It may be time to let dads be dads.
That’s the findings of recent research from Dr. Kathryn Kerns, who found that the way dads play with their children — "goofy teasing and hyper play" — is beneficial for them, as long as the child is safe and having fun, according to The Wall Street Journal.
This style is especially beneficial when dads attempt to stop a child’s crying and fussing. Hyper play and teasing make children happier and, over time, more confident and satisfied with their emotions, which helps them mature, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“The ability to form close, trusting bonds with parents early in life predicts the quality of a child’s future friendships, social skills and romantic relationships,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “Parents serve as a secure base for exploration and risk-taking and provide a safe haven for a child in times of distress.”
These findings came after researchers, including Kerns, reviewed a number of studies that showed how dads inspire confidence and enjoyable emotions from their children, The Wall Street Journal reported. One study mentioned dads flipping their children upside down to relieve stress, while “another dad sparked his toddler’s interest in playing by yelling in mock distress, ‘Ow, that smarts!’ when the child used a toy doctor’s kit to give him an imaginary shot in the arm.”
Fathers and mothers differ greatly when it comes to how they raise children during the early stages of parenting, The Wall Street Journal reported. Mothers tend to focus more on showing their child affection through babbling and touching, while fathers try to make children laugh with “quick motions.” They also “encourage them to explore,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
“Parents using either kind of behavior can form close attachments with children,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “Beyond parents’ behavior, this process depends on synchrony — the degree to which interactions are well-timed, reciprocal and pleasant for both parent and child.”
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But dads are more than just men who play a little rougher with their children and inspire confidence. University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox argues that there’s more benefits to a positive father figure than just “the power of play” — like how dads encourage their children to take risks, embrace challenges and find independence.
Fathers also look to protect their children from threats. But, unlike mothers, who also look to protect their children, fathers “appear to be more successful in keeping predators and bad peer influences away from their sons and daughters” because of their “size, strength, or aggressive public presence,” Wilcox wrote.
Dads can also discipline their children in ways that mother’s can’t. Wilcox cited the 2009 book “Partnership Parenting” that said mothers are more likely to negotiate with their children when it comes to discipline, whereas fathers tend to be firmer and teach children lessons.
Among other findings, Wilcox explains that teens who have dads who are positive role models are often less delinquent, have fewer pregnancies and are less depressed.
“The story told by this data, then, suggests that there is a case to make against the fathers who fail to have good-enough relationships with their children,” Wilcox wrote. “At least on these outcomes, single mothers do about as well for their children, compared to dads who have poor-quality relationships with their children. By contrast, great, and even good-enough dads, appear to make a real difference in their children's lives.”
The good news for families is that dads are aware of this, and they’re striving to be good role models for their children, according to a new study from Netmums, a U.K.-based research company. Dads said in the survey that being a good role model for their child is more important than being the family’s breadwinner.
So, if the goal is to let dads be dads, maybe that means society will let them be children-oriented family men, too.
Or, as Netmums Editor in Chief Anne-Marie O’Leary puts it:
"The dad revolution is a real chance for men to ditch the pressure to be macho, enjoy their children more and get closer to their families.”
Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret News National. Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @herbscribner.