Fifty-two percent of fathers have received criticism or doubts regarding their parenting style, according to a new report from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.
According to the report, the most common reasons for criticism are the way they discipline their kids, what they feed their kids, and playing too rough with their kids. Co-parents are the most common critics of fathers’ parenting skills, followed by grandparents and the father’s own friends.
Sarah Clark, head researcher for the poll, says criticism from a co-parent can be the most detrimental to a father’s confidence.
“When the child’s other parent was the source of the criticism, the father was more likely to say … the criticism made him feel like he should be less involved in parenting,” Clark said. “We need to be really careful within that family unit, that unnecessary criticism doesn’t backfire and make dads feel like they want to back away.”
The poll surveyed 713 fathers across the nation with at least one child aged 0-13.
One in 10 dads also report feeling that professionals who work with their kids, like teachers or health care providers, assumed that they were not knowledgeable about their children’s lives. Twenty-five percent of dads felt excluded from communication about their child’s activities. While not as immediately apparent as explicit criticism, these subtler behaviors can still undercut a father’s confidence and make him feel as though he’s not important in his child’s life.
In response to the criticism they received, 49 percent said that they made a change in their parenting behavior as a response, and 40 percent said they sought more information or advice. Clark says this kind of behavior shows that many fathers are open to dialogue about their parenting behaviors.
“The idea is [to] identify which parenting behaviors really are serious enough that they require some conversation or some behavior change, and talk about why that important for the baby,” she said. “Maybe call in an expert source: the pediatrician said this, or here’s the baby book that says this. She warns that not all behaviors are seriously damaging, and can simply be results of different styles of parenting: “Just respect that different parents have different styles for engaging with their kids.”
Mott released a similar study in 2017 looking at mothers who experience criticism. Criticized mothers and fathers share the same two most common criticisms (discipline and diet) and the two most common critics (co-parents and grandparents).