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Archive for A Strong Marriage

3 Reasons Dads Are Important

dads important

My husband Philip and I were talking recently about fatherhood, not only because we just celebrated Fathers Day, but because we are on a long family road trip and I am witnessing the strength of my husband’s fatherliness every day in close quarters for many hours at a time! Philip easily outlined three specific ways dads benefit their kids and this led to fascinating discussions that I want to share with you!

1. Dads Are Not Moms Without Breasts

While our culture is barreling at breakneck speed toward neutralizing the significance of what it means to be a man and a women, copious research confirms the unique benefits that fathers bring to their kids lives. Dads are not auxiliary parents or just like a mom but with a deeper voice.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics “studies have found that older kids with involved fathers tend to have fewer depression symptoms and behavioral problems, and lower rates of teen pregnancy. When it comes to young children, fathers can have effects on language development and mental health, according to the academy. Research has shown that dads are more likely to use new words when they talk to their babies and preschoolers, for example.”

Here’s how the Witherspoon Institute puts it in their report “Marriage and the Public Good: 10 Principles“:

Fathers excel when it comes to providing discipline, ensuring safety, and challenging their children to embrace life’s opportunities and confront life’s difficulties. The greater physical size and strength of most fathers, along with the pitch and inflection of their voice and the directive character of their speaking, give them an advantage when it comes to discipline, an advantage that is particularly evident with boys, who are more likely to comply with their fathers’ than their mothers’ discipline.

Likewise, fathers are more likely than mothers to encourage their children to tackle difficult tasks, endure hardship without yielding, and seek out novel experiences. These paternal strengths also have deep biological underpinnings: Fathers typically have higher levels of testosterone—a hormone associated with dominance and assertiveness—than do mothers. Although the link between nature, nurture, and sex-specific parenting talents is undoubtedly complex, one cannot ignore the overwhelming evidence of sex differences in parenting —differences that marriage builds on to the advantage of children.

Dads also play differently with their kids than moms. They tend to rough house and wrestle more, and this is very good for kids! Roughhousing stimulates neuron growth within parts of the brain that are responsible for memory, learning, language, and logic. Roughhousing also helps kids learn their limits and how to self-regulate; basically because they’re learning how to play without hurting somebody. Here’s a whole book on the developmental benefits of roughhousing.

2. Two Parents Are Almost Always Better Than One

Aside from the obvious differences between men and women, just having two parents around instead of one benefits kids in many ways.

According to this report, children raised in intact married families are more likely to attend college, are physically and emotionally healthier, are less likely to be physically or sexually abused, less likely to use drugs or alcohol and to commit delinquent behaviors, have a decreased risk of divorcing when they get married, are less likely to become pregnant/impregnate someone as a teenager, and are less likely to be raised in poverty.

Professor Paul Amato from Pennsylvania State University examined several studies that considered the outcomes for children living two-parent v. one-parent households. He found that children who grow up in households with two continuously married parents are less likely to experience a wide range of problems, and that children from single parent families have “more behavioral problems, more emotional problems, and lower levels of school engagement (that is, caring about school and doing homework).”

My husband made an intriguing point: when a child has two parents, he will have two models to draw from when making choices that shape his personality. When a child has only parent, the child has only one model in their minds for how to do things or how to respond to challenges. While teachers and extended family certainly play an important role in this maturing process, parents influence their child’s perceptions and  personality more than any other person. With two parents to experience life with, the child may sub-consciously choose the personality and character traits that the child finds most important and useful. I think this dynamic is very complex and nuanced, but there is certainly some truth to it. Our oldest child, who will be 18 in September, clearly exhibits character traits from both his parents. Aidan is very spiritual and philosophical like me, but when in a crisis or when in engaged with somebody who is combative, he is very calm and rational like my husband. Of course, kids pick up bad personality traits from their parents, too, and sometimes a parent’s wounded personality can seriously affect his or her children on many levels. Nonetheless, I do think my husband is right: two parents give kids more to draw from when figuring out what to do in life and how to react to situations.

