6 Ways You Can Help
The National Center for Fathering makes the following suggestions regarding your efforts to assist your partner in being the best dad possible:
- Don't treat him like a "male mother." Although both are parents, mothers and fathers have different roles and, more importantly, they perceive these roles differently. Rather than trying to make him do it "your way," try to understand where he is coming from and support it. Ask questions and communicate your ideas about parenting with each other so that you can learn to complement your differing parenting styles.
- Don't say, "He's babysitting the kids tonight" (or today, this afternoon, while I'm out...). Although most of us say it without intending to, such a statement cuts him off from the parenting relationship. Adjust your thoughts to focus on the fact that he is their father and is spending time with them just as you do. Including him in the process will both encourage him and make him feel more involved, as he should be.
- Define quality and quantity time and then try to get a balance between them. It is no use making your partner spend an hour a day with the children if all he does is read the newspaper during that time. Suggest ways for him to interact with the children or tasks they can do together. But remember, to make time quality there must be a relationship of trust and love, which takes time to build, so don't neglect the quantity part of the equation.
- Be patient. The Center has found that although men have the desire to be good fathers, they often feel ill-equipped to interact with their children. Help your partner by giving him your input lovingly, not as a teacher. The reality is that you probably do spend more time with the children than he does. Use your experience with them in a positive way by giving him ideas of what you know they enjoy or how to play with them. "It's been wonderful to see Kevin and Meg's relationship grow as they spend time together," says Justine. "I try and allow them to do things on their own, like when he takes her for a walk in the garden. I think that their spending time together without me around is good for their relationship."
- Don't practice "perfectionistic mothering." If your partner is willing and wants to help your daughter dress, it may not be the perfect outfit, but does it do the job? If it does, leave it. Decide that you would prefer a supportive father to a perfectly-dressed child, and stick to it.
- Make every effort not to undermine what your partner has said to the children. A percentage of men interviewed by the Center remarked that the biggest hindrance to their being a good father was a critical companion.
"I support Kev when he feels Meg needs to be disciplined," says Justine. "She does try and get me to side with her, but I support him in front of her and then discuss the issue with him later if there's anything I disagreed with."
The Center echoes this approach. If you disagree with something your partner has said or done regarding the children, speak to him about it in private. Undermining him in front of your children will give them the impression that dads don't really count. They do, and research has shown that children need consistency, even more so from a dad than a mom. Be seen as a united front and respect that his role as father is just as important as your role as a mother.
"It's kind of a relief, in a way, to respect the fact that we aren't meant to be the same," says Lee. "Whenever my husband does something different to how I'd have done it, I tell myself that he's not wrong, he's a Dad—then sit back and relax!"