Kids gain from having time with both parents

Wondering how to raise kids that are happy, confident and self-assured? Simple. Encourage them to spend more time with their fathers.  Studies show a strong bond between a dad and his child pays off in spades—and hearts, too.

Studies show that kids with connected dads are happier, feel less fear and guilt, have more confidence and experience less emotional distress. Fathers who are emotionally present and involved raise kids who are more able to create positive relationships throughout their lives.

While mothers seem to have the corner on nurturing, dads know how to do it, too, but in their own ways. Take how they play, for instance. Roughhousing may seem like just rowdy fun, but it teaches kids how to temper their emotions, resist violent urges, and control their physical bodies. Kids also tend to learn to take risks more from their fathers than their mothers. Studies show that dads encourage their kids to be more independent and face challenges while mothers are more apt to put safety and emotional wellbeing at the top of the list. 

Encouraging risk may be especially true for fathers of girls. According to the Society of Personality and Social Psychology, dads who support gender equality and who are engaged in their daughter’s lives often raise ambitious, assertive girls with high career expectations.

Some experts believe engaged fathers raise kids who are not afraid of competition while involved mothers raise kids who have a good sense of security and collaboration. It makes sense when you consider how dads interact, in general. Dads tend to be more exciting and unpredictable in play while moms can be more subdued and focused. Studies show that kids who have active, involved dads tend to be less likely to engage in risky behaviors, including getting in trouble with the law or getting pregnant as teens. 

It’s easy to assume that mothers more instinctively know how to care for their babies than fathers. After all, women are literally equipped to feed their children, and many chemical reactions occur to make this happen, from milk let down to the changing of sleep habits to better respond to babies.  Yet a study published in the April 2013 journal Nature Communications found that if a father spent four or more hours a day with his baby, he was as good as the mother at distinguishing his baby’s cry from others. 

The great news in all this is that more and more dads are taking up an active role in their children’s lives. Gone are the days of dad going off to work and mom staying home to care for the children and keeping the house—at least for most American families. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, 60 percent of families today are dual income and only 31 percent single, with just the father working. That’s pretty much a flip from what it was in the 1960s. This means more and more families are splitting duties, including childcare and household chores.

Even better news is that Pew surveys show that both moms and dads are spending more overall time with their kids today than in the past. Forty-six percent of fathers and 52 percent of mothers responded that they personally spend more time with their children than their own parents spent with them. 

What’s the key to gaining all these great benefits? Fathers, just remember the acronym EAR. Stay Engaged. Be Accessible. And be Responsible. If you are affectionate with your kids, make time for them and really listen and be connected, your kids will be healthier and happier. And likely, you will feel healthier and happier too, for creating meaningful relationships with your kids and for raising kids who are not afraid to take on the world. Doesn’t it all seem worth it?