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Rough Dads Empower Kids to Take Chances

My two girls, 9 and 5, can throw pretty good punches. Good aim, great follow through. And hard. They punch really hard. This isn’t the product of after school karate classes (mine are not over-scheduled kids), rather it’s thanks to their dad. He’s got a whole thing he does, “come on … show me what you’ve got.” And they do.

Somehow they’ve learned to aim their aggressions at this 200-lb guy and not, you know, each other (or me!). In fact, they’ve learned a lot more. Research is showing that roughhousing — which often, but not exclusively, happens with dads — builds self-confidence and teaches them how to use their bodies.

In fact, relationships with fathers, a newish area of research, are proving to be important in other ways. Fathers (and mothers) who engage with their kids this way are empowering them to go out and explore their worlds. But how?

A study published this year in Early Child Development and Care found that when kids were put in a “risky” situation (for the study … such as a stranger showing up in the play area, toys being put at the top of stairs), fathers followed their kids at a greater distance than the mothers.

Dads tended to encourage kids to take risks, which we all know is how you build confidence.

Still, that picking the toddler up by his ankle? I dunno. I guess I’ll just have to look away.

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Photo: mrkumm via flckr

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