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Dads, Play With Your Kids: Experts Say Playtime Develops Language, Good Behavior, And More
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  • When it comes to anything and everything about a child, it is usually expected that mothers are more involved and have the most influence.

    “Tanong mo sa Mama mo,” we often hear in our childhood. 

    “Alam ng Nanay mo yan,” and all other things.

    However, recent studies might change our culture’s perspective on the father’s relationship with his children. Gone are the days when dads are only breadwinners and mothers are the default caretaker. 

    Sometimes it’s the other way around, and many times both parents take on both roles. 

    Pediatricians and medical practitioners have been looking more deeply into the silent realm of paternity–the father’s overall relationship and involvement with his child.

    “Growing evidence shows the positive influence that fathers have on the development and well-being of their children. 

    'The more they see their father as a “good role model”, the more they will become good role models as well.

    “Longitudinal data published over the past decade or so support that paternal involvement from the prenatal stage through a child’s lifetime benefits the psychosocial and behavioral development of their children, often in ways different from and complementary to maternal involvement,” said Mary Beth Nierengarten in her article entitled “Father’s influence on development and well-being of children”, published on Contemporary Pediatrics Journal

    This means that data shows that an involved father positively affects the child's development differently from a mother's positive effect. It is also complementary to a mother's effect.

    Craig F. Garfield, MD, professor of Pediatrics and Medical Social Sciences, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and one of the authors of the AAP’s guidelines on fathers, highlighted three main areas where a father-child relationship is crucial to the child’s development:

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    Three areas of child development where a father's role is crucial

    1. Language Development

    Garfield cites evidence that as early as a child is exposed to more words coming from different sources (mother and father), it is more likely that the child’s vocabulary and language will develop and expand. 

    Since mothers are the default caretaker of little ones, her words and expressions will likely be more common for the child to hear. In turn, the father’s words and expressions may sound new to the child (only hears his voice after work), thus providing an expansion of vocabulary and language. 

    So Dads, talk to the kids often! No matter how little they may seem, talk to them everytime you got the chance and who knows, maybe their first word will be “Da-da”.

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    2. Risk-Taking and Problem Solving Behavior

    Have you ever wondered why a child plays differently with dad than with mom? As if they don’t care how high they may fall from or how high their jumps? 

    You like away for a second and next thing you know, there’s a wrestling match happening. There’s a scientific reason behind it!

    “Really unique to dads is in the general area of play and in particular what is called ‘rough and tumble’ play,” says Garfield. 

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    He describes Daddy’s playtime as a very high-energy and physical game, as opposed to playtime with Mommy which is usually focused and creative. 

    This improves the child’s risk taking skill, assessing whether they can do the “dangerous” thing with Daddy. 

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    Garfield added that usually, dads change the rules of the game all of a sudden, and the child is forced to adapt. This further enhances the child’s ability to solve the problem at hand because they want to continue playing with their father. 

    This rough and tumble play with Dad also improves the child’s confidence, independence, and exploration. 

    3. Role Modelling Behavior

    During the early adolescent and teenage years, the father’s influence on their child’s life becomes the “role model”. Or as we hear it from the kids, “When I grow up, I want to be like Daddy.” 

    “They are role modeling how to be in a relationship, how to make healthy and well-being behavior decisions,” Garfield further emphasized in his study.

    Children are great “imitators”, as early as toddlerhood they copy everything their parents do. As they grow up, they look for someone to “copy” or “imitate”. That’s why sometimes they play pretend like going to the office, driving the car, etc. 

    MORE STORIES ON A FATHER'S INVOLVEMENT:

    The crucial point is that as role models, fathers should model good behavior and skills. In Garfield’s study, data shows an association between father involvement and reduced behavioral problems and enhanced cognitive development in adolescent boys as well as reduced psychological problems in adolescent girls.

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    The more they see their father as a “good role model”, the more they will become good role models as well.

    It is without a doubt that the father-child relationship is special. All the wrestling matches, running around, and rough play is obviously fun.

    Next time Daddy wants to get active, remember Science says it’s good for the kids. For all the moms, repeat that while you hold your breath.

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