Studio 5 Relationship Coach Matt Townsend shares five things women can do to get dad more involved and engaged.
1. Make it about “our” parenting not “his” fathering.
Focus your discussions on the importance of parenting not just his role as father. Dad’s will be much more interested in working on something that you both need to improve instead of just something that he needs to fix. Use the word “we” need to improve, instead of “you” need to improve. Study and learn about the important roles mom’s and dad’s can play in the lives of their children. Read parenting articles and books together. Do internet searches about the topic of “Involved parenting.” Clarify your role as parenting partners. Discuss together how you can truly become a parenting team, not just one pro parent (mom) and her little helper (dad). Share with your partner the benefits that parenting together will have on your children and marriage. Talk about how you can’t replace a father. Read articles about their impact.
2. Build a Parenting Plan Together
Set goals together about being involved parents. Find time to discuss together your roles in parenting. Get organized together. If he’s not the organizer than that means you are. Most dads want to be involved with their family; they’re just not going to organize it. Don’t expect them to. Get him in on the schedule. A plan that isn’t scheduled is just a pipe dream. Get the activities and plans on his schedule. Once it’s in his schedule, he much more likely to get it done.
3. Model Effective Parenting
Most guys seriously doubt their ability to parent well. Some of this starts when they’re dealing with infants and never feel comfortable. Make it your role to model for him how to be a better parent. This requires you do be at the top of your game and has you worrying more about your example than his failures. Turn it over to him. Trust him enough to let him learn. Create a relationship where you can teach him how to do it more effectively. While he is working or playing with the kids, remind him to TALK to them about what is going on in their lives and what is important to them. Schedule a time each evening for the kids to tell Dad about their day. Discuss best parenting practices that you have learned by being around the kids more throughout the day. Discuss your learnings with your partner before the problems arise. Or, after the blow up between dad and child you could softly show understanding to your partner and then model the healthier way of handling the situation. Remember it’s not a competition, you are a team. Think of what you wish he would do better with the family and make it a priority. Spend three months modeling the exemplary behavior in the area that you want him to change. After you have mastered the modeling of the behavior, see if he changes at all. If he doesn’t, then initiate a conversation and tell him what you are doing and what you would like to see him try to do better.
4. Respect Him and His Way
Let him do it his way. Turn some of the parenting over to him and identify what he is doing really well as a father. Tell him what he does well and point those things out so he can hear that he really is pulling his parenting weight. Remember he is not your child. Don’t treat him like one. He might already have enough guilt about being an inadequate or less than stellar father. Don’t try to guilt him any more. Guilt is not a great long-term motivator. Most men bond by doing things – sports, projects, etc. Respect dad’s way of bonding with his children whether it is sports, video games or working around the yard. Show your partner how important that time is with the kids.
5. Positive Feedback and Praise, Praise, Praise
Focus on what is working. I have never seen people create lasting change by focusing solely on what is broken. People need to hear what is working and what it would look like if it were working better. Be sure to tell him when he does the right things so he can hear where its working, not just what isn’t working. Let him know what your needs are. Open your mouth and talk; don’t make him guess. Praise Dad for being involved, providing for the family, and helping around the house. Dad’s love being praised. By doing so, the praise will also be reciprocated back to you! Praise him in front of the kids. Build him up in front of the kids and tell them what an incredible person he is and how grateful you are for all that he is doing. Be positive. Men have a very sensitive ear to negativity and then the egos get involved. When you’re not happy, we feel pressure and anxiety. This is generally what leads us to withdraw and pull away from the family.
For more relationship advice, visit www.MarriageMattersUtah.com, or check out Matt’s next couple workshop:
An Evening with Matt Townsend
Saturday, August 1, 2009
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Cost: $20 per Couple
Location: Noah’s in South Jordan
Call to register: (801) 747-2121