Fathers Know Better Than EVERThey sure don’t make dads like they used to.

Just a couple generations ago, fathers were mainly expected to be their families’ breadwinners, decision makers and sleeveless-undershirt-wearing lawn mowers – while almost all of the actual child rearing was considered “women’s work” left to the moms.

That’s right, dads. No diaper changing. No meal preparing. No boo-boo kissing at all.

If you think that sounds like a pretty sweet way to parent, you’d probably fit right in with the fathers from the 1950s. But you’d stick out like a sore thumb among the modern dads of today.

According to a recent ZERO TO THREE and Bezos Family Foundation survey of 2,200 parents with young kids, today’s fathers have advanced far beyond the tired, old stereotypes of what dads used to be…and the entire family is benefitting! Here’s how:

Today’s dads are engaged.

When you close your eyes and picture a 1950s dad, he’s likely reading his newspaper, sitting down to his dinner (prepared by someone else) or blowing smoke rings from his pipe. But nowadays, dads read bedtime stories, spoon-feed meals to their little ones and blow lots and lots of bubbles, too.

These modern dads are taking a more active role in parenting than ever before. Ask them to compare their involvement to that of their own parents when they were growing up, and they’ll tell you the same thing.

  • 47% of dads said they participate more in playtime and other quality time than their parents did.
  • 46% of dads said they read more to their children than their own parents did.

So today’s kids are getting more daddy time – which means they’re that much better off. Research shows that when fathers are involved in childcare, kids grow up more confident, patient, socially connected, well behaved and able to cope with stress.

ZERO TO THREE and Bezos Family Foundation asked dads what kind of father they want to be. Here’s what they said.

Today’s dads are affectionate.

Once upon a time, being a strong, manly father meant staying stoic in the face of touchy-feely, lovey-dovey stuff – even with your own children.

But today’s dads are bucking all sorts of stereotypes, including the ones about being macho and aloof with their kiddos. The dads of today are secure enough to be tender and vulnerable in front of their kids, sharing more hugs, kisses and I love yous than ever.

  • 54% of dads reported saying “I love you” more than their own parents did.
  • 52% of dads reported showing more affection than their own parents did.

The fact that dads are ditching the harsh disciplinarian role of old is great news for kids, because child development research strongly demonstrates that children fare best with a healthy mix of rules, limits and lots of love and support.

Today’s dads try really hard.

Like dads from decades past, the majority of fathers today still hold jobs outside the home. But they also know that their most important work isn’t done when they leave the office. There are days to discuss, balls to throw, jokes to tell, piggyback rides to give, homework to help with and brushed teeth to inspect just about every night.

Not only are dads doing more of this parenting work now than they used to, but it also turns out that they’re striving to get better at it all the time.

  • 86% of dads reported that they work hard to become better fathers.
  • 62% of dads want to learn more about how to be a better parent.

Fortunately there are a lot of great resources out there for dads (and moms) who want to learn more about positive, effective approaches to parenting. Child development experts around the world conduct new research every day that can help parents get their children off to a strong start. And many of these cutting-edge findings appear in fun, easy-to-read formats like the PBS Parents, ZERO TO THREE and Doctor And Dad websites, as well as our parenting book, Think Like a Baby: 33 Simple Experiments You Can Do at Home to Understand Your Child’s Developing Mind.

Today’s dads are happy.

With all the extra work that papas are putting in these days, you might think that trying to be a great dad has become a real grind. But you’d be wrong.

Today’s dads say they’re finding fatherhood to be more fulfilling than ever.

  • 73% of dads said their lives began when they became a dad.
  • 85% of dads said that being a father is the best job in the world.
  • 90% of dads said that parenting is their greatest joy.

So to all you dads out there who are living, learning about and loving what you do, know that your families love you for it too!

Happy Father’s Day, everyone!


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