Over the last 50 years, the time fathers spend with their children has doubled, according to a book published by the American Sociological Association. Whether it’s coaching sports, helping with homework, or being involved in the home, fathers are contributing in more ways than ever. But sometimes with big changes within the home, like a new baby, or toddlers going through a hard stage, dads can take a back seat. They may feel helpless, lack confidence, or may even feel like YOU (mama) can handle it all just fine! Here are a few positive and encouraging ways to help dad get involved with the kids, and lend a hand when you need it the most.
- Give him specific jobs or duties. Men in general seem to be more project focused. They need direction, and having an end goal is also helpful. Sometimes as moms (women), we can be vague and expect them to understand exactly our intentions and direction. Blanket statements or general phrases need to be replaced with specific jobs and duties. Make a list of things that you need help with, and let him choose which tasks he’d like to do. Whether it’s diaper duty, giving the evening bottle, bath time, or taking the toddler out for a stroller ride. Men love black and white. To get better responses and more action, let’s make our gray a little clearer.
- Set him up for success - The last thing you want to do is encourage certain tasks or jobs that Dad will probably not succeed at. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at the amount of times I find myself asking my hubby to complete duties that I will most likely want to re-do after he is done. For me, it’s getting the kids dressed in the morning. I am fast, efficient, and I like to have their outfits match. Not match each other. Just an outfit that goes together. And that is weather-appropriate. It’s as simple as that. So while I get them dressed, I ask if he’ll throw some waffles in the toaster! Or change the baby’s diaper. When they have jobs they know they’ll succeed at, they will be much more likely to start and finish them. If you’re expecting a new baby, let him assemble the crib, or put the swing together. If tools are involved, that job has “Daddy” written all over it.
- Be his cheerleader. When dad is successful in his efforts, recognize that! Build him up. Encourage and show your gratitude and appreciate his help. Not only will he be proud of what he’s done, but he’ll be much more willing to continue those efforts in the future. So many mundane tasks go unnoticed. Take the time to acknowledge those. Also, many fathers work outside the home, so the jobs they are doing seem to be more behind-the-scenes. Contributing financially to the family helps provide the meals that you are cooking, extracurricular activities your kids get to enjoy, and even their education. Make sure those efforts are appreciated as well.
- Give him freedom. Having confidence in him will boost his confidence in himself. With a new baby, leave the house and let Daddy be in charge! Give him guidance and a schedule, as well as a big ole high five, and a “you’ve got this!” Then go to Target, grab Starbucks, and relish in the fact that you are alone! And someone else is in charge! The more responsibility he is given with confidence, the more belief he’ll have in the tasks he is given. Also, the sooner you can start his involvement, for example as soon as baby is born, the more willing he’ll be to continue his role as a hands-on-dad. So much of this has to do with MAMA letting go, and giving him the reigns. It will be ok. Your babies and kids will survive without you! At least for an hour, while you aimlessly walk the aisles of Target.
- Make it fun. It’s easy to hand over tired and cranky kids at the end of the day as soon as Daddy walks in the door. It’s also common to call on him when there is a behavior or discipline problem. Let Dad have some fun too! Encourage hands-on activities, like a nature walk with your big kids, an outing to the zoo, or a kid’s workshop at your local tool store. The bigger activities/outings may only be able to happen on the weekend, but that’s ok! Daddy dates are fun and exciting, and provide a wonderful bonding experience! During the week, encourage a dance party while you cook dinner, or as we like to call it a “read-a-thon”, where Daddy gets to pick his favorite books to read to the kids. For the baby stage, throw some instruments to Dad for a jam sesh with junior, or let them do a finger-painting art project together!
- Date Night! Wait, without kids? Yes! At the end of the day, you two are the parents. You are the coaches, the teammates, and are doing this whole parenting thing together. Make time to reconnect, reflect, and recharge together, and you’ll be amazed how much more you come together in your parenting roles. And limit the “baby talk”, if at all possible! Of course you want to chat about all the things your kids are doing at the moment, or how much to pay the babysitter when you get home. But, challenge yourselves to talk to eachother about eachother. Don’t forget to celebrate your successes with parenting! Raising kids is not easy. You are doing an amazing job. Recognize that, and rejoice together! A bottle of wine and a little romance can do wonders for you both!