Fathers affect children’s learning

Research shows that fathers play a critical role in the development and academic success of children.

Children benefit significantly in many areas when their fathers are actively engaged. Photo credit: Pixabay.
Children benefit significantly in many areas when their fathers are actively engaged. Photo credit: Pixabay.

Traditionally, dads have been thought of as the hands-off parent, while mothers have assumed a larger role in child rearing because of traditional expectations. However, today that trend is changing and fathers are taking a more active role in child rearing. Fathers can bring unique strengths to their relationships with their children. Engaged fathers also can make significant contributions toward infant/toddler development in regards to attachment security, emotional regulation, social competence and cognitive development

Fathers can be just as nurturing and sensitive with their babies as mothers. Dads spend a larger proportion of their time playing with their children than mom’s do, and their play tends to be louder and more active while moms tend to spend much of their play time using a lot more language, being less vigorous and many times including toys.

Mothers and fathers often bring different strengths and styles to their parenting roles. Both the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services note that role of the mother as well as the father is necessary in the development and academic success of a child, and that ultimately the roles should complement one another.

Children benefit significantly in many areas when their fathers are actively engaged. The advantages children get are the building blocks for success that begins at birth and lasts into adulthood. According to research gathered by the Minnesota Fathers and Families Network, some of these benefits include:

Social skills

  • Greater empathy
  • Less gender role stereotyping
  • Higher self-esteem
  • More self-control and less impulsive behavior

Problem solving

  • Less hesitance and fear in new situations
  • Increased curiosity
  • Increase exploration of the world around them
  • Greater tolerance for stress and frustration

Cognitive benefits

  • Higher math competence
  • More overall verbal competence and early literacy
  • Higher grade completion and income overall

It is critical for early childhood programs and schools to include fathers. However, sometimes this can be difficult. According to the paper “A Call to Commitment: Father’s Involvement in Children Learning,” as children get older, fathers tend to be less involved in their children’s schooling. Some barriers include schools not being father-friendly, institutional practices, language and cultural barriers, education of parents and separation/divorce process.

Michigan State University Extension notes that in order to keep fathers engaged we need to offer programs that are both mother and father friendly, ensure that fathers are involved with decision making groups (such as parent advisory committee), create father-to-father activities and expect fathers to be involved from the beginnings and well into the school-age years of their children.

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