Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fathers Do Figure

An article on the values that fathers bring to their children’s lives appeared in yesterday's WSJ called The Secret of Dads Success (sub req). While the author was careful to add the usual feel good disclaimers-“ Of course, both mothers and fathers can provide the basics of good parenting”-the overall message was that it’s clearly better to have children raised by mothers AND fathers.

As an estimated 70.1 million fathers prepare to celebrate Father's Day in the U.S., recent research shows that their distinct style of parenting is particularly worth recognition: The way dads tend to interact has long-term benefits for kids, independent of those linked to good mothering.

Beyond rough-and-tumble play, men tend to challenge crying or whining children to use words to express themselves. Men are more likely to startle their offspring, making faces or sneaking up on them to play. Even the way parents hold babies tends to differ, with men cradling infants under their arm in a "football hold" and moms using the "Madonna position" seen in Renaissance artwork—tucked under their chins face-to-face, says Kyle Pruett, co-author of "Partnership Parenting" and a clinical professor of child psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine.

The article goes on to list the reasons that children benefit from the unique parenting styles that fathers and mothers offer. My wife and I both read the article and both recognized how true many of them were. And while it’s true that a mother can try to take on some of the roles that a father usually plays, the fact is that it’s not natural making it much more unlikely that they would do it regularly. My wife and I don’t think about how we interact with our kids, we just do it.

None of this should be news to anyone by the way. The idea that children aren’t best served by having a father and a mother or that either a mother or father can play the parenting role of the other is ludicrous. As Dennis Prager likes to say, “You need to go to college to believe something that stupid.”

The WSJ article closes with an example of a couple who recognize the unique roles they both play in raising their children. The closing quote perfectly summarizes the heart of the matter.

"Neither one of us thinks one way of parenting is right or wrong. It's just different." In the end, she adds, "we are complementary."