So, you’re walking through the door after a long day at work and you find the house is a mess, the kids are hungry and running wild, and your husband is cheerfully ignoring it all. You want to throw the game console or computer or whatever it is that distracts him from your children out the window; you know that it’s vitally important that a father spend more time with his kids—not to mention that you could use some help! How do you encourage your significant other to start pulling his own weight at home with the kids, for the benefit of all, without seeming like a complete nag?Step 1: Be Positive
When your husband spends time with the kids, be supportive: encourage, praise, and actively notice him, so he knows he’s doing something you find awesome. Being supportive of what he does will motivate and encourage him to keep spending time with the kids, and with helping out around the house.
Step 2: Let Him do it His Way
Don’t micro-manage how he parents. Even if you might not let the kids have cereal for a snack or get excruciatingly dirty by playing in the mud, he’s the dad, and when he’s parenting, it’s all right. He will be more comfortable taking certain roles as a parent, and if you’re always lording the mom crown over him, he will frequently just step back altogether. Don’t be overly critical. So what if Junior’s hair is a bit of a mess or Sally’s wearing mismatched socks? The point is that he’s trying. If you go into high maintenance mode, he will back off and not want to help out at all.
Step 3: Be Specific when You Need Specifics
Men hate vague requests. You know that: you ask him to take out the trash, he’ll wait until next week, not realizing that you meant now. If you need help in a specific way, give specific instructions. If you need to leave and he needs to feed the baby while you’re gone, tell him “I’m going out, can you please feed Junior? There is a jar of applesauce in the refrigerator, but warm it for 30 seconds or so, since he hates it cold. And afterwards, he can have an arrowroot biscuit.” This gives him clear, concise instructions so he can do what is asked of him comfortably. But also remember—don’t treat him like a moron. No, don’t say, “Change the baby’s diaper. You know what a diaper is, right?”
Step 4: Create Opportunities for Bonding
You need time to yourself, for mental health reasons if nothing else; he needs more one-on-one time with the kids when you aren’t around. You know that when you are around he will often mentally “check out” on parenting, ignoring things that he might not ignore when you’re not there. So, schedule times when you’re absent, where he has the time to spend with the kids, and you get your “me time.” Feeling ambitious? Make one day a week “Daddy Day,” where Dad is in charge from the time the kids get up to the time they go to bed. Even when you’re there, he is in charge. This might feel unnatural at first, but he will adapt quickly, and he will eventually treasure those times with the kids—and he will appreciate you all the more, having had a sample of what you deal with on a daily basis.