Magazine article Work & Family Life

How Dads Make a Difference in Kids' Lives

Magazine article Work & Family Life

How Dads Make a Difference in Kids' Lives

Article excerpt

Our Front Page feature talks about becoming a new dad. This article describes how important dads are in their kids' lives, how they do things differently and theirt impact on a child's development.

It's almost a given these days that new parents will share the responsibilities and decisionmaking of child-rearing as well as children's daily care. Men from every walk of life say they want to be involved. They want to father their kids more actively than they were fathered.

What makes a dad so influential? How does being an involved father go about shaping a child's maturation and growth?

Dads' impact on growth

Father-influences are important precisely because they are influences not of the mother. A dad enhances his child's autonomy by balancing the powerful pull toward the mother.

His very differentness as a physical being-his smells, textures, voice, rhythms and size-promote a child's awareness that it's okay to be different and that's it okay to desire and love the inherently different entities of the world.

Researchers have found that the quality of interaction between father and child counts even more than quantity. What's most important, it seems, is dad's sensitivity to his child's needs and reactions.

What fathers do differently

There are many differences among individuals and families, of course, but here are some of the characteristic ways mothers and fathers nurture their kids.

* Moms tend to pick up their infants the same way over and over (usually to care for them). Dads, on the other hand, often pick up their kids to do something with them-and they pick them up differently each time.

* The "toy" a father often uses in play with a young child is his own body. Dads tend to make everyday bathing and dressing more physical and playful than many mothers would like, but most babies love this kind of interaction.

* Dads support novelty-seeking behavior by encouraging kids to explore the world around them a bit more vigorously than moms do. Dads are more likely to let kids master tasks on their own before offering help, while moms typically assist a fussing child earlier.

* Moms tend to discipline by emphasizing the relationship costs of misbehavior. …

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