With divorce rates on the rise, many children grow up in homes minus one parent. While a mother's role is generally considered indispensable, particularly for early childhood development, a father figure is equally critical for a child's proper emotional, social and psychological development as well. Moms will be glad to know that the psychological community is in unanimous agreement -- dads should help with those poopy diapers from day one and continue to be involved in the day-to-day of child rearing for life.
Children benefit from the different but complementary parenting styles of both mother and father. For instance, a dad might be stern with an unruly toddler while the child's mother is more understanding. The toddler needs both discipline and compassion. It is important for parents to understand that men and women have their own equally valid approaches to childrearing. It's not Mom versus Dad -- it's Mom and Dad working together to bring about the best for their children.
Many dads feel more comfortable with toddlers than with infants because toddlers relish a little rough-and-tumble play. A father's role during the toddler years is two-fold -- to help his child explore the world and to establish physical and disciplinary boundaries to keep the child safe. Interestingly, research shows that a father has more influence over the development of his toddler's emotional and relational skills than the mother.
While it may be difficult for Mom to cut the apron strings, dads are usually eager to push their fledglings out the door for new experiences. The father's role during his child's preschool years is to challenge the child to develop a work ethic, a sense of adventure and the drive to succeed. The father's roles might include taking his child to preschool, helping with projects and talking with the child about friendships at preschool. He also might encourage his preschooler to get involved with sports or other activities.
Children of both genders look to their fathers for affirmation, encouragement and security. Fathers play an important role in developing their children's self esteem and emotional maturity. In order to parent effectively, fathers should be involved with all stages of childrearing but should avoid becoming the overbearing authoritarian.