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The "Dad-Factor"

Photography: Loren Stow
http://www.lorenstow.co.za/

There is no doubt that moms and dads instinctively do things differently. I know that in my interactions with my children, I tend to choose to sing to them, read to them, hold them gently and generally be soft and loving.

My husband however, naturally creates fun and challenges our children. He throws them up in the air, gets them doing somersaults, jumping off the couch crashing into pillows, giving them 'good' frights... you get the picture. And, when it comes to dad, he gives my children more freedom, lets them try things that make me cringe (like walking freely in a gift shop filled to the rafters with breakables... sitting unaided in the bath... climbing to impossible heights on the jungle-gym... oh my heart!).

Other than giving your children a really fun time, and causing mothers everywhere near heart-attacks, fathers make a crucial contribution to their children's development. This is good news really. We've known for ever that there are certain things that only mothers can do, and it is high time that dads get their slice of 'recognition pie'. 

Sometimes dads today are really stretched, having to provide for their families and being more involved in parenting duties than previous generations, and they sometimes wonder if their contribution is really so important - if it's worth going the extra mile so to speak. We can, without a doubt, say Yes - it is worth it, and here's why:

In an article called "How do fathers fit in?" by CIVITAS (The Institute for the Study of Civil Society in Britain), directed by Dr David Green, we learn that fathers are unique in two very special ways.

Firstly, fathers play differently and that has a massive impact on child development. Secondly, and most interestingly, it is what fathers don't do that makes them so special...

Fathers Play Differently
My husband is not alone. Scientific studies have found that fathers tend to be more boisterous, adventurous and exciting in their play than their mommy-counterparts. Imagine for a second a father playing with his child - throwing, tumbling, wrestling, holding a toy just out of reach, loud bursts of laughter, unpredictability, and high energy. And then, when your child is just about to burst from excitement, father calms them and models self constraint, teaching siblings to take turns...

A father is teaching his child trust when he jumps from the couch into his arms. He is teaching his child problem solving skills, goal orientation and perseverance when he holds the ball just out of reach. He is teaching self-control and social skills when he models how to play 'nicely'. He makes it acceptable to have a competitive and driven spirit, revelling in feelings of accomplishment.

Fathers Act Differently
Fathers are less prone to 'hellicopter parenting' and allow their toddlers to do things that would make most mother's hair grey - like running free in a gift shop, bathing themselves, feeding themselves, and generally exploring their worlds with less restriction than mother's usually impose.... need I say more?
This is teaching a child about self-sufficiency, self-esteem and skill development. In fact, studies have found that developing social skills and self-esteem has less to do with the mother and more with the father's interaction.

Fathers just being fathers seem to naturally nurture and develop their children's sense of industry, competence and responsibility.

To wrap up I quote from an interview on the Evolution of Dad website, with Yale-Based Professor and specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry, Dr Kyle Pruett:

"One of the most important things about dad is that he is not mom... and that the world beyond mom really begins with dad. Children who've had involved fathers often can take a bigger slice of the world and not be scared by it.

I think one of the other barriers to involved fathering is that society perpetuates this equation in stone - that the distant, productive, 'bring home the bacon' father is the only way to really love your children. Children wouldn't buy into that for a minute! They need to know who this guy is, why he's in their life, why he loves them, and what he loves about them.

If you want to reduce gang membership, teen-pregnancy, dropping out of school, abuse and neglect of children, and substance abuse, you can do it by engaging fathers early and often in the lives of their children.

We know this from the science, we know it makes sense. It's not easy, but it absolutely works! It works on these problems like aspirin on a headache. And our failure to connect the dots here with what we know, is a huge unfinished problem. And our children absolutely deserve for us to stop fooling around and fix this."

For the in-depth article from CIVITAS on father's role, visit http://www.civitas.org.uk/hwu/fathers.php 

For more about Inspired Fathering, visit http://www.evolutionofdad.com/

Words: Loren Stow
when we know better... we do better

comments? please email lizette@practicaprogram.co.za

*Practica Parents: Fathers sometimes find it difficult, after a day at work dealing with adult issues, to enter their child's world. The Practica Program offers age-appropriate games and activities that fathers can do as part of their lifestyle, and by simply following easy instructions they can engage their children and bond on their level.

If you would like to be notified of all new posts via email, please send an email to lizette@practicaprogram.co.za 

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