There is no question among researchers that fathers who spend time with their children instill self-control and social skills in their offspring. In an early study at the University of Regensburg in Germany, researchers created a scale to evaluate parents’ play, based on whether they challenged kids to stretch themselves, were sensitive to their emotions and encouraged them to solve problems. Mothers and fathers were observed playing with blocks or play dough with their 2-year-olds. Fathers’ scores were a unique predictor of children’s healthy attitudes toward relationships with others at age 16, according to the 2002 study of 49 subjects led by Karin Grossmann, a senior scientist at the university states the Wall Street Journal.
Researchers studying fathers’ role often look at how they act during rough-and-tumble play. Here are some positive signs:
Father is immersed in the game emotionally, smiling and laughing
Father shows spontaneity, creativity or silliness
Father is good-natured about losing, with no signs of ego
Father helps the child control his or her emotions and calms him or her when overexcited
Father adjusts his effort and his technique based on the child’s cues
Father motivates the child to stay engaged and keep going, or rejoin the game
Father is dominant but shares the upper hand, allowing the child to win sometimes
Many researchers believe dad’s bond is expressed a little later, when the father serves as a secure base allowing the child to explore and take risks. This is hard to study in a lab. Animal studies, however, show that baby rats deprived of rough-and-tumble are more aggressive and lack social skills as adults.