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Involving Fathers In Parenting
By Guy Bowling, Parents as Teachers National Center

The support and love fathers give to their children is important and the unique role they play has an impact on their overall development. Parents as Teachers National Center offers tips to parents on the importance of fathering and how dad can use these tips for learning and growing together with their kids

Why dads are important

Involved fathers can help shape their child's life for the better.
" A dad's presence in his child's life shows the child how important she is and how much she is loved. This will build her self-esteem and ability to form positive relationships with others.

" Dads often show their children a different way of doing things. A child sees things from different points of view, which will teach the child to be more flexible and understanding.

" Dads and moms can share in the responsibility in caring for the child. This gives dad a chance to bond with his child, gives mom a chance to enjoy the time she spends with her child and creates a healthy emotional environment for the whole family.

" Dads often play with their children differently than moms do. Dads encourage their children to take risks and explore the world around them. They usually promote more physical activity and teach their children to be tough in a difficult situation.

" It's playtime when it's time with dad. One of the primary activities dads engage in when they spend time with their babies is active play. Fathers are more rough- and tumble in their play with children than moms-a fact well recognized in the role of "father as jungle gym". The father's body does not play a role in the prenatal growth, delivery, and nursing of the infant as moms. Fathers and babies seem anxious to catch up, extending from infancy to toddlerhood and beyond.

" Infants who are "well fathered" tend to be more secure and curious and less hesitant or fearful in exploring the world around them. The more active play style of dads combined with holding off giving immediate help to a frustrated child may serve to promote problem solving. Children have a greater tolerance of stress and frustration and may be better at waiting their turn.

" Involved dads are positive role models for their children. Little boys learn that it's good for men to take responsibilities for their children and little girls benefit from having a relationship with a caring male.

" There are certain aspects of male styles that support a child's intellectual development. Dads often have a special interest in analytical skills such as math and problem solving. Dad's care can combine with mom's to effect how children think of their own abilities and effect how well they do in school.

" Fathers spending time reading to their children can often be a strong predictor of many thinking abilities, particularly of daughter's verbal abilities.

" Children of involved fathers tend to be more securely attached and show higher levels of empathy. Fathers who play an involved role in the care of their children have children with less gender role stereotypes.

What dads can do

" A man's body feels different than a woman's and so do the feelings that come from their touch. A child often relates his dad's body to being strong and solid. When dads hug and hold their children they give a sense of security and protection. A dad's hold says "You're safe with me and I'm here to look out for you."

" Children often learn how to play sports, build blocks and explore the outdoors with their fathers. A dad can play with his child and teach her about things that are interesting to him or that he is good at doing, especially if they are different than mom's interests and abilities.

" A dad can share in the responsibilities of taking care of his child like helping to change diapers, go to the doctor and feed his child. This will help him further bond with his child and take some of the workload off of mom. Then both mom and baby will appreciate and value dad.

" A dad and mom should be a team. When parents work together they give the child stability and structure. The child knows what to expect and is not confused by conflicting opinion or even discipline. Mom and dad can work together to compromise and find a reasonable solution for how best to care for the child.

" Children want and need quality time and attention from their parents. Going places and doing activities with both parents together and individually will open a child up to new experiences and a different way of doing things. A child will also feel closer and more connected with each parent. Don't forget quality doesn't have to mean quantity. How expensive or exciting something is doesn't always mean that much to a child. Just hanging out with parents can be enough.

" A dad can spend time talking or reading to his child. This will allow his child to get use to his voice and male voice tones. The child will also learn about his father and see dad as someone to go to for advice and guidance.

" Children who have fathers that are involved in positive ways in their lives tend to display less impulsivity and more self control. Positive father care has been associated with positive moral behavior in both boys and girls.

" Children whose fathers are not in their daily lives start looking for their fathers as soon as it becomes clear that kids have moms and dads. Children who can't find their fathers make one up or appropriate one to their liking, whether or not they call him "dad".

" Dad does not always have to mean biological father. For many, "Dad" is found in step-dad, adopted dad, uncle, grandfather, neighbor, or coach. These male figures can play a significant role in the life of child from a male perspective.

" Males may be a presence in a young child's life to be a male figure he/she is seeking to learn from and love.

" Moms can welcome the opportunities to allow male figures to nurture their children when biological dad is not present.

" Actions- Young kids learn with their eyes. They do what they see.
" Begin with babies-Start the relationship early. It's easier to build than make up for lost time.
" Consistency-It brings order to their world

For more child development and parenting information, parents are encouraged to visit the Parents as Teachers National Center web site, at www.ParentsAsTeachers.org.

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