When I need my kids to do something for me I'll admit that I get a little bossy. Please run and do this and pick up that and don't forget to do that other thing before 4:30. Bossy, bossy, bossy. In response to my requests, my kids often balk or talk back or (shudder) whine.

My wife, on the other hand does exactly what I do, only she has different results. "Please do this and that and the other thing," she says it just like I do. However, there is no balking from the kids with her; no talking back and no whining.

The secret to effective fathering

One day, I tried to pay attention to how my wife "bossed." (I know there are more politically correct words available, but it comes down to getting help from kids by asking them to do something. I'm going to call it what it is - a real bout of bossy-pants). Was my wife bossier than I was, or just better at it? Did she slip the kids $20 when I wasn't looking, or have them perform more pleasant, teen-satisfying tasks?

None of the above. I actually ran across the solution quite by accident.

My daughter, Annie and I had to run a few errands one day, and then we had a few more to run. Then the grand-baby needed sitting for several hours so we doubled-up out of necessity. With only one diet coke/donut shop stop, we did a pretty good job of getting stuff done and keeping the grand-kid dressed and smelling mostly human.

That weekend I got bossy again, as dads are wont to do. "Please do this and this and that and blah blah blah." Only this time, there was no problem. Everything got done as needed. No sass, no attitude and no whining.

I expressed my amazement to my wife that evening and she didn't even look up from her iPad to say, "I told you to spend time with her."

That was it? Spending time with Annie made her willing to help for a few minutes every day or so without the horrific attitude? I was elated to discover this little secret. And on top of it all, there is actually research that supports my findings.

Fathers have a powerful impact and influence on families and society

Studies have demonstrated what my decidedly unscientific day of spending time with my daughter proved to me. Dads (not just parents they specify, but dads) who spend time with their kids, who establish a positive relationship, reap great rewards by having children that are... well, read for yourself:

  • Infants who receive affection from their dads are better at exploring and are more sociable with others.

  • Children with involved, caring fathers perform better academically, have higher IQs and are quicker in thought and speech. Toddlers of these fathers go on to school ready to deal with learning and can handle the stresses associated with school easier than kids with less involved dads.

  • Children with dads that are active in the home are more likely to be secure emotionally and have better social relationships. These are the kids who stay out of trouble.

  • From interaction with dad, kids learn how to regulate and understand feelings and behaviors. Horse playing with dad teaches kids how to deal with aggression and physical contact without losing control.

  • Fathers often promote independence while mothers stress nurturing - both are needed for healthy development.

  • Kids that have relationships with their dads are less depressed, less disruptive and less likely to demonstrate anti-social behaviors. Boys who are involved with their dad have fewer behavior problems and girls have stronger self-esteem.

  • Children who live with their fathers and mothers both are more likely to have good physical and emotional health and are less likely to engage in delinquent behavior.

How do fathers get better at their job?

If I were to make a list (in this day of listing lists of best listing) it would be clear cut: do this and this and then this. As you know, I am very good at telling people what to do, so it wouldn't be a bad idea to remember this very important father-of-all-lists list.

  • Treat the mother of the children with respect.

  • Show affection.

  • Establish a relationship by being involved.

  • Be active at home (do stuff. TV is not stuff).

  • Interact in every way possible. Take them with you - go with them.

  • Create a home and live in it together. If that is not possible, focus on 1 through 5 above.

These six things are the key to "Father power," or whatever it's called. Keeping them in mind will help you as a father use your substantial power to get what you want. It works well when what you really want is for your kids to be healthy and happy (and to love their "bosser").

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