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New Poll Shows Top Reasons Fathers Get "Dad Shamed"

It's not only moms who are getting flack these days.

We hear a lot about so-called "mom shaming," meaning criticism about the way a woman parents. But we don't hear much about the similar experiences a father encounters when it comes to his child's upbringing. Now, a new national poll by the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan has shed some light on the ways in which men get "dad shamed."

The survey asked more than 700 fathers who had at least one child who was 13 years old or younger about being shamed for the way they're raising their child. The most common reason fathers reported getting dad shamed had to do with their disciplinary methods (67 percent). One-third of the dads polled said they are told they are too rough with their children. Behind discipline, the rest of the dad shaming was centered on their kid's diet (43 percent), sleep (24 percent), appearance (23 percent), and safety (19 percent).

Surprisingly enough, many of the dads said that the criticism actually had a positive impact on them, with roughly half (49 percent) noting it inspired them to change some aspect of their parenting style. However, the other half (43 percent) said the criticism directed at them was often or always unfair, and 19 percent admitted that it made them want to be less involved with their child's upbringing.

"Even subtle forms of disparagement can undercut fathers' confidence or send the message that they are less important to their child's well-being," poll co-director Sarah Clark said in a press release. "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."

That certainly showed in the data Clark and her team collected. Nearly one quarter (23 percent) of the dads polled felt like they weren't told enough about their child's activities, 12 percent said they've had a medical professional assume they didn't know very much about their kid's health, and another 11 percent said that a teacher has assumed they didn't know very much about their child's needs or how they behave.

But the most common source of the dad shaming is particularly interesting: More than half (52 percent) of the fathers polled said they have been criticized for their parenting styles most often by their spouse (44 percent), followed by their child's grandparents (24 percent), strangers in public places or online (10 percent), their own friends (9 percent), and their child's teacher (5 percent). Given that much of the criticism seemed to stem from spouses, Clarke also noted how important it is for parents to try to work together as a team.

"Fathers who are loving and engaged can have a positive impact on their children's development and well-being," she said. "Family members—especially the other parent—should be willing to acknowledge that different parenting styles are not necessarily incorrect or harmful. 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.'"

And for a personal testimony on the challenges of being the primary caregiver as a father, read I Quit My Job to Be a Stay-at-Home Dad. Here's What It's Like.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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