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Why kids feel closer to mom over dad

While parents worry about the impact of peers, technology or a crass culture, teens consistently report that their moms and dads exert the most important influence in their lives.

Moms trump dads when it comes to importance, with 47 percent of kids reporting that moms are their most influential relationships, compared to only 20 percent for dads. Why do kids feel that way?

Part of this may be due to the number of families headed up by moms, who are in charge of 75 percent of single parent families. Kids just don’t have much access to their dads.

Even in two-parent families, children have little routine contact with their fathers. While this has changed dramatically in the past 50 years, research indicates that moms still spend twice as much time caring for kids as do dads.

The issue isn’t just the amount of time that dads spend with their children. Kids tell me they feel closer to their moms for the following reasons.

  1.  Moms are nicer. Kids generally describe their moms as more positive and less reactive.  Kids generally feel they get in more trouble with their dads.  Because kids have more contact with their moms, they know their moms better and rely on them for support. Dads are still somewhat of a mystery for many kids.
  2. Dads may be physically present but emotionally absent. Even when dads are around, many kids don’t feel connected to them. Children complain about their fathers watching TV, using smart phones, or sleeping after a long day at work.
  3.  It’s easier to talk with moms. One of my standard interview questions is to ask kids who they would go to if they have a problem. Kids typically say they would keep the problem to themselves, talk with a friend or speak with their moms. Dads rarely get mentioned.  Kids complain that dads don’t really understand their feelings, react excessively, or minimize their concerns.

The dads I’ve worked with in my office are caring and committed to their kids. They love their children and want a great relationship with them.  I advise them to do three things.

  1. Don’t allow your spouse to make you the disciplinarian. Many moms want to make us the bad guy. Consequences for kids should be discussed and implemented by both parents.
  2. Power down. Shut off the TV and dumb phone and just be around your kids a bit more. You’ll be amazed at the reaction you’ll get.
  3. Talk less and listen more.  Ask lots of questions. Get to know your children and permit them to really know you. Allow yourself to understand their worlds.

We spend about 41 percent more money on mother’s day than on father’s day gifts. I wonder if that will ever change.

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