More of Dad's Best Moves
Acting Childish is the Point
Two of my kids' favorite activities used to be "pro wrestling" and "pie fights." For the former, we'd invent characters and have pretend battles in the ring. For the latter, we'd fill bowls with shaving cream and take turns taunting each other until everyone got creamed.
Why it's great The long-term effects of physical play are exactly the opposite of what you might expect, according to a committee assembled by the Board on Children, Youth, and Families of the National Research Council. Rather than encouraging aggressiveness, it actually helps establish boundaries ("No biting; stay away from the eyes") and teaches self-control ("Okay, that's enough"). The group also found that discouraging rough-and-tumble play might make your kids less popular with their peers. "Boys, especially, are bound to lock horns, so it's good for them to learn the rules and practice with a friendly foe," says Dr. Rhoads.
What can go wrong A child could get walloped or accidentally catch Gillette Foamy in the eye. But the main thing to watch for is that the playing stays positive. The minute you notice that a child is being picked on or becoming frustrated, step in before someone gets physically (or emotionally) hurt.
Do it his way Try horsing around with your child in the backyard, pummeling him in Wii boxing, or playing an extended game of "Tag -- you're it" in which you really try to win. Kids need your tender touch, but a little tough love can be beneficial too.
We Trust Our Gut
Let's be real: If a guy won't consult the instructions when assembling a crib, what makes you think his approach to parenting will be any different? Dads would much rather wing it than ask someone for advice or read what an expert recommends.
Why it's great Go-with-your-gut parenting tends to be less stressful because it prevents overthinking. The more points of view you open yourself up to, the more likely you are to question every decision.
What can go wrong As evidenced by men's taste in movies (the more stuff that gets blown up, the better), not all of their instincts are sound. For instance, dads often tune out a baby's cry during the night, whereas moms are more likely to wake up to comfort their child, according to a Swiss study.
Do it his way Avoid paralysis by analysis. Of course it makes sense to read about alternative methods for dealing with tantrums or to ask friends how they potty trained their kids. But when you make a decision, stick with it instead of second-guessing yourself.
Routines Are Made to Be Broken
You have the kids on a carefully calculated schedule. But then Daddy lets them stay extra-late at the playground, causing them to miss their normal bedtime.
Why it's great An occasional change of pace can be beneficial for kids. "It teaches them to be flexible, that there's more than one way of doing things," says Dunning. "Plus, it's fun."
What can go wrong Kids are creatures of habit. When you throw off their routine, they're more likely to be tired and cranky the next day. Plus, if your spouse's spur-of-the moment mentality becomes the norm, your kids may not be getting the stability they need.
Do it his way Every now and then, do something out of the ordinary with your kids. It'll surprise and excite them. Let them eat dinner at a friend's house while on a playdate or watch a special show in lieu of taking a bath. You might even arrange an impromptu visit to Dad's office and throw off his schedule for a change. Touché.