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Mothers, your words and actions influence fathers

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I was raised a bit unconventional in a time when most moms stayed home and dads went to work. My mother was the main breadwinner and my father worked nights, so most of my early childhood was having him home with me during the day. I had siblings there as well, but I remember my father being the primary nurturer. This afforded me closeness to my dad that many girls growing up don't have. I feel blessed that he was an engaged dad and loving husband, because he contributed to my career as well as my choice in men.

Many of my clients take issue with their husbands' lack of involvement with their children. Financial concerns and family dynamics take their toll on both mom and dad, leaving them with feelings that there is never enough to go around. Criticizing and cajoling your husband into being a better dad is rarely successful, but there are ways women can help their husbands. The most important ways to encourage him is to take notice when he is being a great dad. Unlike women who grow up playing house and dolls, men grow up playing soldiers and superheroes. Their father who mentored how to be a father may not have mentored the father you expect your husband to be. This leaves him with few options regarding "how to be a good dad."

One important area all research supports is the fact that noticing and encouraging toward a goal is much more effective than pointing out the mistakes as you attempt to reach a goal.

A dad gives a child something no woman can give. Being a good dad helps provide stability, confidence and academic success to children. Below are suggestions of how you can help your husband be a better dad.

1. When your husband does a loving act for your child say aloud, "Did daddy do that for you?" Follow that with, "You have a great dad." Your focus is beginning to be aware of your words; do they build your husband up, or tear him down?

2. Respect your husband as your child's father. If he dresses the kids and things don't match, does it really matter? Moms may bathe, clothe and feed the children, but moms don't always have to know everything. Never cut your husband down in front of the kids. Eye rolling, or shushing your husband are passive aggressive forms of disrespect. Kids know what they mean.

3. Understand time pressures and give him a break. If your husband usually takes the kids every Saturday morning, but has to go to work and miss a Saturday morning, instead of making him feel guilty or choosing between work and the kids, help him plan another time. Do something with the kids that morning and make mention that daddy feels bad he missed his Saturday morning. Do not use this as a way to get back at your husband for unresolved issues between the two of you. Helping him make one day of the week his with the kids is good for everyone.

Research is uncovering more and more the importance of dads in a child's life. A newborn recognizes their dad as soon as the dad holds them. They also correlate their heart rate and respirations to dad when they are infants. Health care workers are encouraging dads to become involved from the moment of birth, because children's brain development is enhanced when dad is engaged and one of the child's nurturers. Women are strong, women are capable, but women are not dads. Only a man can be a dad, and your child needs an engaged dad in their life.

– Mary Jo Rapini

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