Mothers have long borne the brunt of criticism and unsolicited commentary from just about everybody in the world about how they raise their children, whether it’s whether or not to breastfeed, whether to keep working or stay at home, what they feed their kids, how much screen time they allow their toddlers, whether they let their child run around a restaurant while they try to eat, and of course, why they let them eat so much sugar.
A new national poll of 713 fathers from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, however, says about half of fathers face a similar conundrum, called “Daddy-shaming.”
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The hot-button issues where dads are criticized the most
- 67%: how they discipline their child
- 43%: what they fed their kids
- 32%: not paying enough attention
- 32%: playing too rough with the kids
- 24%: dealing with sleep
Nearly half (49%) fathers say that they use this criticism as a learning experience and make a change in how they’re parenting, and 40% do research on what they’ve been critiqued on.
Over a quarter of fathers, however, said that the unasked-for appraisals of their parenting made them feel less confident as a parent, and one in five said it even made them feel deterred from getting more involved in parenting.
And 43% of dads felt that the daddy-shaming was simply unfair.
“While some fathers say criticism prompts them to seek more information about good parenting practices, too much disparagement may cause dads to feel demoralized about their parental role,” said poll co-director Sarah Clark, M.P.H., in a release.
With mommy-shaming, the source of criticism often comes from strangers, friends, other moms, and their own family members. With dads, the criticism comes most often from within the family – the most often being the other parent (44%). It looks like the moms, victims of mommy-shaming, are doing a solid amount of daddy-shaming – perhaps out of a protective instinct towards their little ones, suggested Clark.
“Family members – especially the other parent – should be willing to acknowledge that different parenting styles are not necessarily incorrect or harmful,” said Clark.
Dads often get left out of the loop when it comes to things moms or professionals usually handle, as well. Sometimes, they feel like they’re not even in the room: 11% of fathers have felt that a teacher assumed they didn’t know anything about their child’s needs, and 12% felt that a medical professional assumed they didn’t know anything about their child’s health. And a quarter felt out of the loop about their kid’s activities.
“Even subtle forms of disparagement can undercut fathers’ confidence or send the message that they are less important to their child’s well-being,” said Clark, adding that family members should be careful not to make “comments or critiques that may make dads feel like they don’t know how to parent the ‘right’ way.”
So this Father’s Day, remember that Dads aren’t just big goofballs. They’re an equal parent, just trying to do their best.
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