Article: When moms criticize, dads back off of baby care

Do you have a partner who is withdrawn from helping with baby care? If so, you might be to blame. Yes, one more thing to consider when raising your children.

This article on MSNBC states “Moms’ words of criticism or encouragement directly affect how involved their husband or partner becomes in the day-to-day care of their infant, finds a new study published in the June issue of the Journal of Family Psychology. When a mother criticized her partner’s child-care efforts, it often caused him to lose confidence, and even withdraw from caring for the baby. But when a mom praised dad’s efforts, he took a more active parenting role.”

Moms feel pressure when a new baby is born, like the well being of that child is all on them. They are supposed to be the ones to soothe, the only ones to feed and let’s not forget moms have already had 10 months of bonding time with the baby before Dad.

Before our son Archer was born I was given some really great advice: “You will most likely fight like you never have during the first few months of your child’s life. Don’t worry, it’s natural and it’ll go away. Most importantly remember that neither you or your husband really know what will work and what won’t — you are both new at this. So listen to each other and take each other’s opinions seriously.”

I remembered this and was very conscious of what my husband was suggesting and how I was reacting. I wasn’t perfect in my reactions — mostly because I do all the reading and research so of course I thought I was right. More often than not he had a point and good suggestions and I listened. I now have a very involved and active co-parent. A lot of that is just because of his personality and is just the way our relationship works, but there is something to encouragement. One thing to note is that listening and discussing opinions usually came with some bickering in the first few months, but bottom line was we discussed, his ideas and opinions weren’t dismissed.

Here’s a simple example, if you don’t love the outfit your husband put on your child, don’t complain, just thank them for dressing the baby. If they ask if you like the outfit, say yes. The benefit of their confidence boost outweighs them learning your style preferences.

I did find one area where I don’t think “criticism” causes husbands to withdraw. That’s when your criticism is supported with research or facts. For example, “When changing the baby’s diaper, make sure to always wipe the front first, then the back. You don’t wan to spread butt bacteria to the front which can cause bladder infections.”  or “When the baby talks to you, talk back to them and make eye contact. I read that it’s how they learn they are communicating and it encourages self confidence.”

When I backed my suggestions with facts or information that I read, my husband was more receptive. That doesn’t mean he always agreed, but he knew it wasn’t me criticizing him (I was right and he was wrong) it was something I had to learn too.

I hope this was helpful. Please share your experiences or thoughts on the topic — husbands welcome to share too!

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