children."
To be continued...