Empowering Fatherhood: How Dads Can Contribute to Positive Parenting

Empowering Fatherhood: How Dads Can Contribute to Positive Parenting

Important lessons for fathers on how to raise healthy and empathetic kids

Dad is just as a fundamental a pillar in raising children as mom. His presence or absence largely shapes the person their kids will become when they grow up. Nowadays, the role of the father is no longer defined as the parent who delegates the entire upbringing to mom and is fully focused on the breadwinner role.

In today's society, men are increasingly claiming their place in the childrearing dynamic. It’s no longer uncommon to see homes in which fathers stay at home to raise their children while mom enters the workforce.

Relying on a study carried out by Beth Latshaw, assistant professor of sociology at State University, the National At Home Dad Network established that a total of 1.4 million dads raise their kids, and that number has doubled in the last decade. But while dads have taken great strides and today have more visibility and involvement as caregivers, they could still use guidance on how to maximize their contribution to positive parenting. Taking an active role in childrearing doesn’t necessarily mean being a stay-at-home dad. 

Why is it important for dad to be present during parenting? Below we review what the research shows and provide ideas so that dad knows how to get the most out of the time he spends with the children.

Early stimulation
Being with children is one thing. Getting involved with them is another. When dads actively participate in activities like bath time, feeding and playing their kids gain more confidence, improve language and sharpen their cognitive skills. In his book Fatherneed: Why Father Care Is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child, child psychiatrist Kyle Pruett asserts that fathers' active play and slower response in helping young children in frustrating situations promotes problem-solving skills and stimulates early independence. As a result, Dad's natural curiosity in allowing the child to explore without so much control benefits young minds by allowing limitless discovery.

Interpersonal relations
Dad influences not only how his children are on the inside, but also how they relate to people as they grow up. How a parent treats his or her child influences what he or she will look for in other people. Friends and spouses will be chosen based on how that child perceives the meaning of the relationship with his or her parent. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1990 revealed that when parents spent time with their children, they developed empathy in adulthood. How a dad behaves and treats his children will largely influence the friendships and influences his children choose in their daily environments.

Future challenges
Children benefit from different parenting styles. David Popenoe, a sociology professor at Rutgers University and co-director of the National Marriage Project, says men often love their children "more dangerously" because they play "tougher" and take risks. This characteristic provides children with a wider variety of social experiences and allows them to be exposed to a greater variety of approaches to life. With their way of acting, parents show children what the real world is like and prepare them for future challenges. A dad who plays "dangerously" and who gives latitude with a certain degree of freedom, doesn’t enclose his children in a bubble and allows them to start discovering the world.

Zero toxic masculinity
Masculinity can teach boys several important lessons, such as being confident, loyal and assertive; but it also has another, less positive dimension. Studies show that when dads don't spend time at home, kids are more likely to learn only toxic behaviors like aggression, difficulty expressing frustration and repudiation to ask for help. An engaged dad at home favors an emotionally understanding and open environment. At the same time, and according to The American Journal of Sociology, when the father is present in the home, sons grow up without the inclination to exclude women from public activities.

Wise decisions
When children have a dad involved in their lives, they go to school equipped with more qualities necessary for learning. They are more patient, curious and trusting. They are better able to stay in their seats, wait patiently for their teacher and maintain interest in their homework. Educational psychologist Paul Amato explains that this higher level of self-control in school-age children with involved parents was also associated with other qualities such as higher self-esteem and higher social skills. Research from the University of Pennsylvania found that children who feel a closeness and warmth with their father are twice as likely to pursue a college degree, 75% less likely to become teenage parents and 80% less likely to be incarcerated. 

Being a dad is not easy, but it is the most rewarding job any father will ever have. All fathers can use help and there are resources for dads and parents. The Children’s Trust Parent Club is a great resource to learn skills and techniques to better communicate with children and exchange ideas on parenting with other dads and parents. Sign up for a workshop here