As many women bemoan, men often approach fatherhood with a combination of chaos and casualness.

But increasingly research is showing that the things fathers bring to the equation can make enormous differences to their children's lives.

Dr Bruce Robinson, co-ordinator of The Fathering Project at the University of Western Australia, has spoken to thousands of fathers and father figures about ways they can engage with their children and the rewards that it brings.

"In general, mothers tend to spend their time worrying about the kids. 'Have you got clean knickers, have you eaten your vegetables, have you brushed your teeth?'. Whereas dads tend to be a bit more laid-back," Robinson says.

"Those differences are good, so long as they are two good parts of one thing.

"It's good for the kids to eat properly and brush their teeth and go to bed on time, which mum tends to worry about… that's the nurturing mum.

"But a dad often tends to muck around more with the kids, and it's so good for kids to muck around with dad.

"Also, dads tend to take a few more risks. Kids can learn that it's okay to take risks from their dads."

Robinson is a professor of medicine at the University of Western Australia and runs a lung cancer research centre.

He is a fairly busy bloke. But, as he says early one morning on the phone from Perth, he's always willing to talk about fathering.

Robinson says it's such an important subject, something that has hit home to him many times in talking to men who are dying from lung disease who wish they could have been better dads.

Research into the role of fathers is increasingly showing the benefits children experience when fathers take an active role in the children's schooling from an early age.

Professor Brent McBride, director of the University of Illinois Child Development Laboratory, released a study two months ago that found a father's influence upon a child's success at school was felt the most when the dad was involved from the very beginning.

McBride says dads typically become involved in their children's school results when things start turning sour, with the father stepping in to lay down the law.

But he says if the dad had not engaged with their children's schooling before the problems developed, then they are unlikely to have an impact.

In an earlier study released in June, McBride found dads who changed nappies and made pediatric appointments for their babies were more likely to be involved when their kids went on to school.

"If fathers wait to seek a closer relationship with their child until later in the child's life, the moment has passed," he says in the study which followed about 400 children for five years.

The impact fathers have on their children's development isn't just noticed at school age.

Three years ago, the University of North Carolina released research showing that in families with two working parents, fathers had a greater impact than mothers on their children's language development.

Sociologists at the University of California found in a 2003 study, which looked at more than 3500 children, that those of school age who did housework with their fathers were more likely to get along with their peers and have more friends.

They were also less likely to get into trouble at school.

Back in 2002, McBride released findings of a study that found when a father talked sincerely with his children daily, they achieved better results on their reading and maths tests.

In one of the biggest studies, Dr Eirini Flouri led a team of University of Oxford researchers who looked at 17,000 children born in 1958 and followed up their development at ages seven, 11, 16, 23 and 33.

The findings, published in 2002, were that girls whose fathers were involved in their upbringing were less likely to have mental health problems in later life.

Other findings from the study were that teenagers who were close to their fathers were more likely to have strong marital relationships and that a father's involvement with their children at age seven is strongly related to their educational achievements throughout their life.

Robinson's experience from talking with so many fathers about their role supports the research about the power of dads.

"A father's involvement in a child's education helps in a lot of ways," he says.

"A child realises that learning is important if dad pays attention to it.

"It's the attitude to the whole process of learning. Otherwise it's just mum nagging 'do your homework' or whatever and the child thinks it's optional.

"It's the same with everything in life.

"One of the problems with kids is that they can get bored with learning, but a dad can help a kid to really love learning just for the sake for it, the curiosity.

"Just, for example, to look up at the stars and say 'I wonder how long they've been there?' or, in nature, to lift up a rock and see what's under it.

"These things have a profound effect on kids.

"A child who has one-on-one time with their dad feels good about themselves.

"They feel they are worth spending time with, and that is the best platform for learning."

Robinson has written two books on fathering, **Daughters and their Dads and Fathering From the Fast Lane, and his tips include daddy-daughter weekends away and the importance of listening to your children rather than just lecturing to them.**

And he says dads need to start being involved in their children's lives from the beginning. "You can't just suddenly start things when they're teenagers," he says. "By then, they've learnt to live without you."


Source: Courier Mail –