Fathers Can Teach Their Children Persistence: Study

FRIDAY, June 15 (HealthDay News) – Children learn persistence from their fathers, according to a new study, and this skill can lead to better performance at school and a reduced risk of criminal behavior.

The study included adolescents aged 11 to 14 in 325 two-parent families; they were followed for several years by researchers from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

About 52 percent of the fathers in the study exhibited above-average levels of authoritative parenting. The children of these fathers were significantly more likely to develop persistence, which led to better outcomes at school and lower levels of delinquency.

The findings were published June 15 in the Journal of Early Adolescence.

“There are relatively few studies that highlight the unique role of fathers,” study co-author Laura Padilla-Walker, a professor in BYU’s School of Family Life, said in a university news release. “This research also helps to establish that traits such as persistence – which can be taught – are key to a child’s life success.”

The researchers emphasized that authoritative parenting is different from authoritarian parenting and has three basic features: children feel warmth and love from their father; children are granted an appropriate level of autonomy; and fathers emphasize accountability and the reasons behind rules.

Although this study included two-parent families, the researchers suggested that single parents may still be able to help teach their children about persistence.

“Fathers should continue to be involved in their children’s lives and engage in high-quality interactions, even if the quantity of those interactions might be lower than is desirable,” Padilla-Walker said.

Fathers Have More Fun

Are parents happier than their childless peers?

For the last five years or so, I’ve answered that question with a resounding “no.” Statistics (not to mention anecdotal evidence) led me to believe that parents tend to be more stressed and less happy.

In some ways, this seems understandable, even obvious. Folks without kids can go to yoga or hang out with friends without having to find a babysitter (or negotiate with a spouse). Childless people don’t panic over stranding their kids at school when a meeting runs late, or lay awake at night worrying about how to keep the kids’ health insurance, or feel overwhelmed by mountains of laundry and plastic toys and permission slips.

But now three new studies throw a wrench in the previous research. The studies, to be published in the journal Psychological Science, find that parents report higher levels of happiness and positive emotion and have more “thoughts about meaning in life.”

Some parents, that is.

Young parents and single parents don’t fare as well: Unmarried parents are unhappier than people without kids, as are parents under 26 years old. (Parents over age 63 don’t differ from their childless peers.)

Then there’s the gender gap. While it’s true that parents on average report greater happiness and satisfaction with their lives than their childless peers, this is actually because fathers are driving the averages up. Mothers don’t show a big uptick in happiness by having kids. It’s really the dads that are happier.

Parenthood, it turns out, is only associated with greater life satisfaction and happiness among fathers.

As a feminist mother, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a tad resentful about this.

Anyone who has looked at the statistics on household division of labor knows that moms typically bear the brunt of the unfun housework that comes with child-rearing, not to mention the logistical backflips of the highly-scheduled childhood.

I’m not saying that men don’t do housework, because they do. And, on average, they are doing more than they have in past generations. But every day, mothers are doing housework and caring for family members for nearly four hours, compared to dads’ three hours.

What’s more, housework in the U.S. is still very gendered: Women do more laundry and dishes and cleaning; men do more yardwork. I know I find gardening on the weekends more fun than battling the dishes in my sink morning, noon and night. So perhaps that extra hour of work, and the different type of work, makes moms less happy than dads.

But my resentment will buy me nothing in the happiness department. Focusing on happiness as a zero-sum game gets us nowhere in our fight for equality.

Here’s why. First, we all presumably have the same goals; namely, to raise happy and healthy kids, and to find happiness ourselves. And a happy father is, generally speaking, a good father. We know that positive emotions make us better parents – when we are feeling good, we are more likely to be better listeners, warmer caregivers and to be more consistent in our discipline.

Second, it is better for our own well-being and the well-being of our children if we are cultivating (and modeling) what Buddhists call mudita rather than cultivating and modeling resentment. Meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg describes mudita as “vicarious joy,” or “the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people’s well-being rather than begrudging it.” Experiencing another person’s happiness vicariously really can bring us great happiness; happiness is very contagious. In fact, happiness generally spreads three degrees, affecting not just our friends, but our friend’s friend’s friend’s.

For example, my own dad is about the happiest father imaginable. He takes my daughters to the dentist, volunteers at their swim meets and takes them out for ice cream once a week. The pride, pleasure and great meaning that he gets from his fathering activities is obvious, contagious and moving. When I watch him with my children, I feel a deep contentment that is hard to come by in other ways.

I’m not suggesting that structural and cultural changes aren’t in order to correct the happiness gender gap among parents, or that it is okay if dads’ happiness comes at the expense of moms’. I am suggesting that this Father’s Day, we should celebrate the fact that fathers tend to be happier than their childless peers, as this bodes well for everyone, not the least of whom are mothers and children.

Maybe your happiness on Father’s Day will come from a moment of reflection, as a dad, about the ways parenting is satisfying. Or, maybe your happiness on Sunday will come vicariously, through the fathers in your life. Either way, Happy Father’s Day.

Fathers: What is it about being a dad brings you the most happiness and life satisfaction?
Mothers and others: How do you derive vicarious joy from watching the happy dads in your life?

© 2012 Christine Carter, Ph.D.

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Father’s Day Quotes: Best Sayings About Fatherhood

Father’s Day is coming up quickly, but you still have time to craft a perfect card for the dads in your life to cherish (er, stash in a drawer somewhere…) forever. If words aren’t your strong suit, never fear: here are some of the best quotes about fatherhood that are sure to make even the most stoic of fathers crack a smile or shed a tear. Print them, pin them, frame them, or stash notes around the house – whatever you choose, just make sure to let dad know how much you care.

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  • “Having a staring contest with a newborn is one of the weirdest things you will ever do. And it is highly recommended.” -Ross McCammon

  • “Above all, children need our unconditional love, whether they succeed or make mistakes; when life is easy and when life is tough.” -President Obama

  • “Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father!” -Lydia M. Child

  • “You fathers will understand. You have a little girl. She looks up to you. You’re her oracle. You’re her hero.” -Stanley T. Banks, Father of the Bride

  • “Do I want to be a hero to my son? No. I would like to be a very real human being. That’s hard enough.” -Robert Downey Jr.

  • “A new father quickly learns that his child invariably comes to the bathroom at precisely the times when he’s in there, as if he needed company.” – Bill Cosby

  • “I thought I would be more inspired to have all these new feelings to talk about, but I really just want to hang out with my daughter.” Jay-Z

  • “The reward of child rearing is spending the rest of your life proudly knowing this person you helped guide. Let him be himself.” -Mike Sager

  • “I want my son to wear a helmet 24 hours a day.” -Will Arnett

  • “This is my most important role. If I fail at this, I fail at everything.” -Mark Wahlberg

  • “It is admirable for a man to take his son fishing, but there is a special place in heaven for the father who takes his daughter shopping.”-John Sinor

  • “It is much easier to become a father than to be one.” -Kent Nerburn, Letters to My Son: Reflections on Becoming a Man

  • “Lately all my friends are worried that they’re turning into their fathers. I’m worried that I’m not.” -Dan Zevin

  • “By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong.” -Charles Wadsworth

  • “Few sons are like their fathers – many are worse, few better.” -Homer, The Odyssey

  • “It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived. ”-Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

  • “Father! – To God himself we cannot give a holier name.” -William Wordsworth

 

Father’s Day Quotes

 

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