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What Dads Can Do Better Than Moms

by Katlyn Joy | June 19, 2013 12:00 AM
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The days of father knows best seem long gone. Watch a sitcom and see a dopey dad who fails at everything but good intentions. But how realistic is this modern, ineffective father?

What Dads Bring to Families: The Data

Dads matter from the beginning.

A 2007 study of 19,000 families by the Equal Opportunities Commission found that dads who took paternity leave when baby first arrived and spent a significant amount of time at home with the child in the earliest days had fewer emotional problems or behavioral issues when the child reached the age of 3.

Dads dramatically decrease a child's risk of drug and alcohol abuse and cigarette smoking.

Children who don't live with their fathers are more than 4 times as likely to smoke.

Dads give kids a better shot at healthy lives, including both physical and emotional health and positive behaviors.

In fact kids in single parent households have between 2 and 3 times the amount of behavioral problems.

Dads help ensure graduation and school success.

Kids living without dad are twice as likely to drop out. A study of 20,000 children found that when fathers are involved with their kids' schools the children were more likely to receive A's, participate in extracurricular activities and less likely to fail a grade.

Dads create children who care about others.

In a 26-year study, researchers found that the single greatest factor in determining a child's capacity for empathy was an involved dad. Dads who spent time alone with their children and spent childcare time at least twice weekly had the most compassionate children of those followed in the study.

Dads create better outcomes for their children regardless of the income they produce.

It's not the dough; research has shown that even children raised in the inner city were more likely to finish high school, become self-sufficient and enjoy healthier lifestyles if they were raised in a two-parent family.

Ways Dads Make a Difference by Parenting Differently than Moms

1. Dads are physical.

Moms tend to try to keep things gentle and quiet while dads like to roughhouse and play more rambunctiously with kids. It teaches them the rules for play fighting, like don't hit in the eyes, no slapping in the face and so on. The child learns boundaries in this type of play. It also helps a child develop physical skills and confidence as well as problem solving of a different kind. Think about how your little one struggles to find a way to grasp a ball that your husband keeps just out of his child's reach. Children who play physically with their dads score better on tests of problem solving. It also helps teach a child emotional regulation. You can't get mad when playing and lose your temper with dad and continue to enjoy the play session.

2. Dads set boundaries and are disciplinarians.

Of course there are some dads who are push overs and some moms who are toughies, but it seems most families fall more in the "Uh-oh, I hope Mom doesn't tell Dad what I did today!" Dads tend to see clear practical rules and consequences while mothers can get caught up in nuances of gray and a desire to peacekeep.

3. Fathers let the little stuff go.

While Mom may be a notorious multitasker and worry over how to get the costume ready for the class play, finish Jason's homework with him and clean the kitchen, Dad will skimp on the costume (who really cares if the hem is finished or not?) help Jason finish, while ordering pizza. Forget kitchen clean up tonight; we're using paper plates!

4. Dads have different types of one-on-one time.

Just because your husband doesn't have a serious cuddly read a story time with a follow up emotional heart to heart doesn't mean his time with his kids is any less important. Dads tend to do more cooperative activities than intensely emotional ones. They may do a chore together, go to a car show or museum together or some other activity that is shoulder to shoulder rather than heart to heart. This builds cooperation, camaraderie and confidence in kids.

5. Dads encourage risks.

Moms shrink away from some activities because of "what if's" where dads are more likely to cheerlead, "Go ahead! Don't be afraid to try!" The pay off is obvious, kids will have more success in life if they have the confidence to test their wings.

6. Dads are just as nurturing even if it looks different than moms' style.

In a 2013 study, it was discovered that dads are just as good at mom's at deciphering what baby needs from the sounds of baby's cry alone. Also, that feel-good hormone, oxytocin that moms have when breastfeeding is not for females only. Dads have an increase when they have newborns but also have a boost in it when engaged in roughhousing with their kids.

Perhaps most telling of all is the study that found that it is a confidence in a father's love that yields the best results in young adults as to whether they are happy and satisfied in life. Dads matter!

Katlyn Joy is a mother to 7 children, and a freelance writer. She earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing and Poetry, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and was previously an adviser to new mothers on breastfeeding through a maternity home program. She currently resides in Colorado with her family.

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