Opinion Columns & Blogs

Spread the word: It's good to be a dad

One-third of children in the United States grow up absent their biological fathers. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton declared fatherlessness as one of the greatest social problems in our society, linking it to many other major social problems. President Obama has publicly recognized fathering as one of his greatest accomplishments. The consequences of fatherlessness are huge.

But there is hope. Progress is being made through the efforts of organizations such as the National Fatherhood Initiative and the National Center for Fathering, along with countless grassroots community efforts.

Research is beginning to emerge defining the differences between mothering and fathering. When fathers are involved in the lives of their children, they impart a different set of skills their children will utilize throughout life.

An example of these differences can be seen in styles of play. Mothers tend to play with their children in traditional fashions. They frequently utilize objects (blocks and rings) in their play, and see play as an opportunity to teach. Moms engage with their children to "do" things.

A mom is more inclined to nudge an object, helping it into the hands of a young infant struggling to reach it. This form of nurturing develops trust in the parent; children learn they are cared for and their needs will always be met.

Fathers tend to engage in more physical types of play. Rather than using toys in play, fathers often become the toy. They take their riders across dangerous terrains and obstacles, fostering imagination and exploration.

As a whole, fathers are more inclined to let children struggle through activities for longer periods, encouraging them to work to get objects. A greater tolerance level is built, and children learn to endure stressful situations.

Neither of these approaches is better; they are simply different. To deny access to either results in loss for the child.

The effects of being an involved, responsible and committed dad are felt for generations to come. Encourage the fathers in your lives. Support them in your efforts. Spread the word: It's good to be a father.

Dad matters. Have you been a dad today?