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The PRIDE of Fatherhood:
5 Ways That Great Dads Shape Our Mental Health

Dads are our first superheroes, and it’s for good reason. Fathers have a unique paternal instinct to protect, care, and provide for their children. In turn, children look up to their fathers as an almost mythical role model, with an inborn drive to make their father proud and live up to his expectations. As Father’s Day approaches, we reflect on the impact that dads have on our lives. We know that their love encourages us and their guidance directs us, but have you ever wondered how a father’s pride impacts the long-term mental health of his children?

The Man, The Myth, The Legend!

Art, literature, and religious texts throughout history have often compared fathers to lions – a fitting comparison due to the sense of strength and power that a father conveys to his children. The English language has often coined groups of animals based on virtues that we associate with them; for example, since owls are associated with wisdom, a group of them is referred to as a “parliament.” Due to their powerful and regal presence, a family of lions is referred to as a “pride.” Much like the lion, a proud father leads his family with purpose and strength and is actively engaged in their growth, security, and well-being.

The Power of a Proud Papa

The love, attention, and interest that a father provides has a life-long influence on the self-esteem, cognitive development, and emotional intelligence of his children. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), a successful treatment to improve emotional and behavioral issues in children, focuses on improving the parent-child relationship and has identified 5 key methods known as PRIDE skills, that parents can use to shape their children’s mental, emotional, and behavioral well-being. Dr. Marta M. Shinn, a specialist at Variations Psychology, is a PCIT trainer for the University of California, Davis and has taught many dads how to incorporate PRIDE skills in their parenting.

Here are the 5 ways that dads can empower their children through PRIDE skills:

P – Praise

As exciting as ice cream, new toys, or an allowance may be, nothing is quite as internally rewarding to a child as being praised by their father for a job well done. Viewing dad as a source of strength and wisdom, praise from dad encourages children to increase good and healthy behaviors as well as reducing dangerous or harmful ones. Dad’s approval increases his child’s self-esteem, teaches them right from wrong, models positive behavior, and makes both dad and his little lion cubs feel great!

Example of using praise: “Son, I love how you are sharing and taking turns with your friends.”

R – Reflection

When dads spend quality time with their children, they can boost their child’s creativity, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking through reflection. Reflection refers to actively listening to their child and repeating back what their child expresses to show them that they are both listened to and understood. By acknowledging their thoughts and validating their emotions, dads teach children how to process their feelings in healthy ways.

Example of using reflection:

Child angrily groans, “I’m mad, this toy isn’t working!”

Dad reflects by calmly saying, “You’re mad because your toy isn’t working. If you use your calm words to ask me for help, then I can show you how to work it.”

I – Imitation

Few people can make a child feel more important than their dad can. When dads aren’t afraid to get silly and imitate their child during play, this makes their kid feel like an absolute rock star. A dad joining his 4-year-old in popping bubble wrap or asking them to teach him their sweet dance move shows their child that dad approves of their playful learning. In turn, imitation also prompts the child to imitate their father more often.  

Example of imitation: “I’m going to pretend my spaghetti noodles are worms just like you!”

D – Description

Dads can have a critical impact on their child’s language development, concentration, and focus by using description to point out desirable behaviors. By describing their child’s positive actions, dads reinforce positive behavior, help their child remain focused on completing tasks, increase their vocabulary for desired behaviors, and maintain their child’s interest in what they are doing.

Example of description: “I see that you’re putting your toys away neatly.”

E – Enjoyment

Maintaining a positive, healthy outlook on life is a lot easier when the most important man in your life has been demonstrating how to do that for years. By expressing enjoyment and fun while engaging with children, dads model positive emotions while making their kids feel loved and wanted. These meaningful interactions strengthen the unparalleled bond that is shared between a father and each of his children.

Example of enjoyment: Pats on the back, laughing, clapping, saying, “I just love spending time with you.

A father’s pride places a lasting imprint on his children’s lives, empowering their self-worth and nurturing their mental and emotional growth.

To every proud dad out there working hard to raise
great kids, Happy Father’s Day from the specialists at
Variations Psychology!

Are you a parent who wants to start using PRIDE skills with your children? Are you therapist who would like to share PRIDE skills with parents or trainees? Click here to download, save, or print our 1-page PRIDE reference sheet for great tips and examples to use and share!

To find a PCIT provider in your area go to the UC Davis PCIT provider directory. Contact Dr. Marta M. Shinn if you are an individual or agency that would like to be trained in PCIT.

Variations – All dads welcome!

Dr. Marta M. Shinn, Ph.D., is an expert in child and educational psychology and is a PCIT trainer for UC Davis. If you are a clinician or represent a clinic seeking PCIT training, Dr. Shinn can help. She has 10+ years experience using PCIT to improve parent-child relationships, and has trained several agencies in bringing PCIT into their practice. Dr. Shinn’s experience includes training cohorts of therapists as well as mentoring trainers in how to train therapists within and outside of their agencies.

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More about Variations Psychology

Variations Psychology is a group practice specializing in Child and Family Psychology.

Our specialists provide therapy to infants, children, adolescents, and adults to help them overcome the many challenges they may face throughout the lifespan of a family. We also conduct diagnostic testing of child and adult conditions that may impact the family’s mental health and development (e.g. ADHD, Autism, Depression, Anxiety, Learning Disorders, college entrance exams).
See our Specialists page to select the specialist that best suits your need, or simply give us a call and we will guide you.

Variations Psychology is located in Newport Beach, CA and provides counseling to residents throughout Orange County and its surrounding areas including Newport Beach, Newport Coast, Irvine, Shady Canyon, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Coto de Caza, Corona del Mar, Costa Mesa, Yorba Linda, Dana Point, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo, Mission Viejo, Pelican Hill, Crystal Cove, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, Lake Forest, Huntington Beach, Sunset Beach, Seal Beach, and more.


Relationship Enhancement P*R*I*D*E reference sheet.

PCIT International

How to Cite This Blog Article:

Shinn, M.M. (2018). The PRIDE of Fatherhood: 5 Ways That Great Dads Shape Our Mental Health

Psychologically Speaking.  [Variations Psychology blog post].  Retrieved from