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Archive for the ‘EAB’ Category

Our Little Ones and Sugar

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By Jack Maypole, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

As a pediatrician, we talk a great deal about childrenfood and children’s growth. For the vast majority of children, this is a topic easily broached by asking what their favorite foods are (pizza and tacos reign supreme) and what they like to drink (many say water, actually, and only a few admit they guzzle juice or soda). It is a fun way to start a conversation on a very broad and potentially complicated topic.  

After more than a couple of decades in practice, I get it. Food is love. Food is culture. Food is fun. Food is delicious. As North Americans, our love of food comes with a rather demanding sweet tooth. Along with this inclination comes parents who are rightfully concerned about their children’s sugar intake.  

I want to assure you, however, that many times the concern isn’t necessary – parents are well informed and smart about offering children nutritious foods. However, the lure of sugar is strong in children, and sometimes it’s hard to say no to those precious, pleading faces. While limiting sugar may seem daunting at times because it’s in just about everything, there are two takeaway messages we should remember: 

  1. Children are not destined to turn into cupcakes or refuse to eat anything but tablespoons of sugarno matter what Mary Poppins says. Has anyone verified her medical license?  
  2. We can help children develop healthy habits and reduce the amount of sugar in their dietscreate sugar hacks, if you will  when considering a tasty snack, confection, fine beverage or dessert.   

(Sort of a chew on this, eschew that, right?) 

I’ll channel a chat I have with parents who are concerned about their child’s weight. Ideally, we’ve been having this conversation all the way along: limiting sweet snacks as you are able and encouraging a balanced diet. It sounds easy, but if you ever walk into a supermarket, there are a lot of options competing for (and winning over) children’s taste buds. It is our role as grownups to push back on the siren calls of cupcakes and Sour Patch Kids and to set some limit, somewhere.  

I am not one to say never: never dessert, never candy, never soda. Absolute vows tend to fail absolutely. I am more about saying *sometimes* for sugary foods and drinks versus not allowing them at all. Should one eat ice cream for every meal? No, that is absurd, and children get it. Should one have more than a cup of soda or juice a day? The answer here is no, but it may require some explanation. Having juice or soda sometimes, but not all the time, can be okayas long as a child eats balanced meals overall for the day. 

So, if you are setting up a menu for a few days, how could you swap in some healthy alternatives instead of having frosted sugar bombs for dinner?  

Here are a few ideas:  

Hot days will continue well into September, so it may be handy to have a cool and smart alternative to sugary popsicles. Aren’t 100% juice popsicles better than the alternative because they’re natural? Great try, marketers, but no. Many products have additional sweeteners. One might do better to blend some fresh fruit (mixed berries, say, or mango or peach) and put the mixture in an ice cube tray. Delish.    

Is the snack cabinet full of cookies and tasty, carb-loaded sugary items? The best approach to this category is to limit how much fun food you purchase. If you don’t have it in stock, then they can’t senselessly nosh on it. Instead, put a bowl of fresh fruit that is in season on the kitchen table as appropriate for your children’s ages, including bananasapples, peaches or a small pile of washed berries.  

I might go one step further and help your preschoolers work with a peeler to learn how to peel an apple. Can they peel the whole skin in one go? Probably not, but trying can be a fun challenge. Just be sure to limit their attempts to one bit of fruit at a time so you don’t walk into the kitchen to see a pile of naked fruit. A grownup can slice the fruit into appropriate pieces for rapid consumption. 

Beverages are an area where there is some latitude. I advise parents to avoid buying juice or soda altogether if it is too much of a temptation. (If you do buy OJ, for example, be sure to buy the variety with calcium and vitamin D supplements.) For children over two years old, 2% milk is fine, within reason. For you fans out there, chocolate milk is a SUGARY drink, best considered almost like a soda for all the glucose it has in there. Drinking two or three cups of cow’s milk a day is ideal for growing, but many children take far less than that, taking water instead, I find. Flavored seltzer can be a great option instead of sugary sodas. Sugarfree juices like Crystal Lite and diet sodas are a bit controversial (the longterm effects of the artificial sweeteners remain an area of concern) but may be a reasonable concession for some families. 

Then, there is dessert. “Should we let children eat dessert? I get asked. Yes, in moderation in terms of amount and frequency. For example, if you have a dessert after dinner of blueberries in a bowl of milk, then no problem. If a child has a hankering for a bowl of ice cream and hot fudge every day, I’d think that through, in terms of how that fits with a child’s or family’s profile. For most children, though, having an occasional bowl or cone of ice cream or some other sugary fare is not an issue.  

