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  • Kindergartners who were less attached to their dads were more anxious, withdrawn and less self-confident at age 9, less accepted by peers and less well-adjusted at school.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.

Father's Help Kids Prepare for Adulthood

Dads help kids see consequences. They tell their kids that if they're mean, other kids won't want to play with them. Fathers let their kids know that not doing well in school means you'll have problems getting into a good college or landing a good job. Dads help kids understand the reality of living in the adult world.

Member's Share Their Favorite Memories

To see the importance of dad's in our lives, we asked our members to share their kids' special moments with us. Here are a few we enjoyed and thought you would too.

Helen says, "My little girl was only two-months-old, but when she hears his footsteps and his voice, she whips her eyes towards the door. When she spots him, she squeaks and starts kicking her feet and waving her arms. Of course, he's already wrapped around her tiny little fingers and obediently comes right over for a chat and a little play time."

Erica says her little one loves to play with dad and will, "...steal her daddy's sock. Dad wiggles his toes and then reaches for it. The kid holds it just where he can reach. Then he moves really fast and tickles and growls. The kid tickles back. Sometimes dad wins and gets his sock back and sometimes the kid gets away and runs."

John fondly remembers that, "I'd wait at the window, watching for dad. When he opened the gate, I would fly out into his arms. He dropped his coat and lunch sack, grabbed me and hugged. Now, I know how tired he was after working hard all day. Then I just knew I was the most important person that minute and that he was really happy to see me."

Carries reminisces, "Yesterday would have been my dad's 60th birthday. I celebrated by remembering the ways he encouraged me to plan ahead and be happy. My dad was a think first, measure, then cut kind of person. And if things did go wrong, his example showed me how see the humor."

While we do acknowledge that there are plenty of moms doing all these same activities, it's important to remind ourselves that dads do, too! Their significance and importance shouldn't take a back seat!

What's your favorite memory about your dad, or your hubby as dad? Share them with us!