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  • Fathers: Tips (cont)
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  • 28/02/2006 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: admin ( 61 articles in 2006 )
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Numerous research studies have pointed to the association between a nurturing, involved father and a child's strengthened thinking (or cognitive) skills. While intelligence is a product of many different factors, their may be aspects of male styles that support a child's intellectual development. For instance, men often have a special interest in analytical skills such as math and problem-solving. In addition, a father's care may combine with a mother's to affect how children think of
their own abilities...and therefore affect how well they do in school.

Studies have paid special attention to the benefits of fathers spending time reading to their children. Time spent can often be a strong predictor of many thinking abilities, particularly of daughter's verbal skills.

So, Dads, if you're looking for something special to do, go grab a few story books or make up a story of your own. Your baby will love to listen to you. Don't forget those silly voices!

Visit our past tip series on Reading Together

Research Reference: "Fatherneed: Why Father Care Is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child," by Kyle D. Pruett, M.D.


"Social competence plays a major role in what makes our kids good citizens," writes Dr. Pruett. Here, too, we see some interesting effects of a father's role. In particular, research has shown that fathercare does indeed affect attachment and empathy in children. Children of involved fathers tend to be more securely attached and show higher levels of empathy. It also appears that fathers who play an involved role in the care of their children have children with less gender role stereotypes.

    Sam, who is one, is familiar with the big hands that scoop him up and take him to the changing table for a new diaper. His dad, Eric, has helped with his baths, dinners, and diapers since the day he was born. For Eric, the few weeks he was able to take off of work right after Sam's birth hold some of his best memories. Even since he went back to work, however, Eric has taken advantage of all the opportunities to interact with his son while he's home. It seems like they have a special bond together. Sam can't say much yet, but his going to daddy for comfort when he cries or just showing dad one of his toys lets Eric know he's important to his son.

Also see "How Men and Children Affect Each Other's Development," an article by Dr. Pruett that appeared in the Zero to Three Journal.

Research Reference: "Fatherneed: Why Father Care Is as Essential as Mother
Care for Your Child," by Kyle D. Pruett, M.D.


Among all the research on father involvement, there is one area of study that holds particular interest for parents in this day and age: self-control. Research has shown that children who have fathers that are involved in positive ways in their lives tend to display less impulsivity and more self-control. In addition, positive father care has been shown to be associated with positive moral behavior - in both boys and girls.

Dads, one way you can help your child learn self-control is by setting limits and modeling appropriate behavior. When you gently correct your young child, you help him understand right and wrong. As he watches you in day to day life, interacting with mom, other kids, or neighbors, he learns how to treat and care for others.

As a tip, remember the ABC's:

  • Actions - Young children learn with their eyes. Monkey see, monkey do.

  • Begin with Babies - Start the relationship early. It's easier to build
    than make up for lost time later.

  • Consistency - It brings order to their world.

Visit our past tip series on Self-Control

Research Reference: "Fatherneed: Why Father Care Is as Essential as Mother
Care for Your Child," by Kyle D. Pruett, M.D.


Sound too unusual that fathers can even affect their childrens' physical development? Maybe so, but some researchers have found it to be true. A relationship was even found relating a father's presence at the birth of his baby with less complications and newborn illnesses. Another study concluded that this may be because mothers probably felt less lonely, fearful, and confused, because the father was present.

In addition, fathers involved in the care of their infants may have babies with higher motor (physical) abilities, perhaps due to their more active play, which encourages a baby to discover what his little body is capable of doing.

Dads-to-be, you may be feeling a little nervous about the upcoming delivery room experience--some of you may be more anxious than the moms. Take heart that although this experience can seem scary, it is one you will treasure for the rest of your life. In addition, you will be helping mom feel much more at ease which will benefit the delivery experience and the baby. If you are feeling anxious, there are some things you can do:

  • Attend pre-natal visits to find out as much as you can about the baby's development and the physical changes taking place in the mother's body. Meet the doctor that will most likely deliver your baby and ask about what to expect.

  • Take a birthing class with your partner. It will give you an opportunity to learn what to expect, what choices the two of you have, how to prepare, and answers to your questions.

  • Find ways to help comfort your partner during labor. Taking an active role can help you take your focus off your anxiety and put it to work to help her.

  • Talk with other dads (and moms) who have already been through this experience. They can be a great source of information.

Research Reference: "Fatherneed: Why Father Care Is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child," by Kyle D. Pruett, M.D.


As we mentioned at the beginning of this series, every person has a different picture when they think of what "Father" means. For some, it paints a picture of a person they never had a chance to know or one they never get to see. When that person is not present in their lives, it can feel like a part of themselves is missing. However, "Dad" does not have to mean a biological father. For many, "Dad" is found in a step-father, adopted father, uncle, grandfather, neighbor, or coach. These male figures
can play a significant role in the life of a child--showing love and nurturing care from a male perspective that a young child is anxious to discover.

Men, you might be a male presence in a young child's life. Don't miss the opportunity to be that male figure that he or she is seeking to learn from and love. Women, welcome opportunities to allow other male figures to care for and nurture your children when their biological father is not present. By taking advantage of the community of resources we have in friends, family members, and neighbors, we can provide a wealth of opportunities for children to give and receive love and care.

12. 24-HOUR DADS

A dad-to-be in a parenting class once commented that moms are more important than dads and said, "after all, moms are mothers 24-hours a day." It's important for all of us to remember that both parents are equally important for children--helping them learn and grow in different ways. Dads are dads 24-hours a day, just as are moms. Since many dads are often the main salary-earners, they are more often the ones at work and away from the baby. Whether it is changing a diaper or earning a paycheck to pay for the diaper, both are important to a baby's healthy development.

A dad may be the primary caregiver or he may have a job that requires extra energy to balance work and family. He never stops being a dad, just as his child never stops having a dad--although the time together may vary. The challenge is in making time to spend together, whether it's going for a walk, giving a bath, reading a book, or feeding a spoonful of mashed peas while saying, "here comes the train!" Dad, with you in the picture, your baby will grow and learn even more.

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