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The power of a good dad
A father who is present can make all the difference for a child. - photo by Erin Stewart
I used to get somewhat annoyed by the fact that I could spend all day caring for my young children without so much as a word of thanks, and then Dad would walk through the door at 5 p.m., do a helicopter spin with our daughters and suddenly become the Worlds Greatest Parent in the History of Ever.

As I scraped Cheerios off the floor, I felt a bit envious of this special daddy awesomeness power. I would think a little bitterly to myself, Sure, I could do a helicopter spin if I wasnt so tired from changing diapers all day.

But the truth is, I can't replace the daddy hype and I wouldn't want to. Through the years, Ive learned this helicopter spin represents all the ways a dad is different from a mom, and thats OK because our children need a fathers love every bit as much and maybe even more sometimes as my own.

Religious figure D. Todd Christofferson recently asked men to rise to their calling and asked the world to recognize the great influence of a good father.

We call on all fathers to do better and to be better, he said. We call on media and entertainment outlets to portray devoted and capable fathers who truly love their wives and intelligently guide their children, instead of the bumblers and buffoons or the guys who cause problems, as fathers are all too frequently depicted.

Study after study supports this assertion that men play a critical role in raising the next generation. According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, studies have found that children with more involved fathers experience fewer behavioral problems and have a higher likelihood of getting As in school, while children living in father-absent homes have a higher rate of teen pregnancy and higher odds of incarceration.

So yeah, Id say dads play a pretty critical role in their childrens lives. In our own family, my husband gives our children things I simply cant:

1. Dad plays rough. I try to roughhouse with my girls, but theres just something different when Dad does it. They squeal with delight when he tickles them or pins them to the floor in a faux wrestling match. And while it looks like theyre just goofing around, this physical play is teaching my children confidence, problem-solving and healthy physical contact.

2. Dad shows them how a man should treat a woman. I can tell my girls how they should expect to be treated by boys until Im blue in the face, but my husbands example is worth so much more than words. He shows them every day how a good man treats a woman when he encourages my dreams, supports me, listens to me, compliments my talents and tells me Im beautiful no matter how I look.

3. He makes them feel safe. When Dad says, Its going to be OK, they believe him. Why shouldnt they? They know their father will protect them no matter what, and that lets all of us sleep tight at night.

4. He works hard. My children would never say their dad is tired or stressed, even though I know he is mentally and physically drained when he walks through that door. He hides it well as he falls on the floor to wrestle or starts helping with dinner. He works tirelessly for us so I can stay home and raise our little ones.

5. He is there. He is present for the mundane moments of our lives: dinners, soccer games, Saturday chores. Dads presence at those everyday activities may be even more critical to a childs development than the big outings, according to a Brigham Young University study.

Maybe thats the key to being a great dad: Just be there. Men dont have to be extraordinary to make an extraordinary impact in their childrens lives. Study after study shows that dads make a huge difference simply by being there, cheering at the ballgames and starting tickle wars on the floor.

So while it may look like just a helicopter spin at the end of the day, to my daughters, its a moment of love, attention and affirmation with a father who loves them enough to take the time to lift them up.
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