I will say that I’d encourage children to eat a reasonable portion of their dinner BEFORE they tuck into a sweet aftermeal snack. Some children get overly clever at this sort of meal replacement and push away their plate and eat a double helping of the afterdinner treat 

Bookstores, cookbooks, family filing cabinets and the internet (such as ChopChopFamily.org – Recipes) are full of ideas for balanced meals and less sugary options for our children. I think we all will be more successful if we think holistically about how our children eat across the days and the weeks. Are they eating a balance of protein, fat and some carbs? Are we offering them, to the extent possible, fresh foods and options that are lessoften sweetened or enriched with corn syrup? Once we have an idea of what we want to offer them, it is important to look at one’s cabinets (or secret candy stashes from last Halloween) and understand where all of their calories are coming from. 

Work with your children to understand their favorite foods, and work with them on a Sunday evening to build a menu for the week using their input for some of the entries (let the children take turns choosing a topfive food for dinner one night each week) and build on their choices and preferences. Fried chicken is okay. Fried Oreos may not be.  

With this in mind, we can get back to the basics that make eating together an occasion of love, culture, togetherness and joy, without the sugar high to follow if you are lucky!  

Bon appétit.  

 

Three Approaches to Teaching Your Child to Be Kind

women holding preschool child

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

We all want our children to be happy, well liked and good to others. How do we support our children in learning to be kind? This topic often comes up in fall as children make new friends at school, and it is part of the National Bullying Prevention Month messages. This year, we will want to use same approaches to online interactions since so many children are interacting with classmates, friends and family members through video chats.  

Children develop social-emotional skills in many ways. The three approaches that make the most impact are modeling role playing and playing games, and storytelling. Parents can help to build a foundation for their young children by incorporating these approaches in their families’ daily activities.   

Modeling – Act kind yourself. Modeling is by far the best way to instill kind behavior in your children. Children love to imitate us, and if we act in a kind manner, they will, tooPraise your children when they exhibit kindness, and explain why you thought what they did was a kind thing to do. It’ll become a habit. When you see kindness in others, share your thoughts with your children. “That was so kind of Jane to share her snack with you at school.” In an online situation, compliment your child (i.e., “You waited your turn to speak.  That was great!”). When our children hear the praise we give others, they will want to exhibit the same behavior. Try not to be negative, and redirect your children when they act unkindly. For example, explain how the other person may feel, talk about what your children could have done differently and help your children apologize.  

Role Playing and Playing Games – Create opportunities for your child to play. Your child will act out reallife situations while playing with stuffed animals, robotic toys and dolls. Interacting in unguided play with other children also supports learning to get along with others. Playing games can be part of dramatic play, tooGames help children learn to take turns and develop sportsmanship. Try games where your children need to collaborate with another player to win. Relay races, parachute games and family scavenger hunts are several good choices.   

Reading and Sharing Stories – Read stories where the characters must make decisions about their behaviors. Talk about the consequences of both kind and not-so-kind actions. Children learn through the stories by relating to the characters and the events. Here are some favorites that focus on kindness to get you started: 

  • If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson 
  • I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët 
  • Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton 
  • The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace 
  • Possum’s Harvest Moon by Anne Hunter 

You can also share stories from your childhood or from your family’s experiences. These are important to young children and can help them learn life’s lessons. 

 

More Than Just Fun and Games: What Children Can Learn from Playing Games

child playing board game with parent

By Helen Hadani, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

After sheltering in place for several months, many families are digging deep into their closets and garages for games that haven’t seen the light of day for months or even years. For families with young children, classic games like Chutes and Ladders, Go Fish and Candyland are fun ways to enjoy family time, but they also promote important social skills, including taking turns and sharing, and academic skills, such as counting, color matching and comparing numbers.  

By definition, games include rules. Remembering those rules requires working memory (the part of our memory that allows us to hold and mentally manipulate information in our minds), and following rules often requires self-control. For example, children have to resist the urge to touch their toes when playing Simon Says unless they hear the magic words “Simon says.” Similarly, in the classic outdoor game Red Light, Green Light, children need to exhibit self-control and only run fast when they hear “green light.” Even just waiting until it is your turn can be hard! 

