I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on parenting. But this I do know for certain: moms and dads are vastly different. Naturally, there are some inconsequential parenting differences. Mom puts the dishes in the sink (rinsed!) and folds the clothes before she puts them in the drawer (folded just so, of course). Dad, meanwhile, may leave the toilet seat up (occasionally) and forget the sippy cup at the park (#never). But what is of great importance and should be noted is the fact that dads parent differently than moms . . . and that this is okay.
These differences, even when they lead to “spirited conversations” between parents, are beneficial to children in many ways. Moms and dads should accept — and even celebrate! — these differences and their positive impacts on their children. Even though our culture seems to undervalue the role of the father in our children’s lives, there’s no denying an involved dad (or paternal figure) is a presence a mother cannot entirely represent.
Dads Encourage (Healthy) Risk Taking
Think about your child on the playground. Moms typically impart words of protection such as “Be careful!” and “Watch out!” Dads are more likely to say “Go higher!” and “Take the next step. I’ll be right here.” A mother’s parenting style helps promote safety (clearly important), while a father’s style fosters the ability to take calculated risks, build confidence, and discover exactly what the child is capable of accomplishing. Sure, there may be the occasional need for Band-aids, antibiotic ointment, and a hug from mom. But they make really cool Band-Aids nowadays! For me, one of my favorite moments as a dad is watching my kiddo beam with pride after conquering a new challenge. There is nothing better.
Dads Roughhouse (More)
Roughhousin’. Horseplay. Wrastlin’. Call it what you want, but kids love it. And they desperately need it — especially boys. Dads typically tickle, chase, and throw kids in the air more often (and much higher!) than moms do. Roughhousing can help raise kids to be resilient, moral, and socially adept while teaching them a healthy balance between timidity and aggression. See this post for more information on why roughhousing is awesome. My wife will be the first to tell you she is grateful I enjoy nothing more than this bonding time with my son. She’s perfectly content smiling at us from across the room (and admittedly relishing the moment to herself). No matter how bad my day has been, there’s simply nothing better than hearing my son’s belly laugh as I trap him in the “tickle trap” or falling dizzily into one another after a spin on the “daddy helicopter.”
Dads Communicate Differently
I am sure mothers are shocked to hear this (note: sarcasm), but men communicate differently than women. This is especially true when talking to children. Dads are less likely to modify their own language when speaking to their offspring. Mom may simplify her speech, choosing to use words the child is familiar with to facilitate immediate communication. Conversely, Dad is inclined to use unfamiliar words which, in turn, challenges the child to expand his or her vocabulary and linguistic skills. While my wife agrees with this sentiment, she told me it comes from a need for efficiency . . . there are only so many times she can repeat herself and answer the same question. Duly noted, babe.
The bottom line is this: the father’s role in our children’s lives is every bit as important as the mother’s. There are many differences between the two, and both are necessary for optimal development and maturity. If your child doesn’t have a father in the home, seek out positive male influences wherever you can. Even though the male/female differences won’t always make for smooth sailing, embracing them is good for children, marriage, and the family unit. When dads can be fully themselves, the whole family will reap the rewards.