Though women get to carry around their baby for nine months prior to giving birth, dads play a crucial role in parenting that just can’t be mimicked by the mother. Both parents do their part in loving and rearing their child, but research suggests that dads do it in different ways that kids crave as they grow and learn.

Oxytocin, often referred to as the “love chemical,” is activated when mothers breastfeed and cuddle their children. Both of these actions reflect love and comfort, but oxytocin is also activated in other ways as well. One important type of play that is crucial for development and also activates this hormone is roughhousing. Though I know plenty of mothers who would love to roughhouse with their kids, the stereotype is that dads get more into it while the mom stands in the background pleading for them to be careful not to knock over the lamps and to avoid sharp edges on the coffee table.

Roughhousing, in addition to activating oxytocin, also teaches children that casual touching doesn’t have to involve pain or sexual advances. This is especially important for developing teens to help them become more comfortable in social situations. It is also great for burning off extra energy.

Dads are also more commonly relaxed about messes and accidents, just as long as nothing horribly expensive is broken and it doesn’t involve a trip to the hospital. Though some dads can be “helicopter” parents, they are usually the ones to encourage their children to relax and clean up after themselves or pick themselves up after taking a spill on their bike. This type of behavior allows the children to mature and learn responsibility in a positive way.

Research suggests that mothers and fathers build relationships with their children in different ways. While mothers tend to enjoy face-to-face activities in order to build emotional intimacy, dads tend to favor shoulder-to-shoulder activities that build confidence and competence. Some of these activities can include working on projects together, participating in sports and games, or even going on hiking and camping trips. They help teach children skills in a safe environment where they won’t be criticized and they’ll know that they have someone in their corner.

Though many parents can share these activities or even preform them as well as their spouse, there’s just something about having a dad around to do fatherly things with. According to a study conducted in 2012 in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review, kids that know their fathers love them have a sense of life satisfaction, well-being, and overall happiness that is greater compared to just knowing about the extent to which they feel loved by their mothers.

Source: Ghose, T. "6 Ways Dads Win at Parenting." 14 Jun 2013. Web. 22 Nov 2013.