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Kids Want Their Daddy…and Need Their Daddy

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*In this post, “father” can be interchanged with the terms “coparent” or “father figure”.

Moms are generally celebrated for the impact they have on their children (rightfully so). Songs are written about moms, support groups and communities tend to surround moms with the arrival of a new child, and with this, moms may more easily live into society’s expectations as caregiver because of this support available. What can sometimes be neglected or ignored is the incredible impact a father can have on his children. 

In John Gottman’s book, And Baby Makes Three, the importance of fathers is addressed. Research indicates babies that have a positive relationship with their dad display increases in performance in school, social competence, and the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. These effects are shown to transition into adulthood.

Further studies reveal children benefit most from “that special something” fathers offer from the beginning of their life. Fathers are not only important but critical to a child’s development starting at day one.

An infant that is just 2-3 weeks old already will interact differently with their father, and will present more wide-eyed, bright faced, and playful with dad more than mom!

With further information offered through the Bringing Baby Home curriculum, the Gottman’s have found many studies that indicate…

When dads are active in a child’s life, the child tends to:and baby makes three father thrive therapy florida
– Have superior cognitive functioning
– Be better at problem solving skills
– Have higher IQ early on
– Display an increase in empathy
– Have higher levels of happiness
– Report higher life satisfaction
– Have greater likelihood of being securely attached
– Better handle strange situations and display resiliency
– Be more likely to curiously explore their environment
– Be less likely to experience depression
– Have fewer feelings of fear and guilt
– Show greater tolerance when experiencing stress or frustration
– Be more likely do well academically
– Be more adaptable
– Be more playful, resourceful, skillful and attentive as it relates to problems
– Be better able to react appropriately to emotions and impulses
– Have greater ability to take initiative
– See themselves as dependable, trusting, practical, and friendly
– Be more likely to succeed in work as adults and experience overall mental health

When fathers are active in their child’s life, they receive benefits too:
– They are more sensitive with their babies: Did you know when fathers experience skin to skin with their baby, their testosterone levels will never again be as high as they were before?
– They report more secure attachment relationships with their children
– There tends to be enhanced marital satisfaction for both partners, and partners are more likely to report being happily married ten or twenty years after the birth of their first child
– They experience more confidence and feel more effective as a parent
– They find parenthood more satisfying
– They feel important to their child
– They are more likely to be engaged in the community
– They are more likely to serve in leadership positions

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So what gets in the way?
Feeling the pressure to be breadwinner
Babies are expensive! The arrival of a baby causes couples to evaluate each partner’s role in the workplace and adjust their finances. The concept of “provider” can be deeply entrenched in men from their upbringing.  It can lead many fathers to become hyper-focused on work, and see their main parental role as a provider of food, shelter, transportation and other tangible resources.

The status of the parental relationship.
Fathers often withdraw as a way to cope when the relationship is stressful, and the arrival of a baby can be particularly stressful on the relationship.  Participating in counseling, attending a Bringing Baby Home Workshop, or reading And Baby Makes Three can serve to enhance the relationship during this taxing and demanding life season, and can help to determine alternative ways to manage stress other than withdrawing.

Mother acting as gatekeeper
Many new mothers tend to assert control over interactions with their children, whether this is intentional or inadvertent. This can come from that natural “mama bear” instinct and need to protect, however this can lead to a power struggle. Dads often give up trying to participate if his attempts to help continue to be thwarted or if he feels like he can never get it right.

If a father is feeling criticized for the way he is changing a diaper, he may be less likely to do it in the future. Using praise to get more of the behaviors you want can sometimes be more helpful. Saying something like, “I really appreciate you changing the baby’s diaper. It means a lot to me” may allow a father’s confidence to grow and increase the likelihood he will change a diaper in the future.

A woman’s world
After the baby’s arrival, women tend to experience a supportive community of experienced women, while dads often become the target of jokes or negative comments surrounding their incompetence. This criticism is not supportive or encouraging greater involvement. It can sometimes cause men to want spend more time at work or do projects outside the home to avoid this negativity as they may not feel appreciated in the home and may feel more competent and celebrated in work settings.

Gender specific roles
Even couples who planned to avoid traditional gender roles in their relationships find they face societal pressures to fall into more traditional roles with the transition to parenthood. This adjustment can be hard as both partners are establishing their identity as a parent and it is important to discuss your desires and expectations with your spouse.

Not knowing what to do
There is no specific manual to refer to for parenting and often dads worry they won’t know what to do with a baby or that they will do it wrong. Feeding, diapering, and bathing are all new skills as a parent. The best thing a couple can do is learn a baby’s like and dislikes together through practice and experience.

Cultural norms
In some cultures, norms create a hesitation for fathers to become involved. Fathers may have grown up without an involved father so an emotionally available parent it is not a norm that they naturally live into. Additionally, media has also had an influence on culture’s view of the father role. Dads are often portrayed negatively in TV shows, movies and books.

Historically, when fathers are presented in the media, they are portrayed as cold, strict, punitive, authoritarian or even violent, or bumbling, useless, incompetent, and detached.

But the reality is dads want to be involved and are not only capable, but critical to children’s success later in life. Many fathers are not aware of the depth of research indicating children with involved dads grow up to be more emotionally intelligent and socially successful adults.

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Dads want to be involved!

Fathers are more involved now than ever before. Changing tables are being added to the men’s room of bathrooms all over for those dads out there who take on that diapering role very seriously.


Fathers ARE fit and capable to care for babies, even as young as infants.

Fathers make special and unique contributions to their kids that need to be appreciated, celebrated, and supported.

Additionally, women benefit and tend to be happier in their relationship when dad is warm and emotionally available to their children. So it benefits everyone!

Dad’s tend to play differently with children…and it helps them to thrive!

Ever seen a father throw his gleeful child into the air and catch her, all the while the mother watches in horror?

Play is an opportunity for fathers to SHINE.

The energetic approach dads tend to take with their children helps them to truly flourish. Dad’s tend to foster independence and encourage adventure. They offer kids the freedom of exploration, and tend to be more physical/tactile with kids.

Children love the stimulation dads often offer and may even choose dad over mom to play with!

The way a mom plays with a child tends to be different, although is just as helpful to a child’s development. Mothers tend to be more cautious and play more of a teaching/caregiving role. They are more verbal, and do not tend to display the highs and lows of play with dad. The differences in these play styles/experiences are equally important and help prepare the child for facing the world in the most positive way possible.

Can women learn to do what father’s do?

Yes! The key is focusing on play interactions that feel high energy, that is full of highs and lows, and offering expected and unexpected experiences. Being silly and physical, instead of smooth predictable play, encourages independence and exploration.

How a father can help or hurt his child’s development:

Being physically around is not enough, children need their dad to be warm and emotionally available. Fathers can still be perceived as absent even in an intact family if dad is not emotionally present. Kids who reportedly had fathers who were cold, authoritarian, and derogatory had the hardest time with social relationships and grades.

How a dad is present is what is most important.

Dad’s who use an emotion coaching style of parenting seem to make the biggest difference. When parents emotion coach, they listen to their children’s feelings, see the sharing of feelings as an opportunity for connection or teaching, and validate their children’s emotions.

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How a dad can be more involved:

Know your child’s love maps – know their inner world and what is important to them. Learn their likes and dislikes, and play with them!

As a partner, look for what your husband is doing well and TELL HIM!

Have you noticed a change in your relationship with the arrival of a new baby? Couples Therapy or Workshops at Thrive Therapy can help to address your concerns.

Want more tips and techniques for a healthy and satisfying relationship? Subscribe to the Thrive Therapy newsletter.

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