Thursday, April 29, 2010

How Do You Get Dad More Involved?


I promised to share with you some great “mom questions” I’ve been asked over the past few weeks. So here goes with the first one!

A number of moms have asked how they can get their husbands more involved in the parenting of their kids. Common complaints include: “He just wants to be a playmate, leaving all the discipline to me.” Or: “He really just wants to do his own thing and not get involved at all in day-to-day caregiving.”

Good question! And not an easy one to answer. As I thought about it, I happened to be visiting one of our sons, so I thought I’d get his male perspective on the issue. He happens to be a very involved dad himself. But I asked him what advice he’d give other moms as to how to get their husbands more involved.

His first response put things into stark perspective. “That’s really a hard one, because we all are basically selfish and want to do our own thing.” [BTW, by “we,” I don’t think he meant just men. All of us are basically selfish, though I do think moms get a lot of day-to-day practice in becoming selfless!] He went on to say that a lot of the men he knows seem to be a lot more focused on their own leisure pursuits than on their time with family.

An uphill battle, for sure—at least in some cases. And the hard part about it is that, as we say so often at Mom to Mom, the only person you have power to change is you. You really can’t make another person do anything.

Having said that, here are a few tips I’ve gleaned along the way—some from my own observation and experience and some from a great group of moms who dove into this question along with me:

  1. Pray about it—first, last, and always. Pray especially before speaking about it with your husband. How you approach it can make all the difference!
  2. Watch your attitude! Some of us women are particularly gifted with “attitude,” and if, like me, you are also gifted in sarcasm, watch it. Another point of prayer….
  3. Use “I ...” statements rather than “You …” accusations. “I feel,” “I need,” “I miss,” “I want your input” are far more effective than “You always …” or “You never …” But do tell him what you need, rather than “stuffing it” and letting it smolder.
  4. Use fewer words rather than many (and this from Linda!) When it comes to men and words, less is more, believe me!
  5. Help your husband see the difference he makes for your children—and you! For example, “Honey, he so looks up to you. “ or “She’s just watching for you to notice” or “We just love having you home—and a part of these projects.”
  6. Create opportunities for successful interaction. Sometimes we get so used to “doing everything” that we don’t even leave space for him.
  7. Avoid a constant critique of everything he does—e.g., he went to the store but bought the wrong brand, he put the baby to bed but put on the wrong PJ’s, he never sets the table right. (Ouch! But honestly, Woody does still get the fork and knife sides reversed—is it male dyslexia?)
  8. “Change your thinking.” This from one mom who said she finds she needs to refocus periodically to see what her husband actually does do to help, rather than only what he doesn’t do.
  9. Affirm whenever you can. Let your husband know, at every opportunity, the things you appreciate about him. One mom shared how an older wiser woman with whom she would sometimes share her “husband complaints” would always begin by asking: ”Have you made the list?” The list, that is, of all you love about him—even before the “complaint list” that may come more naturally to us.
  10. Pray some more. Let “Lord, change him” become “Lord, change me.” And sometimes—not always, but sometimes—he will change, too.
Not an easy question. But maybe some of you have something to add. We’d love to hear from you!

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