With Father’s Day this upcoming Sunday and the recent Time Magazine cover that boasted the title “Are you Mom enough?” I thought it was time to do a post on Dad’s and their relationships with their kids.
Often times, in my opinion, Dad’s seem to be on the back burner whenever there is a discussion on parenting. Growing up, my Dad definitely fit the old school mold, he was the bread winner and head of the household. He worked all week, and did the around the house stuff on the weekends. I’m not saying this in a negative way, but I don’t have memories of building blocks with my Dad or doing anything like that. It didn’t negatively shape me, it was just how it was. That was the norm at that time.
Fast forward to now, my husband, Scott, is very much involved with the kids. He is usually on the ground with them playing a game, pushing them on the swings in the backyard, or tossing around the football. He changed diapers, got up for midnight feedings, and has even done a solo pediatrician visit. My, how times have changed.
I had the opportunity to talk to a few experts to get their opinions on the importance of fathers or father type figures in our children’s development.
Dr. Richard Horowitz, author of Family Centered Parenting (2011), mentioned that father’s bring a different kind of energy to the parenting journey. For example, fathers tend to be a bit more physical in their play behavior then mothers. This increases self-confidence and risk taking in the children. For girls, those who have a father present in their lives do better in school and are more likely to be responsible about their sexuality. Boys need to see masculinity modeled. Boys learn best by observing and experimenting. Therefore, being with Dad especially in early adolescence helps them deal appropriately with their aggressiveness and high risk impulsivity. Today’s Dad might be more active in childcare during the early years which is certainly a help to their partners but in the long run will not probably have a big difference in their impact on the children compared to my generation. A caution is not to over parent. At times I am concerned that the current generation of mothers and fathers might go too far and over parent leading to children who lack the resilience necessary to confront life’s challenges.
Dr. David Hill, author of Dad to Dad: Parenting Like a Pro (2012), says that fathers’ involvement impacts child development at every stage. Premature infants whose fathers are involved in their care gain weight better, and they score better on developmental tests, as well. Mothers are more likely to nurse their infants successfully when fathers are supportive. Dads’ involvement contributes to children having better language skills, making better grades, enjoying better self-esteem, and suffering substantially less psychiatric disease depression. Children whose fathers are involved are less likely to go to jail, to use drugs and alcohol, or to become pregnant in their teen years. Dr. Hill’s best advice for a new dad? Bond early and often. Start with kangaroo care, getting your newborn skin-to-skin on our bare chest. Get good at diaper changes, baths, and helping with feeds. Then, just don’t stop.
Dr. Joseph Shrand, an instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says that having active parents of any gender let’s the kid know they are seen as valuable through the eyes of the parent. Human beings want to feel valued by another human being. We are very interested in what other people think or feel: empathy. But we are particularly interested in what are they thinking or feeling about me.
For too long men have been cast in the role of the silent parent, the enforcer. This has inhibited many young boys from learning that their feelings are not the problem, it is what they do with feelings that can be a problem. Having an available Dad sends a message that talking, listening, learning about yourself is a good thing. from an epigenetic point of view, the idea that our environments can influence our genetic structure, having a compassionate dad can only be a good thing.
Having a dad give you the gift of their time increases your own sense of value to the universe.
But how that time is spent is also important.
A dad that takes a kid to a baseball game because they like baseball is not quite the same as a dad who takes his kid to a baseball game because the kid likes baseball. Learn what your kid likes, then do that with them. Stop, Look, and Listen to who your kid is, not what you want your kid to be. You will be amazed at how cool they can be, what they like, what their interests are, what they worry about. A kid who feels respected feels valued. Value leads to trust, and it is within that trust that your kid will be able to share their secrets, knowing that you will not judge them but are there a a dad. They will have many, many friends in the world, but only one Dad. Enjoy!
I really want to get the discussion going on this topic. Do you see a difference between how you were raised and how you or your spouse/partner raise your kids? Dad’s how involved are you, is your involvement different than that of your father?
Also, feel free to brag about all the daddies in your lives!