I wouldn’t normally expect to have an ah-ha moment about life while watching a TV show like The Voice, but the other night that’s exactly what happened. My husband and I were watching the individual interviews with each contestant, and I noticed a common theme. Almost every singer talked about how their dad or father figure was the reason they were standing there that day. The male role model in many of their lives was one of the biggest influences in their pursuits of their dream.
“Dads are just… so vital,” I exclaimed to my husband as the obvious reality clicked in my brain. He laughed at the passion behind my incredibly profound statement. In all seriousness, it did spark a new curiosity within me as to why. What is it about dads specifically that can almost seem to make or break a child?
While Grit and Grace Life is focused on creating a community of strong women, that doesn’t mean we ignore men. Quite the contrary, we highly esteem our male counterparts. While men and women are equal in dignity, ability, and purpose, we believe there are differences between the sexes, and we’re perfectly comfortable with that. Both men and women bring unique strengths to the table, and today, on Father’s Day, it seemed appropriate to highlight the invaluable ways dads impact their children.
How Research Has Proven the Importance of Dads
I’m sure many would agree that dads make a difference in their children’s lives, but a little research proved to me just how much of a difference they can make. According to a study done at University of Florida, an involved father helps develop cognitive thinking, promotes social skills, decreases likelihood of getting into trouble, positively influences academic achievements and future career success, decreases boys’ problem behaviors, promotes better mental health (especially in girls), and the list goes on…
While those are all noteworthy benefits of having an involved father, it only pressed the question further in my mind, “But why?” Why do children flourish in a multitude of ways when dads are present? A few sources highlighted a really simple answer: because men and women are different, dads and moms parent differently.
Dr. David Popenoe, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University, wrote in his book, Life Without Father, that fathers “bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is likely to bring…They have a parenting style that is significantly different from that of a mother, and that difference is important in healthy child development.”
The Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center states that one of the things a father instills in their child is a sense of confidence and drive. They gave some very practical examples of how they do so, which I found really fascinating:
“Go to any playground and listen to the parents there. Who is often encouraging kids to swing or climb just a little higher, ride their bike just a little faster, or throw just a little harder? Who is encouraging kids to be careful? Mothers tend toward caution while fathers often encourage kids to push the limits. Either of these parenting styles by themselves can be unhealthy. One can tend toward encouraging risk without consideration of consequences. The other tends to avoid risk, which can fail to build independence, confidence, and progress. Joined together, they keep each other in balance and help children remain safe while expanding their experiences and confidence.”
Perhaps this is exactly why all of those grown-up children on The Voice were standing there on TV, willing to lay it all on the line. It seems that fathers, almost instinctually, give their children the tools they need to pursue their dreams by encouraging risk-taking, instilling a competitive drive, and encouraging them to push past their perceived limits. In fact, an article on Focus on the Family affirms and expands on this by saying:
“Dads, for instance, love their children ‘more dangerously.’ That’s because they play ‘rougher’ and are more likely to encourage risk-taking. They provide kids with a broader diversity of social experiences. They also introduce them to a wider variety of methods of dealing with life. They tend to stress rules, justice, fairness, and duty in discipline. In this way, they teach children the objectivity and consequences of right and wrong. They give kids insight into the world of men. They prepare them for the challenges of life and demonstrate by example the meaning of respect between the sexes…
Fathers encourage competition, engendering independence. Mothers promote equity, creating a sense of security. Dads emphasize conceptual communication, which helps kids expand their vocabulary and intellectual capacities. Moms major in sympathy, care, and help, thus demonstrating the importance of relationships. Dads tend to see their child in relation to the rest of the world. Moms tend to see the rest of the world in relation to their child. Neither style of parenting is adequate in and of itself. Taken together, they balance each other out and equip the up-and-coming generation with a healthy, well-rounded approach to life.”
“Fathers have a parenting style that is significantly different from that of a mother, and that difference is important in healthy child development.” -Dr. David Popenoe
What I found really interesting about these two articles is that we are able to see the unique role a father plays in his child’s life while not discounting the mother’s value. Each parent is vital, and when they are both contributing, it helps shape a healthy, well-balanced child because each parent’s influence seems to produce unique outcomes. (This is not to say that women can’t encourage the same qualities that men do in their children, but simply that they seem to come from the father by nature, as seen even in the way they play and engage with their children.)
Here at Grit and Grace Life we are devoted to supporting and inspiring strong women, but we also zealously champion our male counterparts. We value men. We believe in them. We want them in our lives and in the lives of our children. But we also believe they are different from us, and we are thankful for that! The world is a more complete place with both men and women working together. It’s a perfect design.
So today, we are showing our love and appreciation for the men who lean into the great privilege and responsibility of fatherhood with, dare I say it, grit and grace.
You’ll enjoy this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: What Makes a Great Dad? How Can You Encourage It? – 093!