3. Teaching Kids to Cope
Whether his child is learning to ride a bike, solve a puzzle, or decide what to play with a friend, a father will often encourage her to work through a problem, even if it causes a tear or two. "When Haleigh, who's 5, is perched on the edge of a platform at the playground and afraid to come down, I don't carry her off," says her dad, Steven Klem, of Cocoa Beach, FL, who moderates a chat room for at-home dads on America Online. "I say, 'You can do this. Find a way to get down on your own.' It doesn't help her if she always has to rely on me."
Dads also teach their children that every action has a consequence. In our house, Jordan loves to dawdle before getting ready for bed. But I let him manage his own time -- and if his pajamas aren't on, and his teeth aren't brushed by 9 P.M., I just won't read him a bedtime story. My wife, on the other hand, is more inclined to update him continually with reminders to get moving -- and then will let things slide if he doesn't make the deadline.
Stepping back or making kids live with their choices can seem harsh to moms, who tend to be quick to comfort a child before he becomes upset. But studies find a dad's hands-off approach can help a child build confidence and keep cool in the face of difficulties. A preschooler, for example, may be more willing to try out a new set of monkey bars or take turns on a slide; by grade school, he may be better able to withstand the pressure of exams and cliques than those who lack a nurturing father.