Published November 01, 2007 by
Before we discuss the problems of education within the family, we must clarify the particular influence of the father and mother. The importance of the fact that parents belong to both sexes has previously been stressed.
The father is more than just a recipient of new dad gifts, he plays a specific role in a child's education. He is the exemplum of what a man should be in life. The position of a man in the family largely depends on the cultural pattern prevailing in the particular family. In groups where the man is considered dominant, the father represents power and right. For children of such a father, man is definitely endowed with force, efficiency, and strength. This picture of a man, although abandoned in many American homes, is still prevalent in most parts of the world today. The picture of the dominant male is accentuated by the fact that in our culture man generally has a louder voice and as a rule is taller, because women generally select a mate taller and stronger than themselves. It also is generally the man who earns the money, a fact which gives him certain rights and makes him also the symbol of usefulness. As the father is generally engaged in work and business, his word and judgment mean encouragement or discouragement for his children in respect to work and business, or the equivalent of these. The limited amount of time which a working father can spend in the company of his children does not diminish but rather enhances his importance; children look forward to those few moments they can spend with their father. They will take his advice, his opinions, and his suggestions very seriously so long as they are not set against him by their mother.
Despite these obvious paternal influences, men generally feel that they should not interfere in the education of their children. They consider it the special task of the mother. This abstinence has various psychological reasons.
First, we may say that it is rarely a sincere respect for the mother's ability to perform the task adequately. Although fathers very often have a sense of inadequacy in regard to rearing children, they are also suspicious of the mother's ability. Their abstinence is a device by which they let her make mistakes and reserve for themselves the right to put full blame for any disturbance upon the mother.
A second reason for men's abstinence is the fear of being rebuked, of being told that they know nothing about education. It is not necessarily true that their wives know more. It cannot be denied that the mother, who spends more time with the children and must take care of them, is the most important factor in their lives but this explains rather than justifies the aloofness of many fathers. The child needs the influence of the father. Any father concerned more with the welfare of his child than with his own prestige will find a way to help the mother in the difficult task of rearing children.