Dads don’t always get the credit they deserve. Even today, as more men are taking on care taking roles and more women are becoming the breadwinners, we still tend to view dad as a second-rate mom.
We still say that dads who spend time with their kids are “babysitting.” Parenting forums are full of women, and half of them use the word “mom” in the title. If mom and dad split up, getting equal custody for dads is still an uphill battle.
Children are still, in a lot of ways, seen as the mother’s responsibility. That’s a shame. Because dads matter.
When a father is involved in his children’s lives, it makes a big difference. Dads can do wonders for a child’s development. Dads parent differently from moms, and that variety is more useful and beneficial to kids than most people give it credit for.
Moms and dads typically don’t talk to their kids the same way. Especially when they’re little, moms tend to put a little bit more thought into what their kids can understand. They find ways to speak to their children that they can understand, and they understand their kids even when others don’t. That’s great for kids. It helps babies learn to talk and aids in connection with their mothers. But it’s only half the battle.
The way dads talk to their kids serve a purpose, too. Generally speaking, fathers use more complex language with their kids than mothers do. They tend to ask for clarification more, give more directions, and make more references to past events. This is important, because, outside of the family, that’s the exact the kind of talk they’re going to hear.
It makes a difference. Studies suggest that children with involved fathers are better at communicating with people outside of the home because they get that practice with their dads. Moms might get the kids talking, but it takes two types of parents to get them ready for the world.
The more time dad spends with his kids, the tougher those kids grow up to be. There have been dozens of studies on this, all showing that almost every measure of self-confidence seems to go up when a child has an involved father.
Children with involved fathers are more resilient when they have to deal with stress. They’re more able to handle unusual situations. They’re more curious about their environments and more eager to explore them. They have less fear and guilt, more self-direction, and less psychological distress.
So why does that happen? Because fathers deal with problems differently than mothers do. When a child is upset, mothers tend to comfort them and make them feel safe and protected. Fathers, however, tend to comfort children by trying to bolster the child’s sense of confidence in exploration instead.
This approach is not necessarily better than a mother’s approach. Both serve a useful purpose. But when children have exposure to both approaches, they grow up emotionally well-adjusted and ready to face the world.
Boys, especially, need a present father. He is going to set their concept of what a man is. Dad will be the first standard of masculinity in a child’s life, and he’ll be the one with the longest-lasting impact.
One of the most important things boys learn from their dads is how to treat a woman. When kids grow up, they tend to emulate their parents’ marriage. If mom and dad fought a lot, had affairs, and got divorced young, there’s a high chance their kids’ marriages will go the same way. When mom and dad treat each other with respect, kids learn how to do the same with their own partners.
In fact, boys are more likely to emulate their fathers if their parents have a good relationship. Part of the reason a child wants to be like his father is because he wants his mother’s love. If a boy can see that his parents are in love, he’ll imitate his father more. If dad isn’t present, boys will still come with up a concept of manliness. They just won’t get it from their parents. They’ll get from TV.
Most of all, a good father makes mom better – from the second a child is born. The amount of support a woman receives from her husband has a serious effect on whether or not she’ll develop postpartum depression.
A father’s impact lasts throughout the child’s life. At every stage, involved fathers reduce the mother’s stress. When dad is participating and helping with the kids and other domestic duties, mom feels more supported and confident in every aspect of their lives. Not only does she feel better about her husband; she feels better about everybody.
This is especially true when dads take over developmental duties, like reading to the children. When a father takes an active role in his child’s development, he takes the pressure off of mom to do it by herself. And it almost goes without saying that, when parents are less stressed, they’re better parents.
So, moms, don’t try to do it all alone. Pass the baby over to dad and let him help. And dads, get ready to carry your weight. It’ll make a world of a difference.