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Is there a difference between a father and a dad?

(Photo credit: SportsBlog)

I KNOW that I’m probably splitting hairs here but stick with me on this. I promise you I have a point - a good point.

How does a child first refer to its father? ‘Dada’. Those two syllables melt the heart of even the toughest road man, if only for a while. ‘Dada’ is a precursor for ‘dad’ or ‘daddy’.

In contemporary language, we all know the difference between saying, ‘He’s the father’ and, “He’s the dad(dy)’. There is a softer, more intimate tone to the latter than there is to ‘father’. ‘Father’ feels more detached, formal, even a tad cold. Think about it, aside from in old English movies or the writings of Dickens, you’d never hear a child call their male parent ‘father’. It just does not have the correct ring to it.

The dictionary boils the meaning of ‘father’ down to its most basic elements – “the male parent”. As already suggested, that’s a cold, unfeeling description of what a father is – simply, ‘he who successfully delivered a sperm strong enough to create life’. And for me, this is the difference between the words ‘father’ and ‘dad’. One is in effect just a sperm donor, while the other is that and so much more.

Being a dad begins with the acceptance that you will play a huge role in the development of any child. It starts with the protection of the mother, the building of the ‘nest’, the worry, the care and yes…the love.

Once the baby is born the role of dad steps up a gear.

In his second book entitled the Love Languages of Children, Dr. Gary Chapman presents the theory that children need to be ‘spoken’ to in all the love languages to develop good self-esteem, self-identity and self-belief. Chapman’s theory makes sense. Take away the academic gobbledygook and what he is saying is that in the pre-adolescent years a child needs balance. That balance ensures the child feels loved and thus leads to the development more balanced adults.

At this point, I know the single parents are turning away in disgust. This is not a poke at you. This is merely an acknowledgement that two loving parents are better than one and I doubt most will argue with that, though I know a couple of people who will try.

I guess in the end it all comes down to the role the man/the father/the dad, chooses to play. He can choose just to be a sperm donor, or he can take his rightful role in his child’s life.

Research indicates that children benefit in so many ways when dad is involved. They are less likely to live in poverty. They’ll do better in school and have better vocabularies. They are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. They’ll be less likely to be sexually active as teenagers. These are just some of the proven benefits of having a dad in a child’s life.

Makes you wonder why a man would choose to be just a father.

Paul is a parental empowerment coach, trainer, public speaker and author. To get in touch with him, email: or click here.

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