3. Dads Help Moms Become Their Best (or at least better) Selves

I am imagining how this road trip of ours would have gone without Philip along. It would have been much shorter and I would certainly be a lot more tired! Having him around really helps me be a better mom not just while we are traveling, but every, single day. Because of him, I’m a more calm, focused, and confident mom. When he travels on business, I find by about the third day I’m fatigued and a little cranky. I know we send women to the battle field and into the board room. No doubt, women can be fierce. They are very capable leaders, soldiers, and business owners. But thank goodness I don’t have to be everything to my children 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Children need 100 percent from their parents, but we are human and limited. My 100 percent fades pretty quickly. The gifts Philip brings to our family are inseparable from his masculinity. Because he’s confident in his role as a father and husband, I’m freed to explore and enjoy my role as a mom and wife. And that is really great for my kids.

Wednesday Links

Love

7 Research-Based Ways to Increase Your Joy by Dr. Greg Popcak.   “People have a lot of ideas about what it takes to be happy, but these research-based ideas reveal the truth about how we were made to live.  As our Christian tradition teaches, happiness doesn’t come merely from the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of conflict.  It comes from pursuing a meaningful, intimate, and virtuous life that identified by a generous spirit, and open mind, and a grateful heart.”  Dr. Greg is so right!

I think in our culture people think happiness = doing whatever you want.  I have not found this to be true.  I have experienced the deepest most abiding joy in my life in my mothering, which comes with many duties, sleepless nights, doubts, and fears.  Joy, to me, comes from knowing I’m right where I need to be this particular day.  Even during struggles, illness, and other stresses that life will bring our way, if I am firm in my resolve to follow Christ and to ascent to his call on my life in whatever circumstance I am in, I will have an inexplicable joy and peace.

Gentle Discipline

Do Your Kids Have Selective Hearing?  From Parenting Beyond Punishment: “Do you ever feel like your questions and requests are ignored? You ask your kids if they have homework or to put their shoes away and you get no response. But you’re certain they can hear you because as soon as you even whisper ‘ice cream’ everyone looks up and says, ‘yes’!  YOU ARE NOT ALONE!”

Pope Francis:  “Where there is no mercy, there is no justice.”  In his Monday homily, the Pope noted the hypocrisy of those (even within the Church) “who judge and condemn others . . .  With such rigidity one cannot breathe”.  The Pope remarked that when we are sorry for our sins, there are those who want to condemn us rather than allow us to have hope.  Never punish penitent sinners for the very sins you conceal within yourselves, he says.  This applies to the parent-child relationship just as it applies to every human relationship.  When our children make a mistake because they lack patience, kindness, or maturity, let’s remember that we too at times lack these same virtues.

I would add to the Pope’s comment that where there is not justice, there is no mercy.  Justice without mercy leads to tyranny, but mercy without justice leads to chaos.  For children, this chaos is emotional and developmental.  Mercy doesn’t require that we overlook our child’s errors, but that we understand situations from our child’s perspective, that we guide them in finding ways to handle similar situations better in the future.

Radiant Faith

An Angel and a Maiden by Sarah Reinhard.  On the Feast of the Annunciation, a mother recognizes that she often says yes too quickly without discerning whether it’s God’s voice she hears calling or her own voice.  I can relate!  “It is no accident that I tend to approach saying Yes in one of two over-the-top ways: I say Yes without thinking and discerning, thus putting myself in a position to back out later or I don’t say Yes because I’m quite sure I can’t do it.”

A Strong Marriage

Premarital Sex Decreases Marital Satisfaction.  Dr. Greg comments on a recent study that found that “couples who partook in hooking up, premarital cohabitation, or even engaging in multiple sexual encounters with different people over the course of their lives would have a less likely chance of remaining in a happy marriage – if they even got married at all.”

Wednesday Links

It’s been too long since I offered Wednesday Links!  Here are some great links for encouraging us to live with generous love in our families:

Love:

Raising a Baby Well Is Like Climbing Mount Everest:  Just like mountain climbing, wise parenting takes preparation, focus, and practice.

