Fathers are essential to the healthy growth and development of their children.

Dads bring a unique perspective to the lives of their children. Consider the ways that fathers have a powerful influence on the healthy development of their daughters and sons:

. Babies can distinguish their father's voice from the voice of a stranger by the age of four weeks.

. School-aged children show significant gains in intellectual development when their fathers are involved with them as infants.

. Involved fathers enrich their daughter's and son's self image.

. Children who have involved fathers show more sense of humor, longer attention spans, and more eagerness for learning.

. Father involvement helps teens to develop a strong sense of who they are and increases their ability to resist peer pressure.

Dads are also role models who teach their children to be strong, flexible adults. Here are examples of how a father's role impacts the family:

. Fathers teach sex roles: they are generally more physically active with their sons and more protective of their daughters.

. Fathers often think "out of the box" and offer alternative strategies for problem solving.

. Dads tend to offer more physical play than mothers, which increases the physical competency of their young children.

. When fathers model behaviors that are respectful to women, their sons are more likely to see women as human beings rather than "things" to manipulate. But, fathers who abuse their wives raise sons who are more likely to abuse their wives and children.

Also, fathers are essential partners who share parenting with the mother of their children:

. Fathers who interact with their newborn children are usually more likely to support their wife in her new role as mother.

. As a partner, dads can provide balance and be a sounding board or a compass for the family.

. Fathers, as an equal parent, can balance the parenting of the mothers through respectful disagreement and healthy support.

. Fathers and mothers can work together to communicate and reach good decisions that benefit their children.

. Both fathers and mothers need support as they grow into being parents.

Happy Fathers Day to all the dads who are growing and changing with experience and who are adapting to the many different parenting situations in a family.

The information given herein is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by Texas Cooperative Extension is implied.

Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin. For more information, call your Rockwall County Extension Office - 972-882-0375.