Studies have highlighted the impact of fathers as distinct to that of mothers on children’s development. By Marilyn Rodriguez

A person is singing in my dream, very loudly, and doesn’t stop. Then I realise it isn’t singing, it’s one of my children calling out in the night. I untangle myself from bed and stagger, half asleep, into my daughters’ room.

“What is it sweetheart?”
“I want Daddy.”
“Daddy’s asleep, Bubba. Did you have a bad dream?”
“I want Daddy.”

Of course she does. I go back to get him, but he has heard and is already on his way. Ten seconds later he’s back and it’s sorted, the monster has been properly chased away.

Daddy’s a bit of a hero around here.

In our home my husband returns from work to a clamour of little people wanting to tell him about their day, wanting him to give them a bath, say prayers with them or put them to bed.

Now I can do all these things very well, but he does them differently. He lets them run around a bit before bedtime, be a bit loud, leave the lounge room in a mess.

And the kids love the Daddy Difference.

Studies have highlighted the impact of fathers as distinct to that of mothers on children’s development.

In families where fathers are actively involved their children typically develop better cognitive skills, fewer behavioural problems and fewer psychological problems.

A recent study on the impact of involved fathering on children’s development found that fathers are more likely than mothers to engage in rough and tumble physical play, and more likely to tease their children. They are most likely to startle them in play, by jumping out and surprising them for example.

All of this is thought to foster their children’s independence, self-confidence and resilience.

Mothers, on the other hand, tend to engage their children in gentler forms of play, encourage their verbal self-expression and provide reassurance.

While these are broad tendencies and not necessarily the case in every family, they show that fathers relate to their children in qualitatively different ways to mothers and that these differences serve a purpose.

And sometimes dads are simply better at chasing dream monsters away than mums!

Children are best served when both parents provide them with what they need, including the basics of good parenting such as support, affection and safety and are supportive of each other’s differing approaches.

A Father’s Work Never Ends

It’s a cliché said of mothers, but you could say it of many fathers too: that a father’s work never ends.

Most fathers do so much that goes unacknowledged in the day-to-day. They are expected to lead while also supporting their wife’s lead, to nourish and provide, laugh and play, encourage and teach, protect and support, and provide love and affection to their family.

How often do we as wives really stop to appreciate and affirm our husbands in their unique role as the father of our children?

Is there anything we can do to help him better enjoy his experience of fatherhood?

Consider these ideas:
  • Pray for Fathers (see Pope John XXIII’s Prayer for Fathers)
  • Model appreciation of him for the kids, “Wasn’t that kind of Dad to bring home dinner for us so we could have a treat?”.
  • If he is the primary breadwinner, consider how grateful you are that he is able to provide materially for the family. Tell him. Look for all the different ways he provides, and thank him for all the work he does and all the different ways he provides, in and outside the home.
  • Appreciate that his way of interacting with the children is different and perhaps complementary to yours, not necessarily better or worse.  By working with each other we hopefully will raise well-rounded, resilient and capable children.
  • Sign up for a parenting course together, or read a book or watch a program on child development. If finding the time is an issue, be creative! A friend jots down salient points she has learned from her own reading and sticks them to the wall so that her husband can digest them at his leisure.

Sources:

As featured in the September 2011 edition of CathFamily E-Magazine.

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Author: Marilyn Rodrigues

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