Moms: You can help your child’s father be a better dad

 

Dads, the focus is on moms this week—and their impact on you and your fathering. If you’re married, I encourage you to share this with your wife in the interest of strengthening your teamwork as parents.

I know some moms regularly read my blog, and this week I’d like to speak to you directly. All dads know that moms impact us and our fathering.

It’s been a few years since it came out, but this study from the Journal of Family Psychology is an important one. It showed that a mom’s words of encouragement or criticism directly affect how involved her child’s father becomes in the day-to-day care of their baby.

Researchers found that when a mother criticized her partner’s child-care efforts, it often caused him to lose confidence and even withdraw from caring for the baby. But when a mom praised dad’s efforts, he took a more active parenting role. Here’s more about the study.

Mom, especially with young children, you often play the role of a “gatekeeper” to a dad’s participation in their lives.

Moms help childs father be a better dadChances are, he’s depending on you in many ways. You have those motherly instincts. You likely have more knowledge and experience with child care issues than he does, a deeper sense of responsibility for your child that dates back to early in your pregnancy, and a commitment to always do what’s best for your children.

I know there are exceptions; every situation is different, and sometimes the dads are more plugged in to the parenting role. But we know the stereotypes fit in many cases.

So I want to ask the moms to please be careful. If you insist that he always carry out parenting tasks the “right” way—your way—or you re-do something he’s done for a child, or roll your eyes, or create the impression that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he may get discouraged and withdraw some from his role as a father.

In case you didn’t know already, we dads are more fragile than we like to admit, and sometimes we can get easily discouraged—especially when we’re learning something new, like with parenting. And if a dad gets discouraged, that could influence his commitment to fatherhood for many years to come.

I’m sure your intentions are good; you may be focused entirely on the well-being of your children. I’m simply asking you to expand your perspective of your child’s well-being to include having the benefits of a highly involved father.

Maybe your toddler’s father dresses her in mismatched outfits, or his method for feeding her is less-than-efficient, or the diaper he put on her gets leaky 20 minutes later and you have to change it again.

As your child gets older, dad will start tossing her into the air, swinging her around by one leg, or executing some other physical stunt. He’ll spend an hour with her playing in the dirt, or take her outside in freezing weather for a snow adventure. When something goes wrong, his first instinct might be to help her learn a valuable lesson, while you might be eager to comfort her and soothe her pain.

Those times may not be fun for you, and I’ll admit that sometimes we dads are too casual with safety matters. (And in those cases you have every right to be concerned for your child.)

But many times it’s simply about different parenting styles. And your kids need both! That’s the beauty of parenting teamwork.

So please, for your kids’ sake, make room for Daddy; give him some space and encouragement. Sure, we dads make mistakes, but we also need opportunities to gain experience and wisdom and—sooner or later—become the fathers that your children need. I hope you can see that his active involvement will be a big advantage for your kids in the long run.

I’d like to get feedback from moms and dads. What differences in parenting styles have you seen? And how have you worked through them? You can join the conversation either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads (and Moms) on the Journey

  • MOM: Point out the positive results you see from your husband’s efforts to be a good dad.
  • DAD: When you feel unprepared or frustrated as a father, don’t give up! Being a good dad is one of the most important roles you’ll ever have.
  • MOM: Find opportunities to leave your child alone with her father. He needs to learn child care skills on his own and build stronger bonds with his child, and you can probably use the break.
  • DAD: Think of one parenting or child care skill your children’s mother has that you don’t have. (Just one for now.) Then ask her: “Would you show me how to …?”
  • MOM: If you disagree with a decision your children’s father makes regarding the kids, discuss it with him privately. Do your best to support him in front of the kids.

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

 

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Good Dads Honor Moms: The Best Mother’s Day Ever

 

I didn’t talk to your mom or your kids’ mom, but I do have some wisdom from a group of ladies who are probably a lot like the moms in your life. Our staff asked these moms, “What happened on your best Mother’s Day ever?”

Here’s what we learned: Gifts are fine, but most of all, a mom wants to know that her kids have thought about her. We heard quite a few specific ways to show that.

When it comes to honoring your mother, your efforts can be less about gifts and more about time—brunch, dinner, coffee together, or just time catching up, even if it’s over the phone.

Your children’s mother is another story. Our panel of moms gave us some great ways kids (and husbands) have honored them, but again, it’s mostly about knowing that her kids thought about how to appreciate her and make her feel special. Often, the best part for mom is seeing the expressions of love in the kids’ handwriting, or the excited look on the kids’ faces as they present her with that unique, handmade card, or that breakfast only they (and Dad) can fix.

Here are some specific ideas from this panel of moms:

  • A whole weekend (or at least a whole day) of being served, with other family members taking over all mom’s household responsibilities: cleaning, laundry, cooking, etc. Washing her car and other special things are welcome too.
  • An album of family photos or a mother-kids portrait.
  • Singing  a special song for mom. (A surprising number of moms mentioned this.)
  • Freedom! … from whining kids, from being needed for little things, from dealing with sibling conflicts, from a noisy house, from “Honey, have you seen my …?”; freedom to rest and not feel guilty.
  • Time to spend with her mom.
  • A handmade coupon book of small favors to be done for Mom: a massage, doing the dishes, hugs and kisses, etc.
  • A family activity together: planting the garden, attending an event she enjoys, a picnic, etc.
  • A big block of time where she can do what she wants, uninterrupted.

You probably noticed that some ideas definitely don’t fit with others: Some moms want to celebrate with family activities; others want a break from responsibilities for a day. So, in order to really know what she wants, ask her! Every mom is different (and sometimes we dads miss obvious cues), so find out what makes her truly feel honored, and then let that guide your plans for Sunday. Just make sure your kids are actively involved in the whole process.

Are you no longer married to your child’s mother? Make sure you still help your children find ways to honor her. Here are some ideas.

Here are a few more Action Points for giving your kids’ mom the best Mother’s Day ever. Please share some ideas of your own below or at our Facebook page.

●   Consider starting a new Mother’s Day tradition based on what Mom told you she enjoys most.

●   Reinforce for your children why it’s important to honor their mother all the time—not just this Sunday.

●   Take your children to see their grandmother and let them hear her stories about when you (and/or their mom) were a child.

●   Choose a day several months from now to thank your kids’ mom again for all she does. Set a reminder for yourself so you’ll make sure and follow through.

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers who to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.