A young intern working on a research project contacted me to ask me a few questions about dads, parenting classes and getting them to engage more with their kids. He told me that his team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was developing intervention programs to support fathers and to find the best ways of engaging them in programs.
He implied there was a belief that men don’t like to take parenting classes and they were trying to find out why. I shared with him that I do occasionally get some dads who contact me for parent coaching or even some who show up at my parenting classes, but mostly it’s the moms who aren’t afraid to seek out help.
One of the questions he asked me was, do I interact differently with women as opposed to men in my coaching sessions. I told him that a large part of my training with parents is to help them understand the emotional intelligence aspect of their child and if their emotional needs aren’t met, there is likely to be less cooperation and more misbehavior. Moms get the emotional intelligence of parenting more easily than dads do. Therefore I have to engage the fathers in other ways.
So he asked me if I use different teaching methods when I have men in the sessions. I told him that we men tend to be more visual learners and therefore, I use more video demonstrations or role play to create common situations they may find at home with their kids.
Next he asked me, “What concerns do fathers tend to bring up in contrast to those brought up by mothers?” My answer to that was that women seem to bring up more questions that involve relationships, feelings, and communication. Men on the other hand seem to ask more questions about day-to-day cooperation, following through with tasks, and examining children’s skills and abilities.
His last question was about why dads seem to be less interested in parenting classes. Based on dads that I’ve spoken to, some men feel that it is a sign of weakness to admit that you need help in parenting and just do the best they can, while others believe that parenting and discipline is more of a woman’s job and just leave it all to them. There is one more group of dads I’ve noticed who have the “I gave at the office” mentality. In other words, they believe they work hard all day long and disciplining the kids should not be one of their responsibilities when they get home.
To women who want to know how to get their husbands on board to help more with the kids, or to get them to join you at parenting classes, here are some quick tips. Communicate what you want from your partner clearly and don’t assume anything. DO NOT criticize him when he makes an attempt to discipline and he fails (instead encourage him), especially in front of the kids. Finally, make the effort to have private conversations with him to get on the ‘same page’ with parenting before handling certain situations with the kids.