What Dads do for Kids
Mothers and fathers are similar when it comes to devotion to their children or commitment to their love and care. In fact, some of the newer research indicates that during later pregnancy and early parenthood, even men’s hormones mimic those of women’s as testosterone drops and estrogen increases in men around the births of their babies.
Dads love their babies just like moms do. But they have a very different way of showing that love.
Something as simple as the way parents carry their babies gives an important glimpse into their relationship. Mothers typically carry their newborns up on the shoulder, with the baby gazing out behind the mother. She makes the way smooth, and the baby only sees where he’s been—a landscape deemed safe by Mother.
Fathers, on the other hand, carry babies like a football, cradled in the lower arm, looking forward, their faces sharing the same plane and orientation: “It’s you and me, kid, against the world.”
As children grow and parenting includes the need for teaching discipline, the responses from dads and moms are both important in helping a child develop responsible behavior. But the basis for their teaching is different.
Moms teach discipline based on Relationships: When you talk like that, it hurts my feelings. If you’re mean, other kids won’t want to be your friend.
Dads teach discipline as an introduction to the Real World: You steal from Dennis, he tells his parents, who tell your parents, who take something away from you. Dads focus on motivation and consequence.
These differences in approach are often a source of disagreement between parents. And yet, children benefit from both. They need the comfort and protection they get nestled in their moms’ shoulders. But they also benefit from learning courage and confidence to face the world.
Famed anthropologist Margaret Meade once wrote, “It is the primary task of every society to teach men how to father.” American males—one of our nation’s most precious resources—have sometimes been dismissed as redundant in the raising of children. On behalf of children everywhere, I’d like to assure them of their importance.