Why Dad’s Parenting Techniques Can Be Better
By Emily Bloch, Baby Name Tool Data Set
It’s right before bedtime and Sylvia is about to flip out about something – that a page of her picture book is “broken” (read: torn, by her, days before) and that she can’t have three more handfuls of popcorn after we said “one more.” Before I have a chance to ask, “What’s wrong, Syl?” my husband walks up behind her, lifts her up into his arms, and carries her over his shoulder.
“MAMA! NO! Mom-me-ee-ee!!!” she yells, upside down.
My eyes are shooting darts at Aron’s back. By surprising her from behind, he’s made it worse. He just barrels on in, not giving her a chance to calm down. Now she’s never going to go to sleep. It’s just so -
And then, from upstairs, giggling. And then, the low murmur of story reading. And then, silence. And then a triumphant husband, breezing down the stairs, as if it were all a bunch of nothing. “What a sweetie she is,” he says.
I learn this lesson at least once a week: I confuse Aron’s parenting style with being “wrong.” I apparently think, especially in my weaker moments, that he should do exactly as I do. But his way often works just as well as mine – if not better.
And then I’m stuck in a brutal twist: If I thought he was wrong and his approach worked, does that mean he’s right? And that would make me…
Of course, this train of thought is likely to take me nowhere fast. “It’s not about copying your partner’s style or his copying yours,” says Rona Renner, host of the radio show Childhood Matters and a mom of four kids. “It’s about appreciating the way he’s different from you.”
So while we’re not advising you to become clones of your partners, we do think dads often have some good tricks up their sleeves. Why not celebrate what they do right – and maybe even try one of these tips yourself.
Lets kids take risks
“Our girls’ adventures are incomprehensible to my wife,” says Will Craig of New York City, dad of 4-year-old Radia and 2-year-old Lela. “She’ll ask, ‘Why did you climb the fence?’ The answer is ‘Because it’s there.’ I’ve always felt the girls need to try things. That doesn’t mean I let them burn themselves on the stove, but if Lela is trying to stand up on her toddler chair to reach something and it’s about to topple, I might let her feel that balance start to go before I pull her off.”
Why moms are different: Renner has a theory about why many mothers tend to flinch when their kids are on the monkey bars: “Moms form a protective attachment to their babies during pregnancy, when we’re so focused on having a healthy and safe child that we give up all sorts of risky behavior ourselves. I think some of the instinctive protectiveness comes from this.”
“If kids don’t experience somewhat risky physical fun, it might make them more cautious and less willing to try things they haven’t quite mastered yet,” says Kyle Pruett, Ph.D., a clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale University and author of Fatherneed: Why Father Care Is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child. “You have to fall down in order to learn to ice-skate. If you’re afraid of falling down, you won’t learn.”
Dealing with the difference: Tolerate only what you’re comfortable with. But when I see Sylvia playing with Aron or running around outside, I try to ask myself: Is she really in danger, or is it just hard for me to watch? Would a stumble from where she is truly harm her, or just hurt a little bit?
Or do as my friend Laurie does and remove yourself from the situation. For instance, when she and her family are at the beach, she literally turns her chair around to face away from the water because although she knows her kids are safe with their dad, it makes her nervous to watch them play in the waves.
Trusts himself more than the experts
“My wife can be a little anal about following advice, but I’m more likely to feel that we know what’s best for us,” says Clark Avery of San Francisco, dad of 14-month-old Andee. “I go back to: If you’re asking me to do something different from what I normally do, is there proof to show why the new way is better? If not, then it’s just a matter of opinion.”
Why moms are different: Renner says that this is a typical split (after all, guys won’t ask for directions, either): “Women are more sensitive to getting it ‘right,’ since it used to be if anything’s wrong with the child, the mother’s to blame. Also, they tend to compare notes with other parents more than dads do.”
Dealing with the difference: There’s a time and place to get help and information from others, but it’s also good to have the confidence to rely on your own instincts. In the end, no one knows your kids better than you.
The last time I took Sylvia to get her ears checked for an infection, the doctor said, “She doesn’t have one yet, but with her history, I think you should fill the prescription now and give it to her when it’s gotten worse.” That’s when I decided to be more like Aron and not follow her advice (at least this time). Because I’m less concerned with being “right” in the eyes of the authority figure these days than I am with doing what’s right for my child (even if it means I have to drag her back, screaming, for another ear check).
Ignores the details
“I dress my daughter often,” says Al Weiss of Tinton Falls, New Jersey, dad of 11-month-old Elisabeth. “I might put certain clothes on backward because I can’t find a tag. My wife will say, ‘This goes with that.’ But as long as my daughter is warm and happy, I am too.”
Why moms are different: “Moms’ routines and standards probably spring from their feeling the responsibility for everything to be perfect,” Renner says. “And let’s face it, no one is thinking, ‘Why did her dad dress her in that?’”
Dealing with the difference: I probably care more about how Sylvia looks than I do about myself (scratch that: I definitely care more about Sylvia). But I’ve been able to strike this deal with Aron: On the days when he’s doing kid duty, he gets complete dibs on her wardrobe, and I say nothing.