How can dad support mum in parenting

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Like marriage, the strength of parenthood is in partnership. With more women joining the workforce, the division of domestic labour and bread-winner responsibilities along gender lines is being gradually eroded.

Partnership Provides Strength for Parenthood

Dad and Mum have distinct but complementary parenting roles, and should share responsibilities to ensure the holistic development of their child.

Researchers have found that children with highly involved fathers benefit from growing up in a harmonious family environment. Mum and Dad may have different perspectives on bringing up children, but it is important to communicate with each other, align goals and work as a single team.

Parents in a stable marital relationship, with aligned personal and common goals and consistent child care arrangements are in a better position to meet the challenges of parenting and focus on the development of their children. The stability and security of the family unit will have positive effects on the child's development.

As a Dad, What Can You Do?

  • Support Mum in Daily Caregiving Tasks

While fathers have traditionally been the bread-winners in the family, the evolving role of mothers in the workplace has compelled fathers to take on more direct parenting responsibilities. As a Dad, you can be proactive in supporting Mum in daily caregiving tasks such as bathing, feeding and dressing your child.

Sharing these parenting responsibilities will demonstrate your support for Mum, relieve her parenting stress, and boost the overall well-being of your family .

  • Play a Distinct but Complementary Role in Co-parenting

Mothers and fathers often bring different strengths and styles to their parenting roles. Compared to Mum, as a Dad you spend more one-on-one interactions with your infant and preschooler in stimulating, playful activity, and are more boisterous in play with not just sons but also daughters.

From such interactions, children learn how to regulate their feelings and behaviour, are more comfortable exploring the world around them, and are more likely to exhibit self-control and pro-social behaviour .

Similarly, while Mum is known to excel at developing your child's “inner world” or how your child thinks and feels, you tend to have a stronger effect on your child's “outer world” development, or how he or she interacts in the external environment or social setting .

Generally, fathers allow their child to take more risks, experiment and learn before intervening to ensure their safety. Children tend to enjoy this form of experiential learning and it fosters positive development of the child.

Through leading by example and with firmness in discipline characteristic of Dads, coupled with Mum's comforting warmth, you can exert a balanced influence on your child, inculcating positive values and providing for his or her holistic development.

  • Reinforce Respect for Mum

As fathers, you play an important role in reinforcing your child's respect for mum. To do so, its important to speak in one voice in front of your child, through verbal and non-verbal communication means. If your child shows disrespect to Mum, intervene immediately to correct this behaviour.

Standing in solidarity with Mum and reiterating her request will also generate warmth and goodwill between parents, resulting in a more positive co-parenting environment. Strengthening your child's respect for Mum will better enable her to execute her parenting responsibilities more consistently.

Shower Mum with love and respect so that your child will do the same.

If you disagree with how Mum is handling the situation, communicate with her in private, negotiate your conflicting perceptions and arrive at a mutual agreement on the approach. If you undermine Mum's efforts or engage in verbal sparring in front of your child, you erode your child's respect for Mum and her instructions.

Research has shown that growing up in such an environment could lead to behavioural problems in children .

  • Manage Stresses Collaboratively

Clearly, there are many benefits for your family and child if you play an active role in co-parenting. There is a global trend of men wanting to play a more direct role in nurturing and developing their children.

However, studies have shown that while women’s growing role at work has resulted in some fathers doing more at home, demands at work for men have not abated and even increased over the years. Not surprisingly then, some fathers have reported that family life has become more stressful .

In this context, it is important that you take the initiative and communicate openly with Mum, ensuring that you share a common understanding and expectation of both your roles and responsibilities. It is important that you work as a team and agree to a common approach to co-parenting and how to nurture and develop your child.

Reach out to your parents or extended family for support if necessary. Both Mum and you will benefit from mutual affection, respect and support, which will provide strong foundation for the growth of a happy child in a stable environment.

This article was first published for the Dads for Life movement. The movement was  launched  to inspire and influence fathers to be good influencers in their children’s lives... for life. For more information on the Dads for Life movement, please visit www.dadsforlife.sg