A 2014 study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry highlighted a disturbing fact about the vast majority of parenting programs implemented worldwide today: Most of them are designed in a way that marginalizes or completely ignores the role of fathers. You read that correctly. We’re still leaving dads on the parenting sidelines in the 21st century.
The Yale researchers who conducted the study highlighted why this is such a problem. Bountiful research exists to prove how crucial the father’s role is in the life of a child. Children who are lucky enough to have a strong, engaged father figure benefit socially, emotionally, academically, physically, and the list goes on.
Are you doing all you can to help your husband (or even your ex-husband) be a great dad? Or are you, like many of these well intended parenting programs, unwittingly leaving him out of the equation at times? Find out how you can help your husband be a great dad, and give your children a foundation for health and success!
1. Don’t put your husband in a box built by your dad.
Even just one generation ago, parenting roles were more gender stereotyped. Just because your dad didn’t engage as a parent in certain ways doesn’t mean your husband won’t. Resist the temptation to make assumptions about what your husband is willing or able to contribute to the lives of your children based on your own childhood experience. Your husband is his own man, and he’ll be his own type of dad – for better or for worse.
2. Don’t act as if the kids are made of glass and your husband is clumsy.
Truth is: Kids are more resilient—physically and otherwise—than we sometimes give them credit for. So dad plays a little rougher? No big deal. Kids actually need that masculine-inspired play and bonding. So dad will make PB & Js every time he has lunch duty? It may not be steamed broccoli, but they won’t starve to death either. Overcome any control freak tendencies you may have that could interfere with your husband feeling capable (and the kids viewing him as capable) and allow him to parent in his own way.
3. Don’t expose his flaws to the kids unnecessarily.
Let’s say he does make a parenting mistake that you know must be addressed (safety, etc.). Don’t bring it up in front of the children. Ask to speak to him in private to talk about your concerns, and allow him to maintain a posture of authority and competence in their eyes. Believe us, one day you’ll want them to think he’s always right and an authority figure who must be respected. It’s crucial.
4. Don’t trash him behind his back.
This one is especially challenging for divorced parents. Coparenting after divorce can bring up all kinds of issues that frustrate both sides. Except in the most extreme cases where discussions must take place to guard your child’s health and safety, avoid negative talk about your ex-husband’s parenting skill or authority in front of your child. He may no longer be your husband, but he’ll always be their father. When you take cheap shots at him, their hearts absorb the hit as well. So with every barb you chip away at his ability to parent well and hurt your children in ways they can’t even express. Be a champion of his parenting. Support him as a co-parent whenever possible. Your kids deserve it.
Let’s Talk: How do you give your kids’ dad a chance to shine as a father?