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Psychology

Making the Most of Father’s Day: Faculty Member Offers Parenting Tips for Dads

With Father’s Day approaching, it is a great time to offer some parenting tips for dads.  Research has shown that mothers and fathers have different parenting styles (Berk, 2018).  However, it is important to note that one style may not be more effective than the other. These tips are meant to inspire you to be the best father you can be!

Work/Life Balance

Tammy Zacchilli
Achieving work/life balance is one of the most important aspects of life, but also one of the most difficult things to achieve. When I was a child, my dad worked very long hours five days a week.  He was up at 3:30 every morning and typically arrived home in time for dinner. Despite his work schedule, I have fond memories of our family spending time together. While there were times that he had to miss events, he was almost always there, and he made sure that we had family vacations in the summer.

Work schedules continue to be hectic and now technology has also taken over much of our free time. Fathers need to work to ensure that they are spending time with their children and not letting their jobs or technology interfere with the relationship with their family. Fortunately, some companies are implementing paternity leave when a new baby is born or a child is adopted. 

Discover Your Child’s Love Language

Mothers often are viewed as the more nurturing parent while fathers are more direct in their parenting approach.

Despite these common differences in parenting styles, both parents can benefit from knowing their own and their child’s love language. Gary Chapman’s work on love languages has become influential in romantic relationships as well as in parent-child relationships.

Father and SonChapman proposed five love languages which include quality time, words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, and receiving gifts. Often individuals tend to show love using their own love languages rather than adapting to the other person’s preferred love language.  Understanding a child’s love language can improve the relationship between the child and parent.

For example, if a child’s love language is quality time, Dad might seek opportunities to read with the child, attend a soccer game, or take the child to the zoo. If a child’s love language is acts of service, the father might offer to help the child with a school project or homework.  It is also important that dads note things to avoid when interacting with the child. For example, a child whose love language is quality time might be very upset if dad misses the piano recital. A child whose love language is words of affirmation may be distressed if the father criticizes the child or fails to notice the effort the child put forth. 

Different Ages, Different Needs

HandsChildren grow and change quickly. Fathers typically have a rough and tumble play style that may work better at some ages than others. If fathers are unaware of developmental changes that occur, they may fail to recognize suitable ways to interact with the child. This is especially important when the child enters adolescence. Communication is key during this stage and the playful father may not be viewed as positively by the teen. During this time, fathers should try to find a similar interest with their teen and try to engage with their teen through this interest.  For example, some fathers and teens may go on camping or fishing trips. Other fathers and teens may take interest in similar movies or books.

Confronting Parenting Fears

As a mother of three, I can confidently say that I worry about everything. I worry when/if the other kids are nice to my kids at school. I worry that my daughter will get hurt during dance class. I worry that my oldest daughter will have a difficult time adjusting to high school next year.  I worry that my son will ride his bike into the street. The list goes on and on.  However, do mothers and fathers worry about the same things?

I asked a few dads to share their biggest fears with me.  Here are their responses:

Father of three ages, 5, 9, and 13: “Keeping your children safe.”

Father of two ages, 12 and 14: “Being a disappointment and letting them down.”

Father of one age, 4 months: “My son hating me for my parenting decisions.”

Father of four, ages 13, 18, 20, and 25: “Letting my children down in any capacity.”

While this is small sample of responses, there seems to be a theme of fear of failure. It is important for fathers to understand that parents make mistakes. Parents are not perfect. It’s the way that we handle these mistakes that really matters.

Special Shout-Out to the Stay-at-Home Dads

Finally, I wanted to end with special recognition to all of the stay-at-home dads. My husband was a stay-at-home dad from 2010 until he started his business in 2015. Even while starting the business, he was the primary caregiver of our children while I worked full time. We learned to juggle a variety of roles, and our children had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with each of us. Stay-at-home dads break the traditional stereotypes associated with mothers and fathers.  This experience can be valuable to children and stay-at-home dads should be proud of this decision. 

Happy Father’s Day!

Dr. Tammy Zacchilli, associate professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences, teaches a course called the Psychology of Parenting at Saint Leo.

References

Berk, L. (2018).  Exploring lifespan development (4th edition). Allyn & Bacon.

Chapman, G., & Campbell, R. (2009). The 5 love languages of children. Moody Publishers.

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