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Check this out, dad

Distracted dads prove hands-off parenting works


 
Fathers, Dads, kids, parenting

Photo by Julia Kuskin/Getty Images

One eye on your three-year-old and another on the football game isn’t exactly textbook parenting. But take heart, inattentive dads: new research suggests you may be giving your kid a leg up. A study led by researchers at the Université de Montreal found that fathers, more so than mothers, tend to give toddlers the leeway to take risks and explore, and that equips youngsters for the challenges of life that lie ahead. “The less protective the parent, the more exploratory the behaviour in the child,” says Daniel Paquette, a psychology professor at the university. “For a child to become self-confident, the parent mustn’t be too far or too close.”

The study is part of an emerging line of inquiry called “activation theory,” which stresses the importance of risk-taking and competition in early childhood development. It’s the flip side of 20th-century “attachment theory,” which focused exclusively on nurturing the belief that primary caregivers fulfill a child’s emotional needs and guarantee survival. To test their hypothesis, Paquette and his colleagues, whose study appears in the current issue of Early Child Development and Care, placed kids aged 12 to 18 months, each with a parent, in risky situations—near toys at the top of a stairway, say, or in a room where a strange adult enters. They then measured the responses of both parent and child, and found fathers were more likely to give the child space to take risks. More importantly, they identified a link between this arm’s-length style of parenting and the intrepidness of the kids.

That doesn’t mean men should take a nap when on daddy duty. No one’s interests are served when a child falls down the stairs. But it does suggest hidden virtue in hands-off child-rearing—and a little less guilt when the big game demands a fellow’s attention.


 

Check this out, dad

  1. God I’m sick of these parenting studies. I’m a single mother. So often when I took the ‘male’ approach to some situations, I was viewed by uptight mothers as too hands off, or if I took the female approach at other times, fathers would jump in and tell me to let go. What works is not gender-specific and parents yet they react to societal expections that are reinforced by this type of study. The golden rule of parenting is consistency. Blow that and your child will be insecure and lack confidence. End of story!

  2. When I think of quality parenting, I think of the Gary Busey monologue in "Surviving the Game."

  3. An excuse for shoddy parenting for Dads ? Kids need encouragement and praise and spending time with both Dad and Mum is equally important and not just ignoring them cos the footy match is on!

    • Way to completely miss the point of the article. I'll help you out, the study is saying that Dad's are good at letting the little ones take more risks and in turn builds their confidence.

  4. There is a reason for nature's ordinance that kids have two parents, one male and one female.

    Once again, the modern world rediscovers something known for millennia.

    • Wow. You're still at plus-one a day later. I guess all the proper-thinking people haven't come across your heresy yet.

      And, actually, I will quibble with you, here. Not enough for a thumbs-down, because I am only into that thing when someone hurls a stupid insult, but I shall quibble nonetheless.

      Nothing stops a loving couple of the same sex, or a single parent, from offering the blend of "protective shelter" and "learn-from-your-gaffes education" styles of parenting to their kids. Two parents with complementary genitalia don't have to matter as much.

      • I know. You can tell it's a slow day at Macleans when my comments aren't being enthusiastically down-rated. But what are we here for, after all, if not to throw out modern-day heresies and get burnt at the stake in effigy.

        Anyway, this item about parenting styles is a pretty minor point – I wouldn't base much in the way of social policy on it. But I so think it's the tip of a much larger iceberg.

        As to your specific point, I wish I could quibble back but there isn't anything in what you said with which I disagree. (this should worry you)

  5. Well this goes to show you, that it does take a village to raise a child – not just one person, or two folks with opposite bits between their legs – for those of us, who are parents we know that you have to strike a balance.
    Kids need to know that they can stretch their legs, so to speak…try something and not have a parent ' swoop' down and rescue them from any and all potential harm. However…a kid who does fall down..knows that having a loving adult there to pick them up..is golden!

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