PORTLAND (NEWS CENTER Maine) – When it comes to parenting, fathers have historically taken on a secondary role to mothers, seen primarily as the stern disciplinarian and little more.

“Modern dads do a much better job of challenging this view,” says licensed marriage and family therapist Jack Burke. “We are in the delivery room, actively engage in daily parenting and sometimes, dangerous as it is, we dare to see ourselves as Mom’s equal,” Burke says with a smirk.

But “equal” does not mean “same,” according to Burke. He says, even as fathers get more involved in parenting, they play distinct roles:

  1. Dads are Stabilizers. We are keepers of the structure. Order and discipline matter. It is important that Dad states, "You will not talk to your Mother like that!" The challenge is to keep discipline reasonable and instructive, versus destructive.
  2. Dads are Teachers. We tend to teach, "This is how the world works." We worry about survival. So we tend to value respect over self-esteem. Dads see the future of having to make a living. This goes best if Mom and Dad talk to each other a lot.
  3. Dads Have the Power of Approval. As unfair as it may seem, winning Dad's approval is a big deal. If a boy, and even more so a girl, knows that Dad is genuinely proud of them, they have the fast track to being strong and successful.

Dads are much more than "Get a haircut and get a real job!"