Dad's POV: Micromanaging Mommies

A stay-at-home dad details a main difference he's noticed between the parenting styles of moms and dads.

It's an exciting week here at MK's MomSpeak blog. On Saturday evening, MomSpeak once again was honored with the Parenting Media Association's Gold Medal Award for best parenting blog, its third podium win in three years. And today, we welcome the first dad blogger to our ranks: Chris Bernholdt of DadNCharge. In his debut, Chris details a crucial difference he's noticed between the parenting styles of moms and dads. It's a POV worth taking to heart.

I'm sitting in the waiting room of my dentist's office with my 3-year-old daughter. A dad is there with his three sons, knocking out their checkups in one fell swoop. The younger son is exploring the basket of toys left out by the dentist. To my left is a boy playing on a phone, totally oblivious to everything around him. An angsty teenager enters the room and plops down next to the technology whiz. The dad picks up the younger one and wants to say goodbye. He has to head off to work and hoists him up onto the bench so he can give his dad a proper bear hug.

All is right with the world . . . that is, until the mom walks into the room.

"Get down from there!" she yells at the younger boy. "What is wrong with you?" In the instant she made her way through the door, the temperature in the room has dropped a degree or two. The dad instantly said, "It's not his fault; I put him up there to give him a hug"

The mom shrugged it off and moved onto her next target, the slouching teen who had just been put through the paces in the chair, visibly wiped out from the morning's cleaning and exam.

"What's your story?" she said brusquely. While he mumbled something to her, the younger one found the toy bin again and was touching all the buttons on one of those annoying sound-byte books.  "Will you CUT THAT OUT, Jimmy?" You can't touch the buttons if you aren't going to read the book.

As she turned to cut down young Jimmy for his exploration of the buttons, she knocked the lamp beside her so that it tottered and started to fall. "Mom," the teen said, "the lamp, you almost knocked it over," he said with urgency. "I DID NOT knock it over" was her response. "Jeez, I was just trying to help," and again Jimmy turned back to touching those buttons again.

I looked at my daughter, who at 3 was sitting happily next to me looking at a book, her legs swinging low at the bench, her wisps of curly hair hanging just below her cheek. She looked up at me with her dazzling blue eyes and smiled. I tried to focus on that smile and ignore the fussing and constant micromanaging of this mom.

We all know parents like this who are constantly on their kids for this or that. I understand that everyone has bad days, but I wonder if the way we talk to our kids and handle situations are different for moms and dads. I don't know her story or what happened to her that morning. She could have had some bad news or missed her morning coffee, but I wondered why everything seemed to change when she took over.

As the primary caregiver, I understand the desire to want to tear your hair out when the kids frustrate you, though in my case I don't have that outlet. But this mom seemed to be setting herself up for failure. Why the constant need to critique every action? The boys certainly weren't bothering me or my daughter and it wasn't until her constantly judgmental voice repeated itself before I found it grating.

I couldn't wait to get out of there, to be honest. The way she picked on her kids reminded me of a bully, and I felt sorry for them. Everything from her tone to her icy stare made me re-read the same magazine page five times over. I was afraid to turn the page, thinking it might have a butterfly effect on her mood.

I see it all the time at the playground in the way that dads let their kids play. The moms hover over their every move and most dads react only when someone is in trouble or needs help. At the mall in the play area, the moms are constantly talking to the kids to not do this or that while the dads just sit back and observe. Limitations on our child's behavior is fine, but what is the constant nagging going to accomplish?

Kids are going to push our buttons and we might fly off the handle. We aren't perfect; no one is. So why is there a need to constantly micromanage a child's behavior? Stifling exploration is only going to lead them to believe that they can't do anything by themselves. Micromanaging is only planting the seed of doubt in their abilities to be independent thinkers. Give your children the freedom to explore and figure things out themselves or you will hurt them in the long run.

Chris Bernholdt is a local stay-at-home dad of three and founder of the Philly Dads Group. This post is adapted from his blog DadNCharge.

Categories: MomSpeak