Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home. Involved fathers — especially biological fathers — bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.

– David Popenoe, Life Without Father


A columnist recently quipped that, “In 50 years, our society has gone from ‘father knows best’ to ‘father knows nothing’ to ‘who needs a father?’” While both research and the feminist movement suggest that children raised with just mothers (or just fathers) thrive well, let’s take a look at the unique contributions that father make to our children’s lives:

  1. Fathers engage in more rough and tumble play. Children may seek out fathers more than their mothers for physical fun and activities.
  2. Fathers engage in more ‘“unexpected” behavior with kids.
  • When fathers surprise young children, children tend to be frightened and then laugh in delight. As young as six weeks old, babies “prepare” for interacting with moms and dads differently.
    • When mothers reach for them, babies calm down.
    • When fathers reach for them, heart and breathing rates increase, as if knowing interaction will be high energy rather than relaxing.
  1. father with his daughterFathers tend to use humor more than mothers even when disciplining kids.
  2. Fathers are sometimes more likely to build confidence. Mothers may tend to protect and dads encourage kids to push the limits
  3. Fathers communicate differently
  • Mothers will use simpler words and speak at child’s level which facilitates immediate communication.
  • Men are not as inclined to change the way they speak – father’s adult way of speaking may challenge children to expand vocabulary and linguistic skills, important building blocks of academic success.
  1. Fathers prepare children for the real world.
    • Involved dads help children see that attitudes and behaviors have consequences.
  • Fathers more likely than mothers to tell children that if they are mean to others, kids won’t want to play with them. Or, if they don’t succeed in school, they won’t get into a good college or secure a good job. Fathers often tend to help children prepare for reality and harshness of the world.
  1. Fathers tend to be less patient with children’s dependent behaviors like whining for help doing tasks they are able to do. If done in a positive way, this may contribute to child’s independence.

Keep in mind that these differences are trends and not hard facts. There are plenty of mothers who encourage kids to explore limits and support more independence. And, I have observed that in many same sex couples each parent may take on some of the differences described here.

Finally, while I see more moms in parenting classes than dads, over the years fathers’ participation has increased significantly. When only mom comes to class however, I am sometimes concerned that she will go home and try to transform dad into parenting more like a mom. I hope this list will help you appreciate dad’s approach and recognize how the interaction of the different perspectives will benefit your child most.

As you celebrate dad this week you might also remind him that in spite of getting up at night and coming home to more tasks at the end of the day and striving to be the best dad he can be in a world that might favor mom’s parenting style, fathers live longer than non-fathers! Here’s to a serene and joyful Father’s Day to you all from Peace At Home Parenting!