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Tips for Dads

4. Introducing Children to the Real World

It may take a village to raise a child, but in most cultures, it's a father's job to show his son and daughter what real life is like. And dads do this from the start: Once their babies are old enough, fathers like to carry them facing outward, says Dr. Pruett. As their kids get older, dads are quick to offer constructive criticism. "When a child misbehaves, a man is more likely to say, 'If you keep acting like that, you won't have any friends,'; or 'You won't be successful,' " says Dr. Pruett. Mothers, however, may focus on soothing their child's feelings.

"Haleigh is very emotional and falls apart easily," says Klem. "If she gets upset over being teased, I tell her that it happens because she shows her emotions and cries right away. If she stayed calm and stood up for herself more, it wouldn't be such a fun game for the other kids."

Their ease in detaching themselves emotionally may even make fathers more effective disciplinarians, says Dr. Pruett. "Children realize that crying or complaining won't help them get their way."

McAllister, for instance, expects courteous behavior from his 18-month-old son: "Liam can be rough and boisterous," he says, "but when he's around a friend's 8-month-old daughter, I make it clear that he has to be careful with her. I act as if he can understand me, even if he really doesn't." And, surprisingly, Liam usually lives up to his father's wishes. "He respects her space. He won't quickly run up to her like he will to children his own age, and will only touch her gently," says McAllister.

Dads can also set a good example of how men and women should interact in everyday life, says Volling. "Without a positive male role model, girls in particular may not learn how to relate with boys or men."