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The seven commandments of fatherhood

By Rob Kemp
The seven commandments of fatherhood
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The role of the modern dad has never been in the spotlight as much as it is right now. Whether you're an expectant father, a new dad or an experienced parent, here are a few wise words and suggestions that will cost you nothing, but help you avoid some of the common pitfalls of fatherhood.

Thou shalt not miss bath time
Time is money for a new young family, but if you can at least get home from work in time to help bathe your child you'll be having a crucial impact on their development. According to research by the University of Central London, the release of hormones called oxytocins by both baby and father during bath time helps cement a bond.

New dads benefit too as experts suggest focusing on activities like bath time helps men lose the feeling of detachment they're prone to that, in turn, can trigger postnatal depression. In the UCL studies, 30% of children who weren't bathed regularly by dad were prone to "significant friendship issues" by the time they reached adolescence. But only 3% who were bathed regularly had later issues.

Thou shalt not light up
Congratulations if you're about to become a dad. Celebrate, but don't light up that cigar. According to new research from the University of Nottingham, fathers-to-be should stop smoking to protect their unborn child. The studies show that women exposed to smoke at work or home increased their risk of stillbirth by 23% and of having a baby with defects by 13%.

Thou shalt not shun the kitchen
Australian studies suggest that fathers could be at the frontline in stopping their kids becoming obese. Kids whose fathers set clear boundaries for them — and followed through with instructions — were less likely to be overweight than those whose dads allowed them to do or eat whatever they liked.

Swedish studies have found that children who grew up with a dad who cooked at home and ate with them at meal times were less likely to suffer with eating disorders in later life too.

Thou shalt not crank up the radio
Don't pass up on the opportunity to chat with your kids at times when they're especially excited. Psychologists suggest parents should switch off the car stereo and join in with chat when driving their kids to or from school or sports events.

Not only can it be a rare chance for some one-to-one chat, but the researchers found that the key cause of relationship breakdown between fathers and children was a failure to keep simple lines of connection and communication open.

Thou shalt not skip story time
According to research from the Literacy Trust, reading to your child, whether it be a few lines from their favourite book, newspaper reports or notes from a footie programme, has long-term positive benefits. Children whose dads were engaged in reading to them from their earliest memories were found to perform better academically and have fewer discipline problems at school than those who weren't treated to dad's monologues.

Thou shalt not avoid the birds and the bees
A tricky topic for any parent but by not offering a little manly guidance on the facts of life dads could be leaving their kids at a greater risk of becoming a teenage or underage pregnancy statistic. Cardiff University psychologists who carried out a study of 3,500 11 to 15-year-olds urged fathers to become more aware of the impact they have upon their child's life choices after discovering that when fathers talked about 'things that matter' kids listened and took note.

Thou shalt not stay on the sofa
Dads are, according to academics at the University of Newcastle, the No 1 role model for children when it comes to exercise and health behaviour. Children are far more likely to mimic their father's habits over their mum's when it comes to fitness and diet, a six-month study found. So get off the sofa and let them see you sweat a little — you'll be saving yourself too, as one survey of 5,000 dads revealed that new fathers on average will gain 6kg in body weight when kids come along.

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