Simple card games like Go Fish, Old Maid and Crazy Eights involve matching suits or numbers, which promotes early math skills. When children roll dice or use a spinner to determine the number of spaces they should move, they have an opportunity to practice counting. In fact, researchers have found that playing a number-based board game like Chutes and Ladders can improve preschoolers’ numerical knowledge and skills. 

Games are meant to be sources of entertainment and joy (and they bring out the competitive side in some of us), but research shows that some games can also promote cognitive and social skills.  

Don’t worry if your children ask to play their favorite game more times than you want to count – they are learning along the way as they get to that last spot on the board! 

How to Set Up a Child’s Room for Playful Learning

a photo of a preschool child's bedroom

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Setting up a child’s room can be so much fun, but it can also be overwhelming. Don’t worry – you likely already have more than you need. Do not stress over how educational each toy is or feel like you need to fill up the room. I recall my nephew as we were setting up his room. He lined up all his trucks on a shelf and announced, “Auntie Lee, just leave the blocks and trucks. You can sell the rest.” He was four.

The two most important things are safety and fun. The learning part will come as your child explores, imagines and plays. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Use colorful bins or tubs and sort toys your child can easily access;
  • Create a reading nook by placing books on a low shelf or bin. Add a soft place to curl up and read;
  • Place a small plastic mirror on the wall at ground level – it’s a wonderful addition for infants and toddlers;
  • Add art and science or math spaces in an area that can be made messy and then easily cleaned up again. For art projects, have a variety of papers, paints, crayons and other materials on hand. For math and science discovery, measuring cups, bowls, rulers, dried foods like pasta and even food scales are wonderful resources for hands-on learning;
  • Think about what toys are safe for your children at their current age levels. Place those within easy reach and let your children dump them out and play away;
  • Create a dramatic arts area where your children can dress up, play pretend and use recycled food items to expand their understanding of the world around them;
  • Add new items and rotate older ones out occasionally. Later, bring some of the older ones back;
  • Blocks, puzzles, board games and stacking toys are always a hit;
  • Introduce new toys one at a time and add items that might give your children a challenge. For example, if they can do a 10-piece puzzle, add a few 15-to-20-piece puzzles into the mix;
  • You don’t have to create a designated space for technology since it should enhance other learning experiences. Instead, take a tablet outside for a photo or video-making session, help your child create an e-book in your reading nook or look up steps to create a robot in your science area;
  • Avoid clutter as it can be overwhelming and inhibits creativity and exploration.

Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun as you set up this space, and be sure to keep an eye out for what fun learning experiences your children have there!

Five Simple Tricks to Make Bedtime a Breeze

preschool child sleeping

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

We often talk about how important bedtime is for little ones, especially as they return to school or begin a summer program. It has been made more difficult by the stayathome routines many of us have adapted to in recent months. Hopefully, you have been able to keep to some routine. If you have relaxed yours lately, now might be a good time to get back into the swing of things by giving your child some structure and taking some time for yourself. 

Making the transition should start with your child’s participation. Explain that we need to get our bedtime organized so we all get plenty of sleep. Ask your child how we can do that. You might be surprised by the answers. Being involved in the solution will help your child buy into the changes more easily. For younger children, give them a couple of choices such as “Which should we do first – brush our teeth and then get into our PJs or get into our PJs first?”   

Here are five more tips to help you along the way: 

  1. Have an actual lightsout time and stick to it. 
  1. Try to eat an earlier dinner not too close to bedtime. 
  1. Keep afterdinner activities to a minimum, slowing the pace as you get closer to bedtime. Watch a favorite show together, play a simple board game or work a puzzle.  
  1. Set up a routine chart for older children who can check off each activity as they go. 
  1. Make time for a calming moment – reading a story, talking about the day, planning for tomorrow or doing a few fun yoga poses together before jumping under the covers. 

Research has shown that when children don’t get enough sleep it has a negative effect on their attention span, behavior and emotions. Routines play an important role in helping your child get the sleep he or she needs. We hope you can get some rest as well.  

 

Dealing with the Ups and Downs of a Preschooler

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by Kyle Pruett, M.D. Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Last evening, our neighborsparents of three children under seven, were sitting out on their porch steps, masked and full of coffee. They said hello as I (masked and at a distance) walked byI paused and asked, How’s it going? Kids asleep? and heard, Thank God” in unison. The mother continued, sometimes it’s been sweet and sometimes sour – very sour. I feel kinda hollowed out in the middle. I really love, both of us love, simply being together with them for more than just a snippet of the weekend, and other times, I feel bottomed out, discouraged.” I thoughtthere is the pandemic family anthem in a nutshell. 

