Psychologists call the relationship between child and parent “attachment.” Attachment theory, or the study of these relationships, has shed light on the importance of the relationships between parent and child as well as pointed out some of the key steps parents can take to raise their children well. In addition, mothers and fathers take on different roles in bringing up a well-developed child.
Warmth in Parent-child Relationships
The warmth that parents bring to their children’s lives starts at infancy. Moms and dads of young children shower their kids with baby-talk and physical touch. These behaviors show the child that others are sensitive of their needs and that parents can be relied on for emotional responsiveness. As a child grows older, he finds warmth in the parent-child relationship in other ways, specifically in receiving the fulfillment of his emotional needs, whether they be play or intimate conversation. Warmth in parenting can lead to a cooperative child, who is well-developed socially and emotionally.
As ironic as it may sound, it is parents who are take the lead in teaching their children not to rely on their parents. Indeed, much of being a parent is teaching a child to do things for herself, from using the toilet to driving a car. One important part of this aspect of the parent-child relationship is disciplining children, which often is a way of keeping children on track in their own initiatives. Setting limits, such as restricting the amount of television time per day, helps children stay focused on their own responsibilities, such as finishing homework. Without parents, the growing up phase of childhood would decrease in speed.
From early childhood, the home becomes a school. To parents of older children, this is obvious, as after dinner the dinner table might become the family study table. However, parents’ roles in educating young children start as early as the toddler years. Parents simultaneously educate their children while they strengthen the parent-child attachment. For example, reading books to your child will strengthen her linguistic development, playing active games with your child will improve her motor skill development and finishing puzzles with your child will enhance her cognitive development. Young children -- and even parents -- might mistakenly believe they are just spending quality time with family when they are actually developing useful life skills.
The Importance of Mom and Dad
Moms and dads play different roles in the development of a child. The differences can be roughly summed up in the following way: Moms are protectors and educators; dads are life coaches and counselors. Moms act as a safe base on which children can rely; they teach their children not to be afraid of new surroundings. Moreover, as moms tend to spend more time engaging in low-intensity activities, such as reading and game-playing, with their children, children begin to see mothers as teachers. The father’s role in a child’s development has traditionally been underestimated. According to researchers Ross Parke and Kevin MacDonaldand, authors of the article “Parent-Child Physical Play,” which appeared in the journal Sex Roles, fathers play an integral role in the emotional and social development of children. Father-child interaction tends to be more intense, and through their shared activities children learn how to express and control their emotions with their fathers. By working together, mothers and fathers help their children develop their skills across the spectrum.