The Role of Father’s: Insights and tips on how father’s contribute to their child’s social, emotional, and cognitive learning

Prior to the late 1970s, the role of fathers was more defined as the family’s main breadwinner, disciplinarian, and would take time to play when he could. However, times have changed and fathers are seen to be more involved in raising their children. In fact, majority of studies have affirmed that fathers play an important role in the health and well-being of their children. In celebration of Father’s Day, we want to share with you how the presence of a father is not only a positive experience for the family, but is also beneficial to a child’s social, emotional and cognitive growth.

How Fathers Can Help

When fathers are involved in parenting, children’s emotional well-being have been proven to increase. Children are generally more well-adjusted and there are less expressions of fear, guilt, stress and anxiety. When stressful situations occur, children develop a greater tolerance and have better problem-solving and adaptive skills — managing their emotions healthily and appropriately. And as a child enters adolescence, close relationships with their fathers can also improve self-efficacy and reduce aggressive behaviours. When children feel their fathers’ love and acceptance, they would also have higher self-esteem and be more self-motivated.

What Fathers Can Do

Children are highly impressionable and often take after their parents’ reactions to negative emotions. Therefore, the key to developing emotional intelligence in your child is to first recognise and manage your own emotions appropriately. When you are feeling more positive and relaxed, you can then be more sensitive to your child’s feelings especially when he is not able to express his feelings adequately. Increase your child’s vocabulary for words that describe feelings by demonstrating and modelling how to express feelings. When your child is feeling stressed or frustrated, be there to support him. Encourage your child to solve a problem by thinking ahead about the consequences of the solutions, help him to generate alternative ideas and choose the best plan of action.

How Fathers Can Help

Studies have proven that when infants enjoy higher levels of interaction with fathers through play and caregiving activities, their problem-solving ability increases and have higher cognitive functioning. When compared with mothers, fathers’ talk with toddlers is characterized by more wh- (e.g. “what, where” etc.) questions, which requires the child to express themselves more, use more  vocabulary and produce longer sentences when communicating with their fathers. School-aged children of involved fathers also perform better academically. They have more positive attitudes towards school and have less behavioural problems.

What Fathers Can Do

Cognitive development is the process where a child learns to solve problems, reason, think logically and creatively. Boost cognitive development through lots of play! Come up with games and activities that encourage your child to think and find solutions. From board games to sports, train your child to learn through trial and error and encourage your child not to give up. Children are little explorers so plan for a nature outing at least once a month. For example, it could be as simple as having a family picnic at the beach. Everything that the child observes — from the waves on the shore, birds flying, fish swimming in water or ships passing by — these are excellent ways to stimulate the senses, start conversations and spur imaginative thinking.

How Fathers Can Help

Studies have proven that when fathers are more hands-on with parenting, children tend to have more positive peer relations — less aggression and conflict, more reciprocity and generosity. They also have increased moral judgement, values and conformity to rules and display more moral and pro-social behaviours. By feeling secure and attached to their fathers, children are more tolerant and understanding of others. As they become adults, they are also more likely to enjoy supportive social networks consisting of long-term close friendships and successful marriages.

What Fathers Can Do

Teach your child that relationships are important. Model it for your child early on and help him to be respectful of others. If you notice your child behaving disrespectfully unintentionally, be sure to talk about it with him later. Be clear about insisting that they acknowledge adults in their presence as well as other kids. If you happen to have a child who is shy, teach effective strategies to deal with fears such as being interested by asking questions and listening to others. Have plenty of opportunities to practice social behaviours by following their lead in a “peer-like” way. When you are responsive to your child’s play ideas, it makes your child feel that they are good, effective play partners and thus are eager to play with other peers.

From what we gather, many findings have affirmed the positive effects of fathers’ presence and father-child relationship. Mothers are not only the ones who affect their children’s development but fathers do have a direct impact on children too. Fathers provide for children’s needs in a different way than mothers, and they are just as invaluable to children’s physical, emotional, social and cognitive functioning.