Our young children are feeling much the same these dayskinda hollowed out in the middle, caught between the highs of being together and the lows of losing so much of their active physical and social life. That’s why they can go from angelic to demonic in a few hours or minutes. Parents wonder at such times if they are being good parents in the way they handle these huge swings. Their children know how clueless they feel about how to helpDisappointment is around every cornercan’t do this or that, can’t see your friends or grandma, have to wear that itchy, annoying face covering. As adults, we’ve learned something about coping with disappointment by now, but for our preschoolers and young children, this may be the first time they have had to confront it in such a huge dose. No wonder they and we are upset. They are missing out on some things that we know they need to keep growing up well. Helping them cope requires as much compassion and patience as we have ever mustered on their behalf.  

Advice:  

  1. When they are upset and need us to fix something, most of us just rush in with a tool or solution as soon as we can think of one. Don’do that, at least not right away. 
  2. Listen carefully through the tears for what is wrong. Say it back to them in your own words and ask if you got it right 
  3. Confirm that you get what’s so upsetting without judgment or even if you think it’s a bit ridiculous and that those kinds of feelings do hurt and make us sad. This compassion is less likely to soften your children than it is to strengthen them. It validates them and their feelings as more important to you at the moment than correcting some injustice. 
  4. Limit the amount of pandemic-focused information flowing at them through screens (especially back-ground TV) and from other sources, such as over-heard adult conversations. The most menacing, toxic force in the pandemic’s arsenal other than the obvious mortal threat to our health is its mystery; this scale of not knowing what’s coming is unfamiliar to most of us 
  5. Running on empty,emotionally and physicallyis very hard on everyone in the family. There are many replenishmentout there if you look. A favorite for families with pre-k children is Common Sense Media’s list of 26 Kid-Friendly Documentaries for Families to watch together. Turn off your phones, kick off the shoes and grab healthy snacks. Then snuggle up and let someone else do the entertaining for a while. Don’t forget to breathe. 

How to Help Your Child Transition Back to School after Covid

Child sitting at desk writting

By Lee Scott and Helen Hadani, Contributing Writers and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Members

We have been asked by many parents how they can help their children transition with the changes at school this summer or fall. What happens when it will be a move to a new classroom or teacher? Things will feel strange enough after being away for so long. We suggest a few steps that may help you prepare. 

Get started by planning for returning to schoolSet up your schoolday routines – set a time for waking up in the morning, create relaxing bedtime rituals, select clothing at night, etc. Start these a few weeks before returning to school. Connect with the school before returning. Ask which classroom your child will be in and who will be his or her new teachers. You can also ask whether some of your child’s friends from the previous classroom will be returning. Share the details with your child.   

Practice and roleplay. Walk your child through security or safety protocols such as handwashing, taking temperatures and wearing a mask. Explain what your child will do when he or she gets to school. Roleplay the sequence at home. What will you do? What about the teachers and your child? The Goddard School has a short video you can watch with your childTalk about the routines with your child. 

Make sure you connect with what your child is feeling and support helpful behavior. Research shows that when parents encourage children to talk about mental states including emotions, they are more likely to adjust to change and be helpful to others. Look for opportunities in your daily activities such as reading a book or watching a movie to highlight how characters are feeling (e.g., “How do you think that character was feeling?” or “How would you feel if that happened to you?”). This may help children talk about how they are feeling when they get back to school and hopefully lead to them helping their peers who may be struggling more with the transition.  

Help your child adjust to the changes by managing expectations. One way to help your child adjust is to create a play plan. Tools of the Mind is an early childhood curriculum for preschool and kindergarten designed to promote executivefunction skills through playful learning activities. For example, children start their school day by drawing or writing activities they envision for their day. Those plans help children to think and act purposefullyEncourage your child to create a play plan before he or she goes back to school to get in the habit of thinking about the day. It could help ease fears about what to expect and build excitement around doing favorite activities at school. When you are sharing a play plan, you can also talk about your child’s new classroom and teacher. Ask your child what he or she might expect from the new classroom or new routine. 

Reconnect with friends a few at a time. For some little ones, seeing peers in large groups might be a bit overwhelming since they have spent the past several months with their families and maybe only seeing one or two friends at a time. Set up a time to get together with a friend. Plan a simple activity, such as a ball game outside or a board game or puzzle. Your child might not know what to talk about, so thinking of a few things to share could be helpful. Parents can ask their child to think of three things that the child has enjoyed (or not enjoyed) about staying at home (e.g., having more family movie nights, not being able to visit grandparents). 

