The four letter word dads want to hear this Father's Day

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock 

He considers it the most important gift he can receive and it comes for free - Australian fathers just want to hear "I love you".

A survey of Aussie men found more than 40 per cent chose "being told you are loved" as the number one gift they could get this Father's Day .

"There's actually no social norms for dads talking about fathering and talking about kids when they get together," The Fathering Project WA state manager Steven Rushforth said.

"But dads are ready for that, they want to be involved, they're more involved now than they ever were in any point in history in terms of the family, but they still don't have those social norms and social structures."

The YouGov Galaxy survey of 1018 Australian men was done for experiences gift company RedBalloon ahead of Father's Day on September 1.

It prompted respondents to choose between tangible or experience gifts, but when asked what was ultimately most important, 43 per cent of dads said "being told you are loved".

While it was a market research survey, Mr Rushforth says it's tapping into a wider sentiment of dads openly seeking expressions of love.

The Fathering Project was created in 2009 by Professor Bruce Robinson, a lung cancer specialist and former Western Australian of the Year, after so many of his patients told him they regretted not spending more time with their children.

The program, which recently got funding to go Australia-wide, teaches dads to talk more about their relationships so they can better express love and affection, and vice versa, to prevent children falling through the cracks.

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Gery Karantzas, director of the science of adult relationships at Deakin University, said humans are hardwired to seek love and families can build it through group experiences, instead of just the drudgery of everyday life together.

"Sometimes the reason why relationships don't do so well is not because of the presence of bad things, it's the absence of good things," Dr Karantzas said.

"So having activities or doing things where families can connect and enjoy one another's company, is another way where we can appreciate one another."

New dad Nick Reynolds is keen to foster that kind of open relationship with his eight-month-old daughter, Holly, by showing an interest in the things that interest her as she grows.

And even though she can't say those magic words just yet, the Melbourne father says she has her ways of letting him know she loves him.

"When I come home every day, there's a look on her face and she literally shrieks with joy when she sees me. For me, that's that's her expression of love," he said.

AAP