Parents bring different values to kids
BY DR. LAURA BERMAN firstname.lastname@example.org June 18, 2012 1:48PM
A father’s love and attention is equally as important as a mother’s for a child’s happiness and growth now and in the future.
Updated: July 21, 2012 6:05AM
On Sunday, we celebrated Father’s Day and all of the amazing ways that dads help to shape our hearts and contribute to our lives.
However, in many families, dads still tend to take a backseat when it comes to parenting responsibilities and childcare decisions. In today’s society, we tend to think that Mother knows best, especially when it comes to matters of home and hearth.
A recent study suggests that might be incorrect. According to a the study from the University of Connecticut, fathers contribute just as much as mothers (if not more) to a child’s personality and healthy development. The researchers found that paternal love was a key factor in a child’s self-esteem, and that a father’s involvement contributes to a child’s ability to establish healthy relationships and key goals. Hence, while a mother’s love is crucial for a child’s happiness and well-being, a father’s love is equally valuable in both the present and future.
Despite this, many fathers aren’t placed on equal footing with mothers when it comes to child-raising and responsibilities. The media often portrays dads as goofballs or imbeciles (think shows like “Everybody Loves Raymond”) while moms often are portrayed as overworked, exasperated characters who have to pick up the slack for their less-than-perfect spouses. Even commercials portray moms as performing the bulk of household duties — they are the ones buying the toilet paper, unloading the dishwasher, and making the kids’ lunches for school.
Yet as most modern families can attest, a happy, high-functioning home needs both parents to be involved and active. Moms can do it all, but that doesn’t mean that they should, and when they try to, they often end up harried and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. On the flip side, their partners end up feeling infantilized and useless: They can’t even be trusted to watch their own children without a 20-minute lecture on the do’s and don’ts of parenting.
As the University of Connecticut study attests, this setup is not only damaging to Mom’s energy and Dad’s self-esteem, but it also can impact the children’s development later in life. Kids want and need a dad’s influence, and not just on Saturdays at the baseball diamond. He can help with homework, attend dance class, vacuum the house, and dry tears just as well as Mom can, but since many dads aren’t given the chance, both kids and fathers miss out on these intimate and powerful interactions.
Of course, many families are happily headed up by a successful, strong single mom, and one-parent households can be just as bonded and tight-knit as two-parent households. Yet if you are in a two-parent household, it’s important that both parents have a strong and loving role in the child’s life. While moms have the ability to keep a household running smoothly with no assistance, dads still can offer important and vital contributions in their kids’ lives. That’s why it’s important to step back and allow him to get involved, without judging or nagging him into doing things the “right” way. He might do things differently than Mom would do, but he also might have unique or powerful insights that you might not have thought of without him.
That’s why it’s time to get dads off the bench and into the game. When you leave the house for girls’ night, don’t say that your spouse is “babysitting” the kids — it’s not babysitting when they are his own children! — and don’t give him a long rundown on how much television the kids are allowed to watch or where you keep the plates.
Encourage him to be involved in the parenting decisions, and listen to his opinion even if you don’t agree with it. Let him load the dishwasher however he chooses and let him put the bathroom towels in the wrong linen closet. It might not be the way you would do it, but you’re empowering him to step up and be a father, and that’s crucial for the whole household. Not to mention, it will give you time for a much-deserved hot bath.
And, who knows? Maybe he’ll put the kids to bed early and join you.
Dr. Berman is the star of “In The Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman” on OWN and director of drlauraberman.com.