Several years ago, I visited a friend who I hadn't seen in over a decade. In the years between our visits, he had gotten married and had two kids. Watching him interact with his kids for the first time was a revelation. He wrestled with them, tossed them around, and spun them in the air as they screamed "again!"
I'd never seen a father interact with his kids with such rambunctious joy.
Back then, I didn't want kids. But for the first time, I also remember thinking that being a dad might actually be fun after all.
Now that I have a kid, I often play with her in the very same way. We wrestle, I spin her around while she laughs like a maniac, and I play jokes on her. Needless to say, I'm very careful during this play. And, after a couple of early misfires, I've learned to be somewhat careful with my pranks.
But this play has created a bond between us, based on laughter, fun, trust, and respect for boundaries.
A recent Wall Street Journal article shares new research to show that goofy teasing and hyper play actually help young children develop."
The research could offer dads more leeway in their play with children, suggesting theres no need for moms or others to worry when fathers stir up or challenge their childrenas long as the kids are happy and having fun. Also, dads sometimes can stop a childs fussing or crying through joking or physical play.
The ability to form close, trusting bonds with parents early in life predicts the quality of a childs future friendships, social skills and romantic relationships. Parents serve as a secure base for exploration and risk-taking and provide a safe haven for a child in times of distress. Yet many of the standard assessments scientists have used to analyze the parent-child bond underemphasize the importance of exploration and risk-taking and fail to capture dads role in encouraging it.