Following these steps and building expectations will help your child make a smooth transition. Try not to worry and remember that many others are having the same experience.    

“But Mom/Dad, Why Can’t You Play Right Now?” How to Answer This Question Effectively and More When Working from Home with Children

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By Jennifer Jipson, Ph.D., Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

For weeks now, I’ve been spending my days shifting between multiple roles, and it isn’t getting any easier! When I’m working, I feel like I’m ignoring my children. When I’m attending to their needs, I feel guilty about not being able to make progress on work-related projects. When stress hits, I’ve often reacted to my children’s interruptions and emergencies with an abruptness that I later regret. I’m guessing many of you have experienced something similar at some point.

In this blog post, I share a practical strategy for how to interact with children in a way that respects their desire for your attention and your need to set boundaries that help you get some other things done. The approach is described by Dr. Marjorie Kostelnik and her colleagues as using personal messages. It’s a developmentally appropriate strategy that helps both parents and children achieve their goals while building trusting and affectionate relationships. In my role as a college professor, I teach it to college students who are learning to interact with preschool-aged children. It might seem awkward or too wordy at first, but it gets easier with practice. It pays off because the more your child hears you talk like this, the more tools she or he will have to control her or his impulses to interrupt.

The following is how it goes.

STEP ONE: Offer a reflection that describes your children’s perspective.

I think of this step as sportscasting, except instead of being on ESPN saying, “he shoots, he scores,” I’m in my home office having conversations like the following:

When my adorable child says: I’m tempted to say: Instead, I try to say:
“Moooom, you said we could make brownies!” I can’t right now. You’re frustrated that I can’t make brownies with you yet.
“Come see what I did!” I’m busy. You’re excited about your painting and you want me to take a look.
“I’m bored.” Shhhhh I see you’ve finished that episode of Daniel Tiger and you don’t know what to do next.

Describing a child’s perspective before reacting shows that we are trying to understand his or her point of view and that we care about his or her experience. It also gives us a few extra seconds to think about how to respond next.

STEP TWO: Share your own emotional reaction and explain why you feel that way.

STEP THREE: Tell your child what will happen next. Be sure to follow through!

These steps give children a chance to practice their developing perspective-taking skills and to improve their understanding of emotions. Then, by hearing parents share clear expectations for what will happen next, children can begin to develop strategies that will make moments of waiting easier.

Step One Steps Two and Three
You’re frustrated that I can’t make brownies with you yet. The people I work with are waiting for me to finish this project, and I want to get it done. After I give it to them, we can go to the kitchen together and make our special treat!
You’re excited about your painting and want me to take a look. I’m proud of you for working so hard on your art project. I’m on a conference call right now and I will come to see it as soon as the call ends. 
You’ve finished that episode of Daniel Tiger and you don’t know what to do next. It’s important to me that I have some time to get a few things done. I’d like you to find something you can do on your own right now. Do you want some help choosing a few puzzles to do?

When adults talk in clear, responsive and respectful ways, children’s self-regulation skills improve. It’s also important to model your respect for their activities. Instead of interrupting their play or media use, you might say something like, “It looks like you’re having a lot of fun drawing with chalk, I have a break now and it’d be nice to take a bike ride with you. Is this a good time?”

Full disclosure: As I’m writing this, I’ve been guilty of responding a bit abruptly to my youngest child’s plea for attention. it’s not easy to practice what I teach consistently. But when I catch myself responding with annoyance, I start over and try again. Many people give up on personal messages because it feels clumsy at first. My advice is to keep trying. Practice makes better (forget perfect), and we have a lot of opportunities lately to refine our skills in warmly-communicating clear and respectful boundaries with our children.

OPTIONAL ADDITION

Note – Planning can ease the pressure of competing responsibilities. One important strategy is providing young kids with a visual cue to your availability. In my house, when I can’t be interrupted, I put a note on my office door letting my older children know when I’ll be available next. With younger children, I suggest displaying a picture of Quiet Coyote or some other signal so that they know not to interrupt. Be sure to take it down when you’re better able to be interrupted.

