Dads Are Not The Antidote To Helicopter Parenting

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shutterstock_108189845__1399305634_142.196.167.223I guess it’s kind of a no-brainer that if a child has two parents around they may flourish – as long as both parents are healthy and emotionally stable. But what happens when a child is raised in a home without a father? According to the writer who wrote the piece for the NY Post, Dads: The Antidote To Helicopter Parenting, the whole goddamn world falls apart, because women are fearful, baby-talking, busy-bodies who aren’t preparing their kids for anything because the are too busy hovering over them. This writer manages to take some valid points made in a few studies, and project them through a very sexist looking glass.

For example, a study from the University of North Carolina a few years ago found that fathers speaking to children has a more significant effect on language development than mothers. Makes sense to me, since fathers are much less likely to use babytalk in communicating with children. (Why did I keep asking my 1-year-old if she wanted her ba-ba? Just because she couldn’t say “bottle” doesn’t mean she didn’t know exactly what it was.)

This is interesting. She obviously didn’t actually read the study, which says:

Many studies have found that fathers do not talk as much to their children as mothers, particularly when the child interaction included both parents. Similarly, fathers in the current study spoke less overall than did mothers.

The two existing studies comparing parents’ vocabulary found no significant differences between mothers and fathers. In this study, mothers used more total different words than fathers.

Previous studies of language complexity comparisons resulted in little consensus. This study found no differences between mothers and fathers.

The study actually showed there was little difference in the way mothers and fathers interacted with children, the difference occurred in the amount; mothers consistently interacted more. In the households where father’s vocabulary with the child was as varied as the mother’s – the child had advanced expressive language development. This has nothing to do with women using baby-talk and everything to do with the amount that a father engages with his child.

Dads are also more likely to let their children take risks. It’s not just that they’ll actually let go when teaching kids how to ride a two-wheeler (something that I instinctively did not want to do when my kids were learning). Fathers are also more likely to put their kids in the deep end of pools and to let them talk to strangers—doing more to prepare them for the real world.

Yes, fathers tend to interact with more physical play, and mothers tend to interact with more caregiving tendencies, but strong bonds are what are required for children to feel secure and adventurous outside the home. Kids may bond in different ways with their parents – but it could be the bonding itself and not the way in which they bond that makes the difference when it comes to confidently exploring the world:

According to proponents of attachment theory, the strength of the bond between parent and child determines the degree to which a child is open to exploring the world around him. [8] Children who are securely attached to their parents are more confident, self-reliant, resilient, resourceful, empathetic, cooperative and popular among their peers. [9] According to some experts, mother-child attachment is forged mainly through caregiving-related activities. For fathers, experts suggest this relationship is forged mainly through physical play.

Numerous studies have shown that a father’s presence in the home is important – and I’m not arguing that point. But to say that dads more effective parents because they engage in more physical play is just not accurate. Also, if she’s going to use a bunch of anecdotal evidence to support her point, I can too; there was a father at my neighborhood playground who insisted on climbing the jungle gym with his kid every single time. The antidote to helicopter parenting is for parents to relax a little – and both moms and dads can be guilty of being over-protective.

(photo: vita khorzhevska/ Shutterstock)