Creating a Dynamic Parenting Duo Advice

Written by Kathy Watson

Should you give your child a calm, comforting environment or one with lots of daring play time? The answer is: Both.great parenting duo

You cringe as your husband throws the baby up in the air in a death-defying playtime wrestle. You spy your wife making much ado over the 3-year-old's skinned knee and wonder whether the kid will ever be tough enough to climb a mountain.

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So what's better for your child: a rough-and-tumble childhood or one full of comfort and reassurance? While parents may be uncomfortable with their mate's childrearing habits, experts say kids benefit most from a varied life with raucous, as well as calm, parenting moments.

"Children are busily acquiring all kinds of information and want a varied existence," says Nigel Barber, psychologist and author of Why Parents Matter and Parenting: Roles, Styles, and Outcomes.

In a family where both a man and woman are raising children, this is a pretty easy equation. Each parent should bring his or her unique playtime and quiet-time interests to their children. In fact, making sure that happens can actually affect your child's intelligence.

Research shows that even in the first year of life, a child's IQ is enhanced by exposure to, and play with, their fathers, says Barber.

But single parents and families where both parents are the same sex can still create the same rich environment.

"My feeling is that if a child has a stimulating early environment, you can compensate for the lack of a mother or father," says Barber. "When you compare and contrast mothers and fathers, you see the differences, but parents can be in both modes. When you see custodial fathers, for instance, you see they are capable of playing both roles."

In fact, says Barber, researchers have found that when men are caring for children, the same physiological response occurs as in women caretakers. There's an increase in the level of oxytocin, a hormone associated with lactation in women.

So how will your child be affected by either getting , or missing, a childhood full of dad-induced rug burns and mom-applied comfort?

While Barber hasn't researched this area, he offers some advice. "It's reasonable to speculate that we can only become what we are exposed to. Children who haven't been exposed to nurturing can't nurture themselves. Children who have not been exposed to a more boisterous style might have a hard time embracing risk."

So take your child for a sled ride down the steepest hill in the neighborhood. And after the crash into Mr. Smith's woodpile, make time for warm cocoa and a soothing hug.

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