Communicate about Rules
Dads who do decide to contribute equally will find it necessary to do as Dr. Green counsels: Sit down with their partners and plan. This extends to more than just the caretaker tasks; the advent of children in a relationship means the sudden end of going wherever you want whenever you want, and it takes a good schedule to keep track of who will be with the kids at any given day and time.
Once children's behavior begins to test limits—anywhere between the first and second years—parents need to agree on what those limits are. Communicating with other caregivers means first and foremost that partners are on the same page. In her book Supernanny: How to Get the Best from Your Children, Jo Frost suggests that parents ask themselves questions such as, "What type of behavior do you both consider unacceptable? What are you prepared to be more relaxed about? Where do you differ?" Frost asserts that "it is essential to reach an agreement so that you have one set of house rules that everyone can follow. If Mom and Dad don't present a united front, children very quickly learn to play one off against the other emotionally."
As an example of the kind of plan we've had to make with our 2-year-old, my wife and I decided yesterday not to offer Alexis any other kinds of food for dinner besides the ones we initially put on her plate. Every day we're faced with similar decisions: What to allow her to take into the bath, how we respond to her pushing her cousins and 10-month-old brother, how capable she is of cleaning up her drawing materials and books after playing with them. This degree of planning seems especially important when parenting occurs in shifts—as it does with parents working different hours or with divorced parents who share custody. As a dad, it's vital for me to know not only which rules my wife has established as the mother, but also to participate in making those rules.