See which type of father you are!

Dr. Paul Schwartz discusses "The Nurturing Father"

In 1988, Kyle Pruett wrote an influential book called The Nurturing Father. He believes that there is a stronger sense today among social scientists and the public that fathers are valuable – that men parent differently than women and that fatherhood is rising steadily in our culture’s esteem.

As opposed to most fathers in the past, today’s fathers play numerous roles in the parenting of their children. Studies of parenting behavior history suggest that fathers tend to concentrate their efforts in a diverse area of roles that might be called the “Five P’s”: Problem Solver, Playmate, Punisher, Provider and Preparer.


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The Problem Solver – As problem solver, dads demonstrate ways to foster self-reliance and independence. If a child is raised without an effective problem solver model, he or she often adopts poor problem solving strategies that cause them to become ineffective and helpless in problem situations.


The Playmate – Research shows that fathers spend more time, proportionately, with their children in physical play than mothers. In addition, fathers tend to engage in more “rough housing” play than mothers.  Physical play is important in a child’s life, not only in building muscle tone and coordination but also in teaching rules that govern behavior such as taking turns and playing physically without hurting others.


The Punisher – This was often the exclusive role that fathers held – that of handing out punishment when a child misbehaves. Studies of family practices have consistently shown that it’s best to have fathers just as involved as any other caretaker in the child’s life – not the exclusive or “designated” punisher. Putting father in this role sets up negative role expectations.

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The Provider – From the time of the industrial revolution up until the ‘60s, fathers’ primary role was that of the breadwinner. In the past few decades, however, the father’s role has changed to one of co-provider. Many fathers are spending more time at home with the children while mom goes to work. When nourished by a father’s love and intimate responsive care, babies will become attached to their fathers.

Parents, especially fathers, should not confuse providing with loving. Research is clear that children who receive positive attention from their parents do better in most aspects of their lives than children who don’t receive this attention, regardless of how much money they have. Being a good father doesn’t mean making sure your child has the best toys or best address, it means making sure the child has all the benefits of having you in their life on all levels.


The Preparer – Fathers see themselves in preparing their children for life’s challenges and teaching them about family values and morals, codes of conduct and behavior. Research overwhelmingly reflects father’s importance in developing self-esteem and social development, including interpersonal skills and intellectual development in both boys and girls.


For all of those fathers who are meeting these challenges, for themselves and their families, have a very Happy Father’s Day.

Paul Schwartz, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology and education at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh.