Understanding Sex-Specific Differences Between Mom’s and Dad’s Roles

When it comes to parenting children effectively, are there any truly meaningful distinctions between the contributions of the mother and those of the father? As a dad, I'm actively involved with my kids on the weekends and evenings, and I even go to school meetings when I can. Is there something special I'm supposed to be doing as a father that's different from what my wife does as their mother?

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The Bible teaches us that fathers have a unique ability to bless their children. This concept has roots in the Old Testament, where we often find descriptions of fathers imparting the family’s spiritual heritage to their children. This is seen, for example, in Jacob’s blessing of his sons in Genesis 49. It is also reflected in the New Testament’s portrayal of Christ’s baptism, where God the Father opens up the heavens and blesses Jesus at the outset of His ministry.

Such is the significance of a father in the life of his kids that a spoken blessing from dad often proves crucial to a child’s sense of value and worth as a person. It can play an extremely important role in imparting strength, confidence, and spiritual boldness to the next generation. You can learn more about planning a formal blessing ceremony for your kids in John Trent and Gary Smalley’s book The Blessing.

You can also bless your children each day by modeling Christ-like character in everything you do and say. A caring and diligent father needs to be intentional about teaching his children about the Christian faith and praying for them on a regular basis. Deuteronomy 11 instructs men to fix God’s words in their hearts and minds and to teach those words to their children, speaking of them at home and on the road, in the morning and at bedtime, and in every situation of life.

How is this different from what your wife provides for your children in her role as a godly mother? Sociologist David Popenoe of Rutgers University has done extensive research on the different functions that moms and dads play in the lives of their kids. His studies show that while fathers tend to emphasize the importance of competition, challenge, initiative, and risk-taking, mothers are more likely to stress a child’s need for emotional security and personal safety. In the area of discipline, moms offer flexibility and sympathy while dads provide predictability and consistency. That’s why kids do best on every measure of well-being when they are raised in a home where both a mother and a father are present.

If you’d like to discuss this subject at greater length with a member of our staff, feel free to call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department.


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