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Updated: November 1, 2011 17:24 IST

The togetherness quotient

GEETA PADMANABHAN
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DADDY TIME Is fun time!. Photo: Surya Sridhar
DADDY TIME Is fun time!. Photo: Surya Sridhar

Kids who spend a lot of time with their fathers are better learners and have higher self-esteem than others who get just ‘quality time'. Here are a few interesting research findings

Hurray, there's good news from fathers! In a Cadbury-Nielsen survey, nearly 94 per cent of the 1,819 respondents across six major cities said they were convinced it was important for fathers to spend more time with kids. They ‘craved' time off work to be with their kids. Kid-time, dads feel, must be increased from the paltry two hours to a respectable three-plus on weekdays.

This is a shift from earlier pronouncements such as ‘Can't you see I'm busy reading the papers? Take the brat away. Call me when he needs guidance in high school'. Good. The ‘desire' to spend more time with kids has the backing of behavioural science. Research shows kids who spend a lot of time with their father are better learners and have higher self-esteem than others who get just ‘quality time'. Interviews with six-year olds in the U.S. make it clear that youngsters with a supportive father have a greater sense of social acceptance. A British study says we need to find ways to encourage the positive roles of fathers. Kids definitely benefit from having a loving and supportive man around.

More responsibility

“Even where both parents work, it's the mom who manages to be with the kid,” says Chandramohan Asrani, who has written extensively on the subject. “Raising kids must be done in the spirit of equal partnership and not as a favour, as a project or out of compassion. Dads must consider care of the child as vital as their job or career.” ‘Spending time' doesn't mean exotic family holidays. “Regular time matters more than the locale. Do they realise it?”

Start early, he says. Take part in nappy-changing, feeding, putting to bed and playing. Read to the child. As he grows, teach him discipline, break quarrels with other children, and help him with homework. Toddlers, by nature, are imitators. Establish balanced authority so the kid looks up to you.

Christine Langlois, author of “Raising Great Kids”, says kids with fathers involved in their everyday lives do well in academics, have better social development and self-esteem. Men's child-rearing methods complement mom's, and kids benefit from all the extra attention and interest. Dads can be good role models, so the boys get to be caring, responsible dads themselves.

Kristen Finello of the magazine Parents writes that kids with actively-involved dads have better language skills and fewer behavioural problems. The Institute for the Study of Civil Society reports that boys who want to emulate dads score higher in tests of personal moral judgment, moral values and rule-following. Boys who did not identify with their dads showed reluctance to accept responsibility for actions, had problems with self-control in school.

Fathers are also models of how a man should treat women, says CIVITAS. A girl's relationship with men is often shaped by her relationship with her dad, the first male in her life. A supportive dad gives the daughter the tools to live with dignity. Primary school children usually show more empathy for others if they had solid attachments to their fathers during infancy. Most dads have a boisterous and physical way of playing with kids, and this can promote risk-taking, physical development and exploration. Fathers find it easier to enforce fair and consistent rules because they are not picking up on everybody's feelings. Fathers find it easier to set standards and let their children experience the consequences of failing to meet them.

Behavioural problems

Most of the behavioural problems kids have in school can be related to disturbed homes, says Amudha Lakshmi, principal, Chettinad Vidyashram. “Open quarrels and single parenthood also leads to obesity and disoriented thinking. The right upbringing of the child is the responsibility of both parents and teachers. Family time and bonding with kids in missing these days. Parents need to give time for a monetary check, regular interactions about school activities, and life in general.” So dads, you're right when you ask for time off to be with the kids. Remember: When mom picks up kids, she snuggles them — that's warmth and security. When you pick up kids, you carry them on your shoulders, where they can see the world.

SURVEY RESULTS

* Seventy four per cent of parents strongly agree it's important for both parents to spend a lot of time with their child since infancy

* Fifty one per cent of mothers feel it's extremely important for fathers to spend time with kids almost every day

* Only 47 per cent of the mothers feel fathers today are extremely involved with the child

* Sixty nine per cent of the fathers say their work-life balance does affect the level of involvement with their child

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