Help Your Man “Lean In” to Fatherhood

Therapist Julie Hanks offers advice on how to get your man more involved in parenting. It’s a strategy that could make your whole family happier.

Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” encourages women to step up, take risks, and lead in at work, at school, and in their communities. However, for women with children to seize leadership opportunities requires men to lean in more at home. Whether you’re a mother who is working part-time or full-time outside of the home, or you are a stay-at-home mom, there are things we can do encourage our husband’s to lean in to fatherhood. Not only is an involved father necessary for you to embrace leadership opportunities in the community, research consistently shows that your children will benefit from their father’s involvement in their lives. Here are a few of the ways children benefit from having an involved father:

· Children with involved fathers tend to do better academically and have fewer disciplinary problems.

· Preschoolers with actively involved fathers have stronger verbal skills.

· Children with actively involved fathers display less behavior problems in school.

· Girls with strong relationships with their fathers do better in mathematics.

· Boys with actively involved fathers tend to get better grades and perform better on achievement tests.

· Very young children have an increase in curiosity and in problem solving capacity.

· Highly involved fathers also contribute to increased mental dexterity in children, increased empathy, less stereotyped sex role beliefs and greater self-control. (

Ways you can encourage your husband to “lean in” to fatherhood:

1) Expect participation
Your expectations are powerful. If you expect more of a partnership when it comes to parenting, it will be more likely to happen. If your husband is not as engaged in child care as you or your child would like him to be, let him know what you would like from him.

2) Discuss details
Every family has a different way of dividing the family responsibilities. If you’d like your husband to be more involved in child care and parenting, talk about it in detail. Discuss together what you’d like him to do, what he’d like to do, and why it matters to you and to your child.

3) Watch your language
The words you use are glimpses into how you view fatherhood. They also send a message about your husband’s roles and responsibilities. I’ve heard many women say things like, “My husband is babysitting the kids tonight.” Using the term “babysit” implies that the children are not his responsibility and that he is doing something for you, and you owe him something. Other common phrase is women using the term “my baby” instead of”our baby”? Use inclusive language whenever possible to encourage a more equal partnership.

4) Stop micromanaging
So many women complain that their husband’s don’t participate enough in child-rearing, and yet, when husband’s do engage more with their children, their wife micromanages their every move. If you are a wife who feels compelled to share with hubby how the “right” way to change a diaper, bathe or put the child to bed, or the right way to discipline a teen, you may be sabotaging his efforts to be more involved. Many men hear well-meaning suggestions as criticism and then deal with it by withdrawing.

5) Speak highly of him
The media often stereotypes fathers as incompetent when it comes to parenting. I’ve heard many women jokingly say things like, “I’d never leave my kids alone with my husband for an entire weekend” or “He could put put the kids to bed by himself if the world depended on it.” Even in jest, these messages perpetuate the notion that men are not as competent as women are when it comes to parenting. If you focus on his positive parenting strengths when talking with others, you can help create a space for him to be competent.

6) Show appreciation
When you husband shows signs of leaning in to fatherhood, recognize him. Express love and encouragement. Tell him how lucky you and the children are to have him in your lives. Letting him hear and feel how important his role as an involved father is will inspire him to continue to be more engaged in fathering.

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