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Atticus is seen by somewhat weak and not overtly masculine by his children. They think his age and occupation are boring. Scout is coming to an age where she wants an elevated sense of self within the community, but realizes her father does not garner the recognition he could if he wanted to. Both children see his peaceful nature as a weakness.
The showdown with the rabid dog changes their perception of their father. Jem learns that his father's nickname was "One-Shot Finch" and this is a source of enormous pride to the boy. Atticus's ability to calmly handle the situation with the rabid dog shows the children that their father is not afraid, he merely feels no need for senseless shows of masculinity. He is strong and forceful when the situation calls for it, and the children grow to respect this quality.
Scout realizes that his peaceful nature shows that "he's civilized in his heart", not weak in character. The children see him as a man, not just as a dad.
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