Tiger Moms and Her Critics Are Both Right:  Fascinating.  This article looks at research which suggests that whether or not “tiger mothering” (pushing, pressuring, even nagging a child in order to get her to succeed) is beneficial is dependent upon the child’s culture.  Children raised in an Asian culture where community-identity is valued do okay while Western kids where individuality is valued do poorly.  Note:  in neither Asian nor Western cultures did children do well in critical, authoritarian households.

Empathy:

Play Ball:  A young mother questions her own inclination to sign up her son for sports.  “While most of us engage in activities with an end goal in mind (a competition, a recital, a game), my son and my niece wanted to engage in something for the sheer love of doing it.  After that realization, I began to look at this rush to put our kids in organized activities in a whole new light. I wondered if, perhaps, we as parents might do our children a disservice by taking them out of the yard and putting them on the field too soon. Or by placing them in organized activities where they interact with peers and other adults instead of nurturing their love for an activity with us, their parents, the people they really want to share their love with the most.”

Gentle Discipline:

Raising a Moral Child:  If you want to raise a kind, helpful, compassionate child, this NY Times article argues that a parent should 1) avoid making the child feel like a bad person through shaming and 2) focus on the child’s good character rather than her actions.

Kids with Strong Bond to Parents Make Better Friends:  When kids enjoy a warm, loving relationship with their parents, they are more responsive and caring in their childhood friendships.

Play:

Outdoor Play More Important than Indoor Play for a Child’s Development:  In this article, Darcia Narvaez looks at research which suggests that outdoor play is imperative to a child’s mental and physical well-being — even more critical than indoor play.  I would be cautious about the suggestion that indoor play is “detrimental” for children.  Indoor play is very different from outdoor play.  The article cites the dangers of video games on a child’s development, but there are so many more ways our kids play inside.  Indoors a child can build wooden block castles, make forts with his siblings, and play board games with his parents.  This are wonderful play experiences. It’s the balance of these experiences that matter:  kids need both outdoor play and indoor play; they need both self-directed free play, and family play which might be more organized.

Why Play with Your Child?:  A superb overview of the benefits of parent-child shared play.

Radiant Faith

How to Be a Prayer Warrior While Fighting the Battle of Parenthood:  Great practical tips from Charisse Tierney for getting into a habit of daily prayer no  matter how busy you are with parenting little ones.

A Strong Marriage

The Spirituality of Sex:  A great article from Dr. Greg Popcak about the true Catholic view of sexuality.

Wednesday Links

Some links for this week on living the 7 Building Blocks!

Discipline

Listen:  Week 3 in Jane Nelson’s 52 weeks of Positive Discipline tools!   Parents complain that their kids don’t listen, but really it’s the parent who often fails to listen to the child.

A Strong Marriage

Date Night (strengthening marriages one date at a time):  I found this awesome site focused entirely on fun date night ideas with our spouses!  Not specifically Christian, but lots of great ideas and inspiration for affordable, unique ways to spend time with your honey.

Wednesday Links

123172048Each week (or so) I will publish links to resources and news stories that are relevant to one of our 7 Building Blocks.

Love

Positive parenting protects your child from brain shrinking stress

Play

Cooperative and Listening:  Here’s a link to a short video by Tina Bryson, co-author of The Whole-Brained Child.  She offers parents practical tips on developing a playful attitude with our kids in order to avoid power struggles.

Radiant Faith

Thankful heart art project:  A cute paper craft to help your kids think about what they are grateful for as Thanksgiving approaches.

A Strong Marriage

Co-Habitation, Student Debt Threaten Marriage:  Cardinal O’Malley comments on cultural trends that are undermining the Sacrament of Marriage, especially co-habitation.

Welcome to Intentional Catholic Parenting

kimlydiaWelcome to our new website devoted to exploring the concept of “intentional Catholic parenting,” especially through “The 7 Building Blocks to a Joyful Catholic Home” parenting model.  This site will offer articles and links to relevant resources and research on how we can live intentionally with our children.

Here’s a description of “intentional Catholic parenting.”