Roles of Men & Women in Parenting

From a psychological standpoint, a home with both a mother and father is perhaps the healthiest, because both parents perform different roles in the development of the child. While parenting is teamwork, and moms and dads do many parenting activities in tandem, behind the scenes, moms and dads are actually helping their child in different ways.

Mother as Secure Base

The phrase, “I want my mommy” is prevalent in comedic situations, in which the speaker is scared because “wanting your mommy” is a natural reaction to a scary situation. From birth, children see their mothers as a secure base: As long as mommy is around, the child feels safe. For example, when a stranger and a young child's mom are in a room with the child, that child feels safe interacting with the stranger. However, if mom were to leave the room, the child would likely cry. The mom has a key role in parenting in that she enables her child to feel secure.

Mother as Educator

The mother is more likely than the father to engage her child in learning activities. Moms play an important role in helping their children develop cognitive and linguistic abilities, such as via introducing their children to puzzles or reading books with them. The mom is often the true preschool. In addition, moms help their children nurture motor skills via games like “patty cake” and “the hokey-pokey.” The more a mom interacts with her child, the more likely it is that the activities are of a learning nature.

Father as Emotional Guide

In contrast to moms, fathers do not really educate their children in the traditional sense. Instead, fathers tend to engage in rougher games, including horseplay. While many mothers may shake their heads and attribute this to “boys being boys,” the father’s playful interactions with his child are actually teaching the child to deal with exciting and sometimes scary emotions. While holding his child in the air and playing “airplane,” the father shows his child that emotions can dictate the course of an activity: When giggling, the child encourages the father to go faster; when the father begins to say, “Okay, okay now; let’s calm down,” the child knows that the excitement is coming to an end.

Father as Social Coach

According to a study by Ross Parke and Kevin MacDonald, fathers play a crucial role in helping children develop social skills 3. Fathers who are positive and easy going or not bossy, tend to raise children with high levels of social skills. In turn, this creates popular children. When fathers validate their children’s emotions and praise their successes, these fathers are giving their children a sense of self-respect that can affect how these children interact with their peers.