By Justin Coulson
Toddlers need their dads … and research convincingly shows that they need them for more than the 30 minutes a day that some studies show they spend.
So why tell you, as the mum? Well, in most families, it’s the MUM that makes things happen. By helping to get dad involved in the parenting of your child (from birth through toddlerhood and into school years), you can make a big difference to the development and wellbeing of your children and your family.
What makes a dad so important to a toddler , and what does a dad do that a mum doesn’t do? Researchers don’t suggest specific things that dads do that mums don’t. However, what they have shown is that having dad around and involved in both positive parenting and play with todders makes a massive difference in their childhood.
An active, present, and positive father has been shown to:
- Reduce behavioural problems in boys
- Reduce psychological problems in girls
- Reduce later criminal behaviour in children
- Enhance intelligence, curiosity, reasoning, and language development
- Decrease the incidence of children smoking (as teens)
- Have better friendships and social skills
- Even have better marriages (at age 33) if their relationship with Dad was good at age 16.
This is only a brief snapshot of a handful of the positive behavioural aspects when dad is involved in parenting, rather than absent or merely a spectator. Kids are happier and they function better when they have their dad involved in their lives. The earlier the involvement begins, and the more constant the involvement remains, the better the children’s outcomes.
If you have a toddler, or even an infant or a preschooler, now is the time to get Dad involved as much as possible.
How can dad spend more time with your toddler?
Here are some fatherly activities things that dads do to make sure that they are spending time with their toddler and building a real relationship.
- Daddy and toddler bonding: One-on-one dad time.
Make sure dad schedules some toddler time. Try and have this date each week (and don’t let them watch movies! There’s no communication when you stare at a screen). Encourage dad to take your toddler to the local park or playground , go for ice-cream, walk on the beach, just go out and be together. (This can be important for kids whether they’re aged 2 or 22!)
- Daddy and toddler bonding: Make one night a family night
Encourage your child’s father to set aside one night a week for famiy time, make this night a special time where phone calls are ignored, television and internet are turned off, and the focus is entirely on your toddler and family. Use it as a time to talk about issues that your family needs to be concerned about, or that you want your children to learn about.
- Daddy and toddler bonding: Read stories together
Toddlers love their dads reading stories to them. Get dad to read slowly, and ask questions about how the characters are feeling, or what your toddler would do in similar circumstances. This will turn father/toddler story time into a fun experience.
- Daddy and toddler bonding: Develop a project together
A great way to boost daddy and todder time is to do a craft or activity together, be it build a raft, a model, a dolls house, or a toy your child can play with, or something more simple. If dad isn’t handy or crafty your child will not mind. It will still be a great bonding and learning experience for both child and father.
- Daddy and toddler bonding: Just be around and involved
If dad is simply ‘there’ and available if needed, this can make a huge difference to your toddler’s childhood. Fathers who are around may suddenly find themselves involved in a rowdy wrestle on the lounge room floor right before dinner, or helping patch up some hurt emotions.
Life as a parent is hectic, with priorities competing and demanding our attention. Dads are preoccupied with long hours, pressures, and doing what they can to contribute to the family. Plus, most dads love a bit of time to tinker in the shed, or release some energy via sport. In the hustle and bustle it can be easy to forget just how important they are in the lives of their children, and just how big the impact they have on their children is. Mums, remind them!
This article was originally written for kidspot.com.au by Justin Coulson, Ph. D. Justin is a relationships and parenting expert, author and father of five children. Find our more at happyfamilies.com.au.