Dads: Talk, laugh, eat with your child each day

Published 11:12 pm Sunday, August 31, 2008

QUESTION: What does research actually say about the impact of men in children’s lives?

ANSWER:  Fathers often do not have the same parenting styles as mothers. There is a difference in the way men get their kids ready for the outside world. For instance, fathers tend to give their children more freedom in the park, letting kids befriend a new dog or climb the jungle gym alone.  Mothers tend to ask the children to stay close. Dr. Kyle Pruett, a child psychiatrist, researcher and author of “The Nurturing Father:  Journey Toward the Complete Man,” found that a dad’s style of letting kids figure things out for themselves can teach them not to get so upset when they make mistakes and to try again.

Fathers may be the greatest untapped resource in the lives of their children. That goes for grandfathers and uncles as well. When men are involved, children have a tendency to have better problem-solving skills.  They also tend to do better both socially and in school.

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So, men, think about how you spend time with the kids in your life.  Get involved, get more involved, or stay involved. Carve out a special time in your day to be with your kids. Decide how you’re going to spend that time together: shooting baskets, playing a duet, building a model, or sitting quietly and talking about how the day went for both of you. If you’re too tired to get down on the floor to play with your younger kids, cuddle on the couch together for a story.  Make a connection with your children’s school.  Drop them off or pick them up when you can. Get to know the teachers, go to school conferences, participate in school activities, chaperone a school event or field trip. Introduce your kids to your daily routine. Make a trip to your workplace together. Make sure your kids, or grandkids, know that you have a current picture of them at your job or in your wallet.

Sadly, the average amount of time a father spends with his child per day, other than giving directions or reprimands, is less than 10 minutes. For the sake of your child, and ultimately the community, be determined to find the time to talk and laugh and eat with your child every day.

If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in child raising, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Lnea de Apoyo at 877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out

Maryanne Law is the executive director of the Parenting Resource Center in Austin.