7 Ways to Engage Your Child in Everyday Play

The “P” in Dolphin Kids’ P.O.D.  stands for PLAY! Why is play important? From learning problem-solving skills, to creative thinking, processing emotions and building resilience, play offers great opportunities for growth and parent-child bonding.

Children love to play and have an endless capacity for play. However, parents’ ability or willingness for play may not be as consistent. Sometimes, after a long day of work and chores, getting down on the floor to play dollhouse with your child or going outdoors for physically active game may seem exhausting. But the truth is, play does not have to last long and it can also be part of everyday life.

According to Dr. Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play, there are 7 different types of play that accomplishes different benefits. Here are its definitions and some tips to get your started:

Attunement Play

Communication with your child happens all the time, and a large percentage of what we perceive in communication is non-verbal signals. Eye contact, facial expressions, tone of voice and bodily gestures can be easily sensed by your child as to whether or not you are genuinely interested in them.

Attunement play is therefore the foundation of all forms of play and can be used in all kinds of interactions with your child. Respond to your child’s actions by mirroring her movements and expressions, make up a song or do a dance with the action. Enter into your child’s world and show that you are listening and understanding him/her.

Social Play

Social play helps children establish social norms. Play with parents set the stage for children’s ability to successfully play with others. Strive for an even distribution of power — Be careful not to take over and give too many directions when playing with your child. Likewise, it is also important not to let your child boss you around. When we allow children to dominate us in play, to be inattentive to our needs and desires, we may, in fact, be turning them into spoiled brats. Cooperate with your child in play by sharing a common goal and having complementary roles, e.g., fixing a jigsaw puzzle, building a bridge with blocks, making art, baking/cooking together.

Pretend Play

Imaginative and pretend play is where creativity begins. Playing the pirate, doctor or teacher — acting out stories which involve multiple perspectives and determining ideas and emotions, pretend play can help children to create their own sense of their mind, and that of others. If make-believe play is not something you feel comfortable doing, try talking to your child regularly explaining features about nature and social issues, or read to your child at bedtime instead.

Movement Play

Leaping in the air teaches us the effects of gravity. Dance teaches us the various ways that our bodies can move. Movement play helps us think spatially, and the physical exertion and effort to get a movement right fosters adaptability and resilience. Chase games, hide and seek, tickles, and rough-housing games make children laugh, scream and sweat — which can help release pent-up stress hormones that they would otherwise have to tantrum to discharge.

Object Play

Object play allows children to explore the functions of objects and develop tools. By manipulating objects such as building blocks, puzzles, cars, dolls, etc., object play allows children to try out new combinations of actions, and may help develop problem solving skills. Sometimes, object play also involves pretend play, e.g., building a house or feeding a doll. Some household items can also serve as fun and interesting objects for play, as long as they are safe.

Storytelling-Narrative Play

Besides improving children’s sense of well-being and self-identity, storytelling plays an essential role to children in understanding their environment. Through listening to stories, they learn to understand the differences to others’ feelings, culture, backgrounds, and experiences. When children can create their own stories, they also show better divergent thinking. Try coming up with a beginning of a story and let your child think and explore as much as they can. If they get stuck or repetitive, suggest one or two ideas on what can happen next.

Creative Play

Children start developing their creativity in role-playing and pretend play, and when they do, they are able to imagine new ways or ideas about doing things that can add function and progress to lives in future. When you are with your child, stimulate creative ideas by encouraging them to come up with new and unusual uses of everyday items, art materials or toys. Try to remain open and curious to new and original ideas, and encourage children to come up with more than one solution or answer.

Play is in the Everyday

Play offers connection, bonding, and co-operation. Opportunities for play can happen everyday with common daily activities. The quality of time spent with your child is the factor that makes a difference. As Lawrence J. Cohen, author of Playful Parenting puts it, you need to be “tuned in” to your child’s needs and wants. Give your child your full attention and follow their lead by letting them direct and control the pace of the play. Relax and have fun while being in the moment with them. Whether it’s baking cookies together, or washing a car, it’s the spirit of playfulness that we bring to daily activities that turns the mundane into play.