Dads, the focus is on moms this week—and their impact on you and your fathering. If you’re married, share this with your wife in the interest of strengthening your teamwork as parents.
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 a 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.
Chances 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.
There are exceptions; every situation is different, and sometimes the dads or expecting dads are more plugged in to the role. But we know the stereotypes fit in many cases.
So, moms, 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.
Surely your intentions are good; you may be focused entirely on the well-being of your children. You probably feel a lot of pressure yourself to make sure the child is well cared for. The idea is simply to expand your perspective of your child’s well-being to include having the benefits of a highly involved father, and it starts even as he’s preparing for fatherhood.
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 it’s true 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. His active involvement will be a big advantage for your kids in the long run.
We want 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 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.