Why Dads Are Important -- What Role Do They Play?

by Teresa J. Mitchell

Important DadsIn the last decade, the importance of a dad's role has taken a back seat to issues like "working parents versus stay-at-home parents" and "mother-baby bonding."

This is most unfortunate. Fathers bring a unique perspective to the family and to the lives of their children. Dads influence healthy development of their sons and daughters.

Which parent rallies the kids to throw a little harder or run a little faster? Which parent encourages caution? Whether it's a sporting event, the playground or even around town, we'll often see moms protect while it's the dads encouraging their children to push their limits.

Why Dads Are Important

Dads are important because a child needs both male and female role models.

  • Fathers who interact with their newborn children are usually more likely to support their wife in her new role as mother.
  • Babies can distinguish their father's voice from a stranger's before they're a month old.
  • Dads who played with their kids in sensitive, supportive and challenging ways at age two had stronger relationships with these same children during the tween and teen years.
  • Roughhousing with dad during the preschool years helps kids develop the ability to manage emotions and thinking and physical action...all at the same time.
  • Kindergartners who were less attached to their dads were more anxious, withdrawn and less self-confident at age 9, less accepted by peers and less well-adjusted at school.
  • Girls with involved fathers are more likely to have healthier relationships with the opposite sex.
  • Boys who grow up with dads are less likely to be violent.

Fathers Add Balance to a Child's Life

Dads influence kids differently than moms. Mounting research suggests that interactions with an involved father are as important, if not more important that interactions with a mom when it comes to a child's positive development.

Mom's influence has more to do with self-worth and the ability to form close, one-on-one relationships. Dad's involvement affects a child's acceptance by their peers and the level of confidence as the child enters adulthood.

Fathers Encourage Challenges

Dads see potential and encourage their kids to set goals and reach for them. Moms are more likely to see the consequences of risky behavior. Together, they help children expand their independence and confidence while remaining safe.

Fathers Challenge Vocabulary

Moms and dads talk with their children differently. Mothers might simplify their words and speak on the child's level. Fathers are less likely to modify their language for a child. Mom's way encourages immediate communication. Dad's way challenges a child to expand their vocabulary and linguistic skill.

Fathers Focus on Justice

When it comes to discipline, men and women aren't always on the same page. While there are exceptions, dad's discipline usually stresses justice, fairness and responsibility. Mom's focuses on sympathy, care and help. Together, these approaches offer kids a healthy balance.

Fathers Offer a Man's Point of View

Men think, dress and cope with life differently than women -- that's just a fact. Boys and girls who grow up with their dad's influence have a better understanding of the world of men.

Dad's influence helps girls learn how typical and healthy men act toward women. The relationship with their dad builds emotional security. Boys look to their fathers to affirm their masculinity and self-esteem. Boys learn different methods from their fathers on how to channel their strengths and weaknesses in positive ways.