Slam-dunks: An Assist From Dad

Ok, so you give your child all you had and much more - video games, skiing vacations, beanie babies, movie tickets and, of course, some hugs.

But brace yourself, parents. It's not enough. Along with love, parents must remember another four-letter word:


Children who spend lots of time engaged with both their parents tend to be happier, more giving, and more successful. And, in a good sign for future Father's Days, they tend to become good parents, say family experts.

"Any number of studies show that the outcomes for children are much better if they have a father closely involved in their lives," says Ken Canfield, president of the National Center for Fathering in Kansas City, Mo.

"Involved parents are more likely to have children who excel in school and beyond," says Ron Klinger at the Center for Successful Fathering Inc. in Austin, Texas.

But beware the trap. The "quality time" clich, creeping into the schedules for millions of busy parents, is more accurately written today as "cop out," according to parenting experts.

"The common concept of 'quality time' is actually harmful because it allows people to not spend giant chunks of time with their kids," says Mr. Klinger.

Many parents spend precious time with children at a movie, athletic contest, or amusement park. But parents can better show their devotion and build their child's character through day-to-day tasks - helping with homework, doing household chores together, taking the child to work, the experts say.

"The rationale for 'quality time' is that we're very busy," says Wade Horn, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative in Gaithersburg, Md. "But time studies show we have more leisure time than 30 years ago, and it's not true that 'quality time' is better than 'quantity time,' " says Mr. Horn.

"Spend lots of time with your children" is just one of many tips for fathers and mothers. Horn offers a few more:

* Eat dinner together - "Studies show families that eat together have children who do better," he says.

* Develop mutual interest early in hobbies or sports.

* If you are short of time, erase some regular activity from your schedule and write in time with your children.

* Turn off the TV - "You'd be amazed how much time you have when it's not filled up with television," says Horn.

Klinger distilled the attributes of 300 fathers nominated as "great dads" by their wives or children and pinpointed 14 strengths: financial support, caregiving, physically active play, trust, humor, security, self-protection (assertiveness), independence, courage, family traditions, patience, forgiveness, identity, and self-confidence.

"Successful fathers make their contributions through role modeling," says Klinger, "and that means they have to be around their kids a lot."

In the pages that follow, nine Americans from different walks of life discuss the strengths and values passed along by their fathers.

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