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Half of all dads criticized for parenting style

A dad holding his baby helps his other young child vacuum in their home's kitchen.

July 3, 2019—Dads may be more involved parents than ever. But the way they interact with their kids is often second-guessed, a new poll shows. It included a nationally representative sample of 713 fathers of children up to age 13.

The poll found that 52% of dads said they'd been criticized about their parenting decisions. Results were broken out further by the reason for the criticism:

  • Two-thirds said they were chastised for the discipline method they used.
  • 2 out of 5 said they were called out for what they fed their kids.
  • Nearly a third said they were criticized for playing too rough with their children.
  • Nearly a third reported reprimands for not giving their kids enough attention.

Most often the other parent was the one doing the finger pointing, followed by grandparents and friends of the father.

So why are dads so often taken to task?

Some comments may reflect traditional assumptions about gender, with moms seen as natural caregivers and dads seen as limited ones who need supervision, the researchers said.

The effects of criticism on dads

While many of the dads said they responded to criticism in a positive way—for example, 49% adjusted their parenting—some critiques also backfired. One in 4 said it shook their confidence. One in 5 said it discouraged them from being a more hands-on parent. And more than 2 in 5 felt it was often unfair.

Even subtle criticisms from professionals in child care—like teachers, doctors and nurses—may undermine a dad's confidence, the researchers cautioned.

Parents should work together

Family members—especially the other parent—need to be mindful that different parenting styles aren't necessarily wrong or harmful.

And regarding discipline—the biggest source of criticism for dads—it's crucial for partners to find common ground, the researchers emphasized. Otherwise kids will get mixed messages about how to behave.

Build healthy family interactions

No family is perfect—problems are bound to surface. But these parenting tips can help you keep family conflicts to a minimum.

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