'Dad shaming' is a thing: around half of fathers feel judged for parenting too

'Dad shaming' happens too
'Dad shaming' happens too Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Mums aren't the only ones feeling judged - over 50 per cent of fathers experience "daddy-shaming" too, according to a new survey. 

The findings come from the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at the University of Michigan, which analysed responses from 713 fathers of kids aged 0-13.

And all that criticism is having an impact.

Over a quarter of fathers admitted that it made them feel less confident as a parent while one in five said it discourages them from being more involved in parenting.

"Fathers who are loving and engaged can have a positive impact on their children's development and well-being," says poll co-director Sarah Clark. "While some fathers say criticism prompts them to seek more information about good parenting practices, too much disparagement may cause dads to feel demoralised about their parental role."

Ms Clark says family members, especially the other parent, should be willing to acknowledge that just because you might have different parenting styles, it doesn't mean that they're incorrect or harmful.

Dads said they were most often criticised for the way they disciplined their children.

"Addressing a child's misbehaviour is one of the greatest challenges of parenting and parents aren't always on the same page when it comes to expectations and consequences," Ms Clark says. "Inconsistency between parents in responding to a child's behaviour can send mixed messages to the child, and result in conflict and criticism between parents."

After discipline, dads felt most under the microscope when it came to diet and nutrition, followed by not paying their kids enough attention and playing "too rough". Dads also reported criticism related to their child's sleep (24 per cent), appearance (23 per cent), and safety concerns (19 per cent).

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What's sobering, however, is that criticism most often comes from the other parent - a whopping 44 per cent of the time.

But why?

"In some instances, this may be a reflection of historical gender roles, where mothers are viewed as more natural caregivers, and fathers as having limited parenting capabilities that need supervision or correction," Ms Clark says. "When this occurs, minor differences in parenting style can cause conflict over the 'best' way to parent."

Grandparents were also dad-shamers, followed by a fathers' own friends.

But professionals were also guilty. For 11 per cent of dads, it was a teacher who assumed they weren't across their child's needs or behaviour, while 12 per cent experienced it at the hands of a doctor or nurse.

"Some fathers say they feel that professionals who interact with their child are dismissive of their parental role," Ms Clark says, adding that even subtle forms of disparagement "can undercut fathers' confidence or send the message that they are less important to their child's well-being."

As such, she notes, "Professionals who work with children should avoid negative assumptions about fathers' level of involvement or interest in parenting."

And family members need to watch what they say, too.

 "Family members should also be mindful of comments or critiques that may make dads feel like they don't know how to parent the 'right' way."

The findings come as recently published research into "maternal gatekeeping" highlighted that a first-time dad tended to feel closer to their partner both as a co-parent and as a romantic partner when he believed she had confidence in his parenting abilities.

"If mothers are critical and less supportive of their partners' parenting, it could have ramifications for the whole family dynamic," said co-author Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan at the time. "Fathers may not only do less child care, they may have more negative views on their relationship with their wife or partner."