Do Peacekeeping Dads Support Mediocrity?

The Healthy Family Connections Podcast

Episode 085 · Duration: 00:16:09

Do Peace Keeping Dads Support Mediocrity?

Why are so many dads peacekeepers, and why don’t they support high standards?  We’ll talk about this and more on this week’s podcast. Do peacekeeping dads support mediocrity?

It’s sponsored by Neil D Brown, LCSW and I’m your host, Neil D Brown and I’m here to help you get that enjoyable family you work for every day.

And if you have a question you’d like me to address on this podcast, don’t be shy, we’ll all benefit from your question. Click here to submit your question. And while you’re there, download a free copy of my Parental Burnout Recovery Guide.  And please remember this is an educational podcast - not a substitute for therapy when you need it. 

Before we dive into today’s question, I have a happy announcement to make. The audio version of my book: Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle is now available on Amazon and on Audible, and with a 30 day free trial on Audible, it’s free and free is my favorite price.  A lot of folks much prefer listening to books while they walk, drive or do mundane tasks so this is a great opportunity to learn my model for helping families end Control Battles.

Today we’re answering a question from Sharon, in response to the early podcast, My Husband Undermines my Parenting, Sharon asks:

What is it about the fathers in these situations that allow the child to slide when it comes to showing responsibility? Is it because the fathers are more “peacekeepers”, while moms are more “peacemakers”?

To be merely keeping the peace you settle for the status quo… and mediocrity is acceptable. But, making peace happen, you push for change for the better.  And, that requires effort and just plain, old hard work.

Is that it?  Is it as simple as that?

Thanks for your question, Sharon.  It’s an important one because polarized parents are a common and unhealthy family dynamic, and yes, there are some common father/mother patterns I see but as we talk about it, let’s keep in mind that these are generalizations and there are situations where the genders are reversed or in same-sex parent homes there can be a good guy peacekeeper and a frustrated taskmaster and gender isn’t relevant. 

But you ask the question about fathers and why it is so common for dads to be peacekeepers that support mediocrity while moms push for change and want to achieve peace through accomplishment and that requires parents to teach a strong work ethic.

Since I’m a father and have my own bad instincts, I know about this up close and personal.

For the most part, there is a common tendency for mothers to be the primary parenting leaders and keepers of the home responsibilities and home upkeep processes.  I have friends and clients where this isn’t true, where dad is the primary parent and homemaker and friends and clients where responsibilities are comfortably shared.  But for the most part, mom’s take on these roles while dads take on adjunctive roles.  This is true even with couples who prior to having children, thought parenting and homemaking would be shared equally. But once children enter the picture, their behavior reverts to a more traditional model.

So one reason dads become peacekeepers is because they aren’t focused on the day to day responsibilities in the home and teaching responsibilities to the kids.  They figure, this is getting done by mom.

Sometimes their tendency to not to push for high standards is supported by dad seeing that mom and the kids are struggling and mom is no longer at her best.

If dad becomes judgmental of mom rather than empathetic of her, he can think “I’ll be the happy positive parent” to offset his belief that Mom is being the “mean negative parent”; obviously, not a good thing, yet quite common. And to make things even worse, the next thing in this scenario is that mo, of course, feels undermined and gets upset towards dad which reinforces his belief that mom is negative and mean.  See what’s going on here; do you see how these negative patterns develop?

Then there is the challenge of dad not knowing the home routine and even when he wants to participate and support his wife, he doesn’t know how and may make mistakes, and mom might not tell him because she resents that he doesn’t know, and not appreciate what he does do, then he feels set up and she feels let down.  Then there are situations where dad does get active in doing chores only to have mom redirect him and dad resenting the redirection because he doesn’t like to be bossed around.

Then in the case of Dad being the primary income earner, with the job that keeps him away, there is the problem of dad and the kids missing each other and dad wanting to make a good connection with the kids and so engages with fun rather than with limits. 

In general, and boy am I stepping into generalities today, girls mature more quickly than boys, and woman mature more quickly than men, who do have the tendency to want to stay boys.  When this is the case, these dads can over identify with their children and teens and have the attitude of “I slacked off and screwed around and I turned out fine, so with child and teen irresponsible behavior, no worries.”  Needless to say, moms married to these dads experience dad as another kid to manage.

So Sharon, I hope I’m answering your question about why it is so common for dads to be the peacekeeper at the expense of supporting their partner and challenging and supporting their kids in meeting high standards.

How Can Parents Do Better Despite Polarizing Roles?

So what’s to be done about all this?  Can dads do better, and can moms and dads do better together?

Hell yea, they can and they need to.  Here’s how.

Approach marriage and child-rearing with a growth mindset.Click To Tweet  Approach marriage and child-rearing with a growth mindset. We are starting out on a journey that is guaranteed to have lots of ups and downs and challenges that we can have no way of knowing in advance, and we are going to make a lot of mistakes, and have a lot to learn about.  A lot to learn about ourselves, each other, our children, about life.  So let’s enter this with humility, a sense of humor, a belief in ourselves, and each other, and in the process of learning and growing. 

I think there are commonly 3 main learning and growing points in a person’s