Remember when primetime television celebrated dads’ wisdom? Yeah. It’s been awhile. Watching just a few minutes of most “family” television shows these days affirms that our culture treats fathers as easy targets for ridicule. Portrayed as gullible and incompetent, fathers today are constantly being told by culture that it is in the best interest of everyone if they leave most of the parenting tasks to mom.
When we continue to laugh and perpetuate the caricatures of men as clueless when it comes to their own children — and consequently convince them that they are — I cannot help but wonder if we may be robbing them of the joys that come with sharing in the care-taking of a child? Moms, isn’t it time we work to empower fathers? What if, rather than joking about the dangers of leaving my kids home alone with their father, I made it my goal to use my words to exponentially increase his confidence as a father and caretaker? What would it look like if I took seriously Ephesians 4:29, trying to make everything I say to my husband a “gift?” Here are some practical ways I’ve found to be especially useful in helping my husband be a confident parent to our two young daughters.
Demythologize Your Children
My husband is an incredible father to our children. He is kind, patient, loving, and creative. He is a great dad. As much as he loves our daughters, there are times when he still needs help knowing how to read them. Beyond innate motherly instincts, I spend more time with them, so it makes sense that I know when our baby is hungry and when she just wants to be picked up. I know when our 3-year-old is trying to manipulate and when she genuinely needs some emotional reassurance. When my husband asks me “is the baby hungry?” it would be very easy to simply look at the baby and tell him the answer. However, taking the extra 60 seconds to explain why I know our child needs “XYZ” helps remove the mystery that he may feel surrounds our children at times. All of us remember the first few weeks of motherhood and how confused and overwhelmed it leaves us. For many fathers, that confusion never fully goes away. When I take the extra time to explain something about our children to my husband, it helps lessen the mystery that often surrounds them. In other words, I am treating my husband like I believe and expect him to be able to handle and understand our children, and thus ultimately affirming to him my confidence in his abilities as a father.
Help Your Children Communicate
Most mommies can interpret their baby’s grunts, coos, whimpers, and cries with relative ease. However, for many dads it’s a foreign language. In an effort to help my husband communicate with our children as early as possible, I try to enable our children to communicate as early as possible. Our oldest was a quick learner, so early on I taught her five basic signs. I wasn’t aiming for her to be a bilingual wonder, just enough for her to be able to have something other than grunts and coos. It doesn’t have to be extensive or elaborate, but when we help our children learn from an early age how to express their needs, it significantly helps eliminate stress for dad (not to mention grandparents and babysitters).
Imagine being in a work environment where you were constantly critiqued and questioned? I wonder if men sometimes shy away from parental duties because of the subtle yet constant criticisms they receive while “on the job.” I don’t know about you, but I tend to have a specific way I prefer things to get accomplished around the home. Most of the time I have a valid reason for my way too (i.e., the towels only fit where they go when they are folded my way). There have been many times I have found my husband volunteering to do an activity with the girls for me, only to find out he’s done it in the last way I would have imagined. From wearing Christmas pajamas in August to having breakfast picnics in the living room, he constantly finds new ways to do my “routine” things. Rather than critique and “correct” him when he’s done something different, celebrate and be thankful that he is active in your children’s lives. Fathers may not always do things our way, but it’s important to realize that it does not necessarily mean they are doing things the wrong way.
Culture wants men to believe that childrearing is best reserved for the experts, i.e., the moms. However, the biblical picture of a family clearly teaches that parenting is best accomplished as a team effort. What better way for our children to learn about God the Father’s love than through the example set by their earthly father? It may not always be the easiest route, but taking the time to include your husband helps solidify his significance, importance, and competence in your children’s lives. Let’s speak truth into our husband’s lives, affirming their significance and importance as we work toward raising our children, together.
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