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How Mom Reacts to Dad’s Parenting Skills May Affect His Relationship With His Kids, Study Says

posted: 06/22/18
by: Amanda Mushro
A Mother father and baby child on a white bed.
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Even if you think you are your partner would make the dream parenting team, the early months of having a baby are overwhelming. Add those feelings with very little sleep, and new moms might find themselves snapping at dad for bathing the baby wrong or not swaddling correctly. However, researchers are saying moms should rethink the times they are critical of dad because it could put a strain on his parenting skills.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, the way a new mother reacts to her partner's early interactions with their baby could affect his parenting later in the child's life. So during those early days that are fueled with exhaustion and the desire to do everything right--if mom is too hard or too critical of her partner's parenting skills, the results could be lasting and negative for everyone. In fact, researchers found that fathers with 9-month-olds did not perform their parenting duties as well if their partner was critical six months earlier.

"The behaviors of mothers can shape how fathers interact with their children," said Lauren Altenburger, lead author of the study. "Mothers may not even be aware of how their criticisms of the father may end up negatively influencing how dads parent."

For the study, researchers used data from 182 couples, most of whom were married and were dual earners. Researchers assessed the parents twice, once when their child was 3 months old and then again at 9 months old. Fathers were asked to gauge how often they felt their partner "opened" or "closed" the gate to their involvement with their kids.

Actions that were considered to "close" the gates ranged from mom taking over baby-related tasks because she didn't like how dad was doing it how and often she shot him irritated or annoyed looks. On the flip side, gate "opening" behaviors are the times she encourages dad to take care of the baby or she tells dad he is doing a good job.

Dads were then observed with their babies and rated on how appropriately they responded to the child, how engaged they were, and how much they smiled or spoke in a warm tone to the child. What they found dads who reported more gate closing by their partner when the child was 3 months old, the worse researchers rated their parenting quality at 9 months old.

So why are dads feeling this way? Altenburger says it could be how society views the roles of mom vs dad. "Many fathers may be more vulnerable to criticism than mothers are because there is still less support in our society for fathers as active, involved parents," she said.

When it comes to minor issues, Altenburger recommends moms just let it go. "It is about giving fathers the space to parent, too. Both parents need to keep communication open and not be so quick to criticize," Altenburger said.

Even if you are watching your partner change a diaper and he's not doing it correctly, those are the times to just think to yourself "He's helping so I'm going to bite my tongue here." Then get yourself a snack or take a nap because you'll have to change that diaper soon enough. Remember, you both want the best for the baby--even mom's way is the right way.