He can reach the top shelf and gives really big bear hugs. And while both of these are important, what is the real significance of a dad? Well, fathers are important symbols that imprint on our kids in really crucial and profound ways

Here are five ways a fatherly presence positively affects a child’s development

1. Dads show their love in a different way
As much as it bugs mom when dad comes home before bedtime and initiates rough play with the kids, there is an upside to all his shenanigans. Dads show their big feelings with their bodies. They provide an important experience of externalizing their love in physical ways. They don’t always have the words; but they kick balls, lift onto shoulders, push swings and keep two-wheelers from toppling over. Giving love a bodily presence.

2. Dads reinforce exploring
If a mother symbolizes co-dependence; then a father embodies independence. Every child needs to know where home is and feels protected from threatening things out there. That’s where mom comes in. But in order to survive in the wild, children also need to know how to hunt. Dads typically go out into the world and get things done. They are proactive forces that embody the idea of providing and surviving.

3. Dads test limits
If your house is anything like mine, then dad is the one that the kids seek out when they want a second opinion on whether or not TV time is really over. This is because dads represent the testing of limits. They show kids that there might be another option out there, an alternative solution that is yet to be discovered. This is a crucial realization if you want your child to fight the odds and create solutions at school, with peers and later in their careers.

4. Dads help separate from mom
There is a silent competition going on in every household: It’s a battle for mom’s love and who gets it. This happens between siblings too, but even when this happens, its origins lie in the love triangle between mom, dad, and kid. Nothing makes a child happier than being chosen over dad. This is one of the reasons why a united front between parents is so important. It’s also why the answer to whether or not TV time is really over should be, “Well if mom says it’s over, then it’s over.” A firm ‘No’ from dad, sets an important boundary in place that helps a little mind grow. It tells them that in life, some things are off-limits and we can’t always get everything we want.

5. Dads prove that actions have consequences
A masculine presence is a disciplined one. Dads typically moddle-coddle a little less than moms do. If something happens, their solution is concrete and final. Dads help solve problems in a harder, but truthful way. Kids need to understand that they live in a real world with teachable moments and consequences.

Fatherly figures are not always men
So here’s the fine print: In today’s world, gender distinctions are rapidly shifting and changing, with good reason. Every parent holds both masculine and feminine energies. And moms can just as easily impart each of these lessons. As could any strong and present masculine role model.

Dads are in all of us
Whether you had a present dad or a workaholic one. Whether you lost yours early or were a little afraid of yours, dads are in us all. They are powerful symbols that affect us from an incredibly early age. Dads forever inscribe what your child will consider acceptable and loving. And they will take this powerful force forward into every relationship they have with friends, partners, and colleagues.

So here’s to dad and all the wonderful ways he loves us. Happy Father’s Day!

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