I was once in an elevator with my two-year-old son and a woman castigated me for pushing the button instead of allowing my son to do it. “I bet he would’ve liked to push the button,” she sneered as if I’d denied my son his only true pleasure in life.
On another occasion, a single dad told me my kids’ bedroom was too far from mine. “They need to be right next to you,” he said. “What will you do if something happens?” I guess I’ll walk the extra three feet, I shrugged.
That type of criticism is what is appropriately called “dad shaming,” and a study conducted by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan reveals just how prevalent it is. The national poll asked fathers of children ages 0-13 if they’ve ever been criticized for their parenting style or choices.
Fifty-two percent said yes.
“Two years ago, we did a study on criticism of mothers, and the results showed there was a lot of criticism,” study author Sarah Clark told TODAY Parents. “Since that time, I’ve been interested in examining whether a similar situation exists with fathers.”
The study showed fathers are mostly criticized by the child’s other parent or by the child’s grandparents. But ten percent said they’ve been chastised by strangers in public or online. That’s a lot of people butting into a dude’s business.
So, what are all these dads getting blasted about? Among the fathers who said they’ve been criticized,
I asked my buddy Paul if he’s ever been dad shamed. “You mean getting unsolicited parenting advice?” he replied, immediately getting worked up. “Being criticized for children’s clothing choices? Getting comments about letting my child use a tablet?”
I guess the answer is yes.
“Even subtle forms of disparagement can undercut fathers’ confidence or send the message they’re less important to their child’s well-being,” Clark said. “While some fathers say criticism prompts them to seek more information about good parenting practices, too much disparagement may cause dads to feel demoralized about their parental role.”
The poll shows while many dads respond to criticism in a positive way, twenty-eight percent said the criticism makes them feel less confident as a parent. Perhaps most troubling is that many of the dads
“This is unfortunate for both father and child,” said the study’s authors in a report. “And those tempted to criticize fathers should be wary of this potential consequence.”