Children’s Books About Inclusion and Diversity

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

good way to begin a dialogue with young children about inclusion and diversity is by listening to and reading stories. Engaging young children with stories of people from diverse cultures, backgrounds and races helps extend their understanding of familiar emotions and social behaviors by presenting them in new contexts, as well as providing them with opportunities to encounter emotions and social behaviors that they may not be exposed to in their everyday interactions within their families and communities. This helps promote critical thinking about bias, and it develops children’s ability to stand up for themselves and others in the face of bias 

The following is a compilation of books selected by members of the Educational Advisory Board as well as families who also sent us book ideas that they feel support the understanding of inclusion and empathy. Here is a list of 15 books to help launch important conversations: 

Infants and Toddlers

Who Toes Are Those? by Jabari Asim is a tickle and giggle book with beautiful baby’s brown toes.

Whos Toes Are Those Book CoverTen Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox is a wonderful celebration of babies from all over the world.

Ten Littler Fingers and Ten Little Toes children's book cover

Dream Big Little One by Vashti Harrison shares the inspirational stories of powerful black women in history.

Dream Big Little One Children's Book Cover

Peekaboo Morning by Rachel Isadora is a cheerful book that all babies will enjoy. 

PeekABoo Morning Children's Book Cover

Who? A Celebration of Babies by Robie Harris is just that, a wonderful book featuring babies’ first words. 

Who? Baby book cover

Preschoolers to Kindergarteners 

We’re Different, We’re the Same by Bobbi Kates (Sesame Street) supports young children’s understanding that although we are different in many ways, we are all the same inside. 

6-different-the-sameLovely by Jess Hong is a celebration of what makes everyone unique and how we all are lovely. 

Lovely child book coverThe Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson supports children as they work through the challenge of not feeling that they fit in or are fearful of new environments. 

The Day You Begin children's book cover

The Family Book by Todd Parr, focuses on how families, although often very different, are alike in love and caring for each other. 

The Family Book children's book cover

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi, explores how children accept cultural differences such as names unfamiliar to them and learning acceptance and friendship. 

The Name Jar book cover

I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët is a heart-warming story about caring for others and standing up to bullying. 

I walk with Vanessa book cover

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman sets the stage for understanding inclusion with a wonderful story about the children in a school. 

All Are Welcome book cover

Say Something by Peter Reynolds shows children how their voices are valued. 

Say Something Children's book cover

Skin Like Mine by LaTishia M. Perry celebrates diversity in an entertaining way for early readers. 

Skin Like Mine Book Cover

Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester is a great book to help parents begin the dialogues with their children. 

Let's Talk About Race book cover

Check out more book recommendations from Goddard parents!

Dad’s Important Role in Parenting

Dad holding preschool daughtor on sholders with her arms stretched out

Dr. Kyle Pruett, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Fathers don’t mother, just as mothers don’t father. It is obvious from the start; they are less likely to use baby talk, choosing real words instead. They like their babies activated when they are interacting with them, while mom is more likely to comfort and cuddle tight. Play and surprise are more common in dad-infant interaction than with mom, who often prefers a soothing and regulating routine. Even the way a dad holds his baby, more commonly facing out than when mom does, hints at feeling his job might be different than hers – more of a let’s see what the world has for us today than I’ve got you safe and secure right here over my heart.  

Safety and security are huge concerns for today’s parents, both at home and in the wider world. So, which approach is more likely to raise a secure child? Both are, especially when woven together. Secure attachments between mothers and children seem most uniquely effective in providing comfort when the child is distressed. While fathers are committed to comforting their distressed children, there is a unique component to their interactions with their children. Fathers often provide security using shared, controlled excitement through sensitive and sometimes challenging You can do it! support as the child’s exploratory system gets stimulated by novelty. That roughhousing that is so common between men and their children serves a purpose; while it is fun and stimulating to both players, it also helps the father teach the child where the edge between play and trouble lies, No fingernails!  When the father lets the child wander off a little further than the mom might at the park, he’s allowing the child exploration and novelty, retrieving the child when something looms to threaten the security of such adventure. 

That distinction is worth celebrating this Father’s Day. It’s why dad is not just a stand-in for mom, who so often bears the weight of being the real parent. Helping children feel comforted when distressed is incredibly important to their sense of security and so is the support they feel from being fathered when they start looking for the world beyond mom’s arms.  

SoMoms and Dads, here are two tips to help you as you parent together: 

Moms – Support the fathering figures in your children’s lives with your appreciation and respect. They are not just subbing for you; they are your tag team in keeping your children secure and safe, not just from the world, but in it. 

Dads (biological and otherwise) – Turn off your devices and be in the moment with your children. They need to know, trust and feel the real you. Take your unique role as the securer of exploration seriously; they do.