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Discover 3 Cool Reasons Why Dads Matter
Here’s a bit of an uncomfortable belief: Dads are important because men are different from women.
In other words, the father is not the mother – and vice versa, of course!
I’ve found that friends and neighbors sometimes feel uncomfortable when I share that observation.
There are some obvious reasons for this – so much of our recent gender history in the West is about treating men and women as equals.
Talking about differences stirs the pot a bit and threatens to be a return to a culture that imposes stricter and more harmful gender roles.
That’s why it’s good to remember that being equal doesn’t mean we’re necessarily the same, even though we have the same rights.
And different is neither better nor worse. It’s… well… different.
Gifts to be different
Many native, earthly cultures already know this: they deeply value the complementary gifts of boys and girls, men and women, fathers and mothers.
These cultures believe that all aspects of life must be balanced, and balance is achieved in part by recognizing, respecting and celebrating our differences.
They also have a deep understanding of what those differences are and how they affect our relationship with our children.
We all understand this on some level. In fact, soon after we are born we know that mom and dad are different: an 8-week-old baby can tell that mom and dad have different ways of dealing with life, other adults, and children.
“A father, as a male biological parent, makes a unique contribution to parenting a child that no one else can replicate,” says child psychiatrist Kyle Pruett, author of Fatherneed: Why Father’s Care Is Just as Important as Mother’s Care for Your Child.
Understanding some of these differences can help us dads fully embrace our power and appreciate our key role in raising our children.
Here are some of our special contributions as dads, in no particular order:
We rough it up, roll over and get physical
We have a gift for engaging our children through physical activities that are a little nerve-wracking.
Whether it’s a frenzied bout of tickling, wrestling or running down the hills, dads tend to engage in rough, dynamic, energetic and loud activities.
“In infants and young children, fathers’ type of interaction is physical play characterized by excitement, excitement and unpredictability,” says Ross Parke, a psychologist who asked mothers and fathers in 390 families to describe in detail how they played with their children.
OFFICE. All right. But what good is a full contact game?
A lot, it seems. Rough rollover play affects a child’s ability to control their emotions and activity.
Children who play a lot with their fathers have less risky behavior. They learn how to read social signals, regulate their emotions, stay within limits and take manageable risks.
A child who is good at reading social cues and monitoring their feelings is also a good friend, someone who is more likely to be cooperative and peaceful.
We focus on agreements and rules
Can you see yourself asking your child what the deal was? It turns out that on average, we’re more rule-bound than mothers.
We have a certain way of setting boundaries and holding our children accountable.
We emphasize justice, fairness and duty, while moms focus more on compassion, care and help, says gender differences psychologist Carol Gilligan.
Dads often follow and enforce rules systematically and strictly. This teaches our child objectivity and the consequences of good and bad.
Moms tend to be more flexible, meeting the wild, boundary-breaking child with more grace and sympathy, which provides a sense of hope.
“Fathers are more likely than mothers to confront their children and impose discipline, leaving their children with the impression that they actually have more authority,” psychologists Marsha Kline Pruett and Kyle Pruett write in Partnership Parenting.
We talk as always
While mothers will simplify their words and speak at the child’s level, men tend to talk to their child as they normally do.
Mom’s way facilitates immediate communication.
Dad’s way stretches a child’s use of words—an important skill for connecting with other people and doing well in school.
Differences between moms and dads are tendencies and generalizations found through much qualitative research. I can transfer from one culture to another.
So how true do they seem to YOU? Do you recognize yourself in this characterization or does it seem foreign to you?
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