It's so cute I don't dare interrupt, so I stand in the doorway of my son's room watching while his dad reads his favorite story—a book from his own childhood—and acts out the parts. “Cover your eyes," my husband says in his first language, French. Our cheeky toddler son covers his ears instead and they both laugh and turn the page.

These little father-son story sessions benefit the whole family.

I already knew they gave me a bit of a parenting break before bedtime and helped instill a love of reading in our little boy. It turns out they're also making my husband a better dad. (Not that he needed improvement. 😘)


According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, fathers who engage with their children through shared book reading see a boost in their own parenting skills while also raising their preschooler's school readiness and behavior.

A better behaved kiddo and a more engaged parent? What's not to love?

The study evaluated 126 New York City dads who joined a program called Fathers Supporting Success in Preschoolers, which encouraged shared reading or—more simply put—story time with dad.

Most of the families spoke Spanish and were randomly assigned to either participate in the program or go on a waitlist (the control group). According to the researchers, parenting behaviors, child behaviors and language development of the pairs improved significantly compared to those who were wait-listed.

The simple act of sharing a book made a big difference for the dads: According to a release by New York University, they made fewer critical statements to their preschoolers and amped up positive parenting techniques like praise and affection after telling stories. On top of that, these improved discipline techniques promote better psychological growth for the kids, according to researchers.

I don't have to look far to see the positive benefits of father-son story time in my house. Our toddler looks forward to bonding with his father over their special French books—which I cannot read at all despite my taking French in high school and college—and my husband is a better dad because of it. Now, if only he could teach our son the difference between eyes and ears, I would really be impressed.

[This piece was originally published on August 24, 2017]

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When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.


The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.

As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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