Well­ness Arti­cles

Dad’s Role in Play

dadsDad’s role in child play key to later devel­op­ment,” Gottman says.

Today’s fathers want to be more involved with their babies than their own fathers were, and their involve­ment can play a crit­i­cal role in a child’s future. That’s the mes­sage deliv­ered by John Gottman, Ph.D., pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton, and co-​founder of the Gottman Insti­tute, to those attend­ing a recent Dads Break­fast spon­sored by PEPS (Pro­gram for Early Par­ent­hood Support).

Study after study after study is show­ing that father involve­ment and warmth and emo­tional avail­abil­ity to young chil­dren pre­dict intel­lec­tual func­tion­ing and emo­tional func­tion­ing in both sons and daugh­ters,” Gottman told the group.

Dads inher­ently tend to inter­act dif­fer­ently with their chil­dren, Gottman says. On the play­ground, for instance, moms tend to voice con­cern as their chil­dren climb higher on the jun­gle gym, while the dads tend to encour­age them to keep going. At home, moms typ­i­cally take on a teacher type of role as their chil­dren grow, while dads often act more as peers or play­mates. Moms tend to play more visual games with their chil­dren, while dads are far more likely to engage in high-​energy play such as tickle fights and rough­hous­ing. Dads are also more likely than moms to aban­don a game the child does not find imme­di­ately interesting.These dif­fer­ences play very impor­tant roles in child devel­op­ment. For exam­ple, Gottman says, “Peo­ple find that the phys­i­cal rough-​and-​tumble play that dads engage in with infants pre­dicts the abil­ity of the infants to con­trol their own impulses.”

Accord­ing to Gottman, the sig­nif­i­cance of impulse con­trol was demon­strated through research first con­ducted by Wal­ter Mis­chel dur­ing the 1960s. In Mischel’s study, preschool­ers were offered the choice between receiv­ing one marsh­mal­low imme­di­ately or two marsh­mal­lows in 20 min­utes. Mis­chel later tracked down the study par­tic­i­pants as young adults and tested them again. He found that those who were able to delay grat­i­fi­ca­tion as preschool­ers were more socially com­pe­tent, per­son­ally effec­tive, self-​assertive adults who were bet­ter able to cope with frus­tra­tion, were more self-​reliant and con­fi­dent, and less likely to crum­ble under stress. They embraced chal­lenges and pur­sued them with­out get­ting side­tracked by difficulties.

Even more remark­able, those who were able to wait for the marsh­mal­lows when they were in preschool scored on aver­age 200 points higher on the SAT than those who couldn’t wait. The results were true for both boys and girls.

Other stud­ies have shown that the high-​energy play that dads engage in is one of the best pre­dic­tors for how kids get along with other kids, which is itself one of the best pre­dic­tors of adult devel­op­ment, much more so than things like IQ scores or GPA.

One of the keys to father involve­ment, Gottman con­cludes, is the qual­ity of the rela­tion­ship between par­ents and whether con­flict is dealt with in a con­struc­tive man­ner. It’s dif­fi­cult to be warm and emo­tion­ally avail­able when the rela­tion­ship between the par­ents is strained. When there’s a lot of con­flict between par­ents, fathers with­draw not only from their part­ner, but from their infants as well, Gottman adds.

Research has shown that, dur­ing a process called social ref­er­enc­ing, “Babies will look at their moms when they approach some­thing dan­ger­ous to see if it’s OK to pro­ceed, and their hap­pily mar­ried dads,” Gottman says, “but they no longer look back at their unhap­pily mar­ried fathers.”

The ben­e­fits of how dads play with their kids may be most effec­tive in younger chil­dren, although Gottman notes that there has not been enough research in this area. At the same time, he sus­pects that the ben­e­fits of emo­tion coach­ing can be effec­tive for essen­tially any age child, from infants to adolescents.

With this in mind, Gottman offers some advice for how par­ents, and dads in par­tic­u­lar, can try to offer more of the pater­nal warmth and emo­tional avail­abil­ity that seems to make such a dif­fer­ence for chil­dren down the road:

Cre­ate “love maps”. Make a point of know­ing your child’s inter­ests, stresses and dreams, Gottman says. Ask your chil­dren open-​ended ques­tions and actively lis­ten to the answers. If you don’t know what your child is cur­rently study­ing in school, or what his or her favorite sub­jects or hob­bies are, this is an area to focus on.

Work toward a daily cli­mate of respect and affec­tion. “Catch” your chil­dren and your part­ner doing things right and let them know it. Avoid a con­stantly crit­i­cal state of mind. If you find your­self always want­ing to offer advice, try praise instead.

Stay involved. Fathers should cul­ti­vate time alone with their chil­dren. It doesn’t need to be elab­o­rate out­ings. Reg­u­lar every­day activ­i­ties, like bath time, chang­ing dia­pers and read­ing, are the secret to mak­ing pater­nal involve­ment part of your routine.

Turn toward bids for emo­tional con­nec­tion, whether from your part­ner or your child. If one of them says he or she needs to talk, say, “OK, let’s talk.”

Move from “me” to “we.”. Cou­ples where the mem­bers think of them­selves as part­ners have a much bet­ter chance of pro­vid­ing an atmos­phere that will encour­age pater­nal warmth and avail­abil­ity, Gottman notes.

Author: Josh Parks a Seattle-​based free­lance writer and edi­tor and father of two.

Source: Path­ways to Fam­ily Well­ness Mag­a­zine, Issue #07

Ran­dom Article

A new study pub­lished in the Feb­ru­ary 2006 issue of the sci­en­tific peri­od­i­cal the Jour­nal of Manip­u­la­tive and Phys­i­o­log­i­cal Ther­a­peu­tics (JMPT), shows that

Well­ness Library

Our Address:
8383 Weston Rd, #108 (Langstaff & Weston Rd)
Vaughan, ON, Canada L4L 1A6

Phone: 905 8500909
Chi­ro­prac­tic Hours:
Mon. 7:30am to 12:00pm
Tue. 7:30am to 12:00pm, 3:00pm to 8:00pm
Wed. 10:00am to 12:00pm
Thur. 7:30 am to 12:00pm, 3:00pm to 6:00pm
Fri. By appoint­ment only