by Teresa J. Mitchell
In 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.
Dads are important because a child needs both male and female role models.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.