Jim Daly Christian Blog and Commentary

Who's Better with Kids - Mom or Dad?

  • Jim Daly Jim Daly is president and chief executive officer of Focus on the Family, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families thrive.
  • 2011 Jun 15

Posted by Jim_Daly Jun 14, 2011

With Father's Day just five days away, this morning's Wall Street Journal, courtesy of columnist Sue Shellenbarger, lauds dads for their unique and important contribution to the family. And, not surprisingly, the secret of a father's success is found in how his actions complement mom’s.

In other words, dads give their kids what mothers do not.

Ms. Shellenbarger identifies some of the more blatant distinctions between the parenting roles. I'm curious if you see yourself within these trends.

When dealing with a temper tantrum:

Dads tend to correct the child with blunt or direct words. They're also good at distracting them with a joke, forcing them to see beyond the moment, which discourages self-centeredness and helps kids develop resiliency.

  • Moms tend to want to reason and explain why the behavior is inappropriate. This helps children express their feelings in words and talk through solutions.

When dealing with minor injuries:

As with temper tantrums, dads are likely to try to distract, and perhaps carry them to another part of the playground. Again, this prevents a child from internalizing the problem, helping them to develop a resilient spirit and learn how to shake off setbacks.

  • Momsare more likely to comfort, soothe and encourage, again helping children learn to express emotions in words.

When dealing with toy frustrations:

Dads tend to avoid intervening, instead allowing them to struggle with the puzzle or other point of irritation. Experts believe this helps children develop skills that will enable them to one day solve problems independently.

  • Moms are more likely to quietly help them along, ensuring a happy outcome. This helps develop a spirit of self-confidence in the child.

Digging into the neurological differences between parents, experts have even raised the fact that fathers appear to be better equipped than mothers to handle and correct bad behavior in children. Why? Scientists have discovered that men are wired to respond to a crisis or a challenge with definitive action, whereas women are more inclined to internalize their feelings and emotion. 

But let me bring this back to our faith and the influence it has on our parenting. Four men were once debating which translation of the Bible was best. The first said he liked the King James because of its beautiful English. The second suggested the New American Standard was closest to the original text. A third preferred the NIV for its ease of understanding. The fourth man said he preferred his parents’ translation. The other three laughed. "It's true," he explained. "They translated each page of the Bible into life. It's the most convincing translation I ever saw."

Our faith will ultimately be revealed in our actions. But the research on the impact of gender parenting differences is remarkable if for no other reason that it confirms God's perfect design for the family. For a mother or father to be the most effective parent possible, they need the help of the other parent. A mother is many wonderful things, but she'll never fully contribute what a father does to a child's life. So, dads, never forget that you're invaluable to your family. Nobody can replace you!

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