We at GreatDad are obviously strong believers that moms and dads have
different parenting styles. Both are important and play different roles in
the emotional, moral, and intellectual development of the child. While we
also believe that children thrive on love, positive parenting, and supportive
environments, we can’t help but be more and more persuaded of how much is “hard-wired” in
We had an opportunity to talk with Michael Gurian about these subjects
and his new book, Nurture the Nature. His thoughts are especially interesting
to us since they underscore the crucial role dads play in the development
of the child.
Are moms and dads interchangeable as parents?
Moms and dads create different types of bonds with their children — you can’t
measure the father bond through the lens of the mommy bond. While the mommy/infant
bond is primary during the first two years of life, dads must bond with babies
during the first five years to develop the trust, reliance and respect for
their fathers that will become even more important to their development as
they reach pre-adolescence. Additionally, dads that bond with their babies
during this time are far more likely to stay with them through separation or
What critical elements do dads bring to parenting?
Moms and dads nurture children differently and both parenting abilities are
very important for children. For example, we tend to over-emphasize “emotion
talk,” a more feminine approach to communication due to a common misconception
that words are the only or “superior” way to interact. If a child is sad, mom
might react by wanting to talk through the problem. Dad, on the other hand,
might respond by suggesting a game of catch. “Rough and tumble play,” as it’s
called, usually instigated by dads, is key to developing young brains and is
cited in many studies as a needed aspect of parenting that leads to stronger
social skills later in life.
When are the most critical times for dad to spend time with children?
Late in life, a majority of dads will say that a big regret is that they didn’t
spend more time with their children. One way to avoid this feeling is spend
more time with their kids during the crucial pre-adolescence period, ages 9-15.
While the years 0-2 are the most crucial for the mommy bond, these years are
the most important for the dad/child relationship for two reasons:
- During this period, the child is naturally separating from the mother
and the father will find it is easier and more natural for him to interact.
- The child at this age is hungry for mentoring, structure and presence
of the father. At 16, when he or she makes a bigger break from the parents
and takes larger risk, he or she will be able to make better choices if a
father was actively present during this time.
Who gets credit or blame for the successes or problems we see in our kids?
Rather than placing blame or bestowing credit, we need to use all the resources
we have to support the unique core nature of each child. Children naturally
want to be raised in a three family system:
1st Family – the nuclear family of mom and dad
2nd family – extended family of relatives and very close and present friends
3rd Family – Social community including school, activities and religious
It’s the nature of children to learn critical lessons like morality from their
parents, but these other family members also play a major role by modeling
how core personality can be used successfully and productively.
How about the child who plays video games and doesn’t engage in the world?
I hear often about the child who plays video games three hours a day but does
not like school. The video game playing tells us several things about the child:
he or she is success-oriented, graphics-oriented, relatively less verbal, and
likes to compete. But video games are un-natural, in that they are artificial
and do not exist in nature. Now it’s up to parents and the rest of the family
to identify these “natural” signals and re-orient the child toward more “natural” activities.
Read excerpts from Micheal Gurian’s Nurture the Nature: