7 ways dads do things differently to mums

From wrestles at night to watching TV and telling bad jokes, here are seven things dad do differently to mum (and we are cool with it).

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It’s always ideal if mum and dad share the parenting burden equally, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll do everything exactly the same. There’s definitely a tendency for dads to do things a little differently to mums, and that’s OK — in fact it can be good for everyone. Here are seven things dads do differently to mums.

(Of course it should go without saying that this doesn’t apply to everyone, it’s absolutely cool that every family has its own particular way of operating, and sometimes dads and mums’ roles are switched around. It’s all good!)

1. Wrasslin’

In my experience, if there’s one thing that dads are the real specialists at, it’s having a good old wrestle with the kids. It’s natural for parents of all genders to be reluctant to get too rough with their children, but the fact is that sometimes children like to grapple and tussle and generally roll around like Hulk Hogan — and satisfying that tendency is definitely a great niche for dad to fill.

Many happy hours of my life have been spent with little people clambering over me, wrapping themselves around my neck and yanking on my limbs, and to this day our favourite game at the pool is “Everyone Jump On Dad And Make Him Throw You”. I find that nothing makes a man feel more fatherly than having three kids hang off you like monkeys off a tree. And guess what? Science says it’s good for them too.

2. Watching TV

Now, obviously, this is something both parents do with the kids — except for those weird families that don’t watch TV, but we’d all rather not think about them. It’s great fun to sit down with the family to watch some quality programming, but there’s definitely a more daddish way to watch. It is a dad’s responsibility to educate his children on what truly GREAT TV is.

Maybe for mum it’s enough to simply watch TV that both she and the kids enjoy — for dad it is very important to broaden the child’s mind by exposing them to the greats. And by “greats” I mean “the shows I watched when I was a kid”.

Watching TV with dad is an adventure — without my dad I’d never have gained an appreciation for the comedy of the ’60s and ’70s. And, in turn, my kids wouldn’t have gained an appreciation for the comedy of the ’60s and ’70s. Kids, you’re welcome.

3. Games

Just as with TV, it’s Dad’s job to teach the kids all varieties of games. Of course both Mum and Dad will always seek to teach the children as much as possible, but some things are given to one parent to concentrate on. It’s Dad’s duty to make sure his kids know the rules of chess, learn basic principles of Monopoly strategy, and get a grounding in Risk.

It’s not all board games though — Dad is the guy who takes on the bulk of video game time, and when a kid grows up with a love of gaming and the skills to survive in a cut-throat gaming world, that’s good fathering right there. Plus, when you play video games with your kids, it doesn’t count as playing video games — it’s parenting!

4. Risk taking

This is one of those “parenting experts recommend” things. There’s real good solid science to say that a big part of the dual parenting dynamic is the tendency for fathers to instil risk-taking behaviour and mothers to take care of the safety-and-security side of things. In a nutshell, it’s dad who’ll throw baby up in the air, hold the little one facing outwards and so on, beginning early the process of exposing kids to the big scary world and encouraging them to take it on.

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Mothers tend to be more protective, providing much-needed reassurance to the child that everything is fine and they’ll always be safe with their family. You might say it comes down to how quickly a parent will let go of the bike when they’re teaching the kid to ride. You don’t want a child to feel the world is a relentlessly frightening place, but you don’t want a child to be too cosseted either. Building a healthy, confident, resilient child requires a balance of both approaches. Dad’s role in that is every bit as valuable as mum’s.

5. Role modelling

It’s always wonderful for kids to look up to both their parents, to see both mum and dad and shining examples. But each parent will set that example in their own way. We’ve moved on from such crude expressions as “my dad can beat up your dad”, but it’s to be hoped that our kids gain an appreciation from the masculine side of their family of the best attributes of masculinity: loyalty, willpower, defending those who can’t defend themselves, all that jazz.

It’s not about rigid gender roles — just about modelling the role you do take on so that your young ‘uns see it at its highest expression. And if your kids DO end up believing you can beat up that other kid’s dad … well, don’t tell anyone, but that’s pretty nice ain’t it?

6. “How to do it”

Like everything else, division of household labour between mother and father should be equal. But again, “equal” doesn’t mean “identical”. One parent might be better at cooking, and they’ll naturally do more of it. But even within the same task, mum and dad might have different ways of doing things, and that’s all to the good.

In my experience, mother will teach like, well, a teacher: providing instruction and then overseeing the child’s attempts. Father, on the other hand, is more likely to throw himself into the job and invite the kids along for the ride. Whether it’s making dinner or building a bookcase, the daddish way is to put together a posse and lead them in the exciting new adventure. Both ways do children good, but there’s definitely a fatherly style, and it can be a lot of fun — even if it sometimes makes a hell of a mess.

7. Jokes

Yep. We all know what a Dad Joke is, and we all know that, significantly, there is no such thing as a “Mum Joke”. This isn’t because mums don’t make jokes, of course — it’s because mums have not committed themselves to a specific variety of joke that is as hilarious as it is terrible.

The point of a Dad Joke is to provide a bonding experience for the family, to allow one’s children the joy of a communal groan, and to bring together kids, mums, and anyone else who happens to be present in a mutual appreciation of the beauty and the lameness of a Dad. As our kids grow up, it’s vital that they both adore us, and consider us massive dorks. That’s what Dad Jokes are for, and they are our proudest cultural touchstone.


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