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If She Stops Nagging Then He Might Parent

There is nothing more annoying then someone telling you over and over again that you are doing a task ‘wrong.’ Even more annoying is if this person perpetually tries to show you a ‘better way’ of doing it.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for someone helping me, encouraging me, and even rebuking me, but come on. Let me experiment a bit. Let me try my own way.  If it fails, then I’ll try your way. If I am pushed too much, I often feel tempted to say, ‘Fine . . . you just do it!’

Unfortunately, this expression ‘fine . . . you just do it,’ can often becomes the law of a household. Wives often complain that their husbands don’t take a more active role in helping out with the kids. No doubt, this could be because some husbands lack character or because social stereotyping, but I suspect many husbands don’t partake more with children because they have been nagged.

Once again, there is nothing more annoying then someone telling you over and over again that you are doing a task ‘wrong.’  ‘Don’t’ be too rough,’ ‘your using too big of words,’ ‘don’t let him climb a tree, he could get hurt,’ ‘that’s too violent of a show,’ ‘that’s not how you hold her,’ ‘you wrapped her wrong,’ ‘you need to follow a schedule,’ ‘that’s junk food,’ and on and on it goes.  No wonder many husbands just give up. They are made to feel like idiots. They think that to interact with children they have to become a woman.  And for most men, that isn’t going to happen. They’ll just let wife play house and pick up fathering here and there.

But this is counterproductive for all parties involved. Fathers benefit from their interaction with their children, children benefit from a father’s active involvement in their lives, and wives benefit too. This is to say, the family benefits when the father is more active. Did you really need me to tell you that?

More importantly, it’s mostly counterproductive for the children because the differences in how a man parents and how a woman parents are salient for a child’s development. Did you get that? Differences are complementary.

Take for example the differences between how a father and a mother talk to their children. Mothers tend to coo and use small words. Fathers tend to simply talk the way he would talk to his friends. Both types are important for children. They’re complementary.

The mother’s way of talking helps the child grasp the basic phonics of a language, while the father’s illustrates the spoken language mastered. It’s not without reason that children, who spend a lot of time with their fathers, tend to have a higher vocabulary. Just yesterday, my four-year-old said, ‘Daddy, I am parched, can I have some juice.’

But it’s not just speech. The way a dad assists in helping his kids explore, the way he challenges them to do better, the way he pushes the stroller, to the way he roughly holds them all are different from how the mother does it, but equally important to shape the child.

This is not a matter of ‘whose ways are better’ or ‘whose role are more important?’ These types of questions are simply stupid and counterproductive. The reality is, the two different types of parenting are equally good and equally important, but not the same.

One of the best things my wife ever did was to let me experiment with my kids. I love being an active father. I love parenting. But I can tell you right now, I would not love it as much as I do, if my wife insisted that I parent the way she parents. Her style is not my style. And guess what, that’s OK. Our differences complement each other.


Brandon Wall is a Counselor in Cedar Rapids, Iowa:

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