Celebrate fathers and how they are different from mothers!

IMG_0888 Happy Father’s Day! Here are two of my favorite fathers – my husband Joe and his son, my stepson, Benjamin.

Joe is doing here what dads hopefully do well – taking delight in his son! What I love about Joe as a father is the way he shows his children respect and compassion. What I love about Ben as a father is his consistent  commitment to his children’s well-being and his willingness to share his passion for sports with all of his boys. Ben taught me how to be a stepmother and it took him a long time (but that’s a whole other blog topic!)

Fathers and mothers are different. That may seem self-evident, but in fact, I sometimes worry that mothers who love parenting class will go home and try to turn the fathers in their lives into mothers. While research only captures trends and there is little comparable data on same sex parents, I think you will appreciate this description from a well respected study on the difference between mothers and fathers:

Alert, fed, comfortable babies, when approached by their mothers, tended to relax, coo, and modulate their breathing and cardiovascular responses-as if to sort of say, “Ah, here’s Mom.” Then when the father approached, the babies’ eyes tended to open, the shoulders would go up and the heart and respiratory systems were activated rather than calmed, as if to say, “Here’s Dad, let’s party!” (Pruett, in Louv, 2002)

Consider these differences that research suggests you may want to celebrate: Mothers tend to nurture, dads tend to play. Before you dismiss the importance of play, think about its functions. That crazy “wrestling” on the floor actually helps strengthen brain synapses. Play teaches collaboration, negotiation and thinking skills. Play is how children learn and grow.

Mothers talk, fathers do. Mothers tend to ask questions, mothers tend to repeat themselves, mothers tend to discuss personal issues more than fathers. In contrast fathers focus more on physical play and activities and tend to do unconventional behaviors like joking around and slapstick humor. Mothers are inclined to protect and understand. Fathers often express high expectations and encourage children to deliver on those demands. Their words tend to be more direct and demanding than mothers’ inquiries and explanations.

Here’s what’s important – children benefit from both ways of seeing the world. When children have both mothers and fathers in their lives, they tend to be more confident and more competent. And keep in mind that fathers don’t have to be the biological kind – supporting relationships between children and their grandfathers, uncles, stepfathers and other significant male caregivers is important. So moms, on this Father’s Day be sure to tell dad, and remind the children to tell dad, all the things they love and appreciate about him – even if some of those things are so darn different from the way you see the world!

The fathers and mothers that you are or that you know may not fall into these categories – tell us about how you are similar or different from your child’s other parent.





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