Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Secret Way To Help Your Husband Be a Better Dad

The other night, I caught my 1-year-old in the bathroom. He'd climbed up on the stepstool, gotten hold of a toothbrush, and was very purposefully wiggling it around in his mouth. As I watched, he pretended to spit and even tapped the toothbrush on the side of the sink a few times before putting it away.

He had no idea why he was doing any of those things, except that he saw us doing it.

Want your husband to be a better dad? There's a way you can make that happen, and no one even has to know you're doing it.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

For the past several months, I've been taking advantage of the enormous capacity of children to mimic everything we say and do  and it's also been helping my husband become a better dad.

Here's the secret formula, and it's really very simple: get excited when he comes home.

Yep, that's it.

Whether or not your family is structured like ours (I stay home full-time with the kids while Phillip works outside the home) you can do this, too.

It started when one day, I noticed that the kids barely greeted Phillip when he came home from work. If he was lucky he'd get a grunt or a nod, but most of them didn't even look up from what they were doing. It bothered me, and after thinking about why that was, I realized it was because I did the same.

It wasn't that I didn't like seeing him.

It was just that he comes home at the busiest time of the entire day: right when I'm trying to supervise homework, cook dinner with a fussy baby on my hip, with someone tugging on my pant leg begging for water and someone else on the phone trying to sell me a newspaper subscription. When Phillip walks in the door, I'm a tad preoccupied.

But after observing the kids, I decided to make an effort to start doing things differently.

When I see Phillip's car coming down the driveway, I put on a voice like I just won $1,000 by being the seventh radio caller and start yelling ecstatically "Daddy's home! Daddy's home! Daddy's home!"

The kids took a few days to follow my lead. And just as I'd expect after seeing the 1-year-old with his toothbrush, he was the first to imitate me.

Now when I start yelling "Daddy's home! Daddy's home!" there is a stampede of little feet. I actually have to hold my 6-year-old back, otherwise she flings open the front door and bolts outside and I'm afraid she'll be hit by the car in her exuberance.

Even the older kids at least look up to say hi, and sometimes get up to give Phillip a hug or tell him about something that's on their minds.

Not only do I love seeing the kids be more enthusiastic about their dad coming home, I imagine that from his perspective it feels pretty good, too. How could it not, when there are at least three small children literally jumping up and down at the door screaming his name like it's 1969 at a Beatles concert?

It's hard to play and engage with people who don't seem to notice you're there, but when the kids are visibly excited that Phillip is home it sets the stage for an evening of positive interactions between everybody.

In other words, it's making it easier for him to be a good dad.

This one simple trick can show your appreciation, give encouragement to your husband, and help him be a better father - and he won’t even know you’re doing it! If you want to start improving your family relationships, try this first. It’s weird how well it works. #familyrelationships #parentchild #love #husband #dad #unremarkablefiles

Since then, I've realized the same principle can be applied in lots of ways. Kids imitate everything, even your attitudes about things, and parents can use that to their spouse's advantage by talking them up when they aren't around.

My kids think their dad is The Most Amazing Cook on the Planet. And even though Phillip is absolutely a very good cook, I think kids are generally oblivious to that kind of thing. The fact that it's even on their radar is most likely because I tell them all the time how lucky they are to have a dad who makes them such delicious food.

This isn't about fooling your kids into thinking their parent is something s/he's not. It's about drawing their attention to the wonderful parent s/he already is.

If you admire your spouse and do it verbally and often to the kids, they will follow your lead and admire your spouse, too.

As I write this, I realize Phillip doesn't know I intentionally whip the kids up into a frenzy of "DADDY DADDY DADDY DADDY!" seconds before he walks in the door, so I guess the lid is blown clear off my secret.

But I suppose I don't really mind. In fact, maybe it's better if it's not a secret. We can both do it, and come to think of it, I wouldn't complain a bit about someone pumping up the kids to see me every time I got back from the grocery store.

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  1. A thousand likes. I've been bragging about my kids to each other their whole lives but I think I've forgotten dear old dad needs some praise too. And I need to be happy my husband is home instead of playing the martyr so he'll take over.

    1. That's the hardest part! I guess I'm going to have to stop saving up my complaints all day long so they don't come flying out the second Phillip walks in the door.

      And you make an excellent point: modeling praise and admiration extends to siblings, too!

  2. I'm going to do this more consistently. When my sisters and were little we always ran to him and made a big deal, helping him take his boots off and all. We continued it to the point my 16 year old sister fell down the stairs and the 18 jumped over her to be the first to hug him. I bet he loved it. My baby is the only one that does it now and I'm going to change that. Thanks for the reminder/example.

  3. I love this! I do this quite a bit, but I never think about how my toddler could be picking up on what I'm doing, so knowing that gives me more motivation to try and keep doing this.

  4. I have had the prompting to do this multiple times over multiple years. And I never manage it! Gaaa! I’m always just so busy..and preoccupied...but honestly, it just takes a moment and I just need to DO it! I consider this post the voice of the Holy Ghost telling me yet again that I need to work on this. Thank you!!

  5. I imagine that feels really good for him! Since we both work, I’m so excited to be home myself, so I naturally act really excited to see him, but I also heard somewhere that being excited to see your husband is good for your marriage also, as well as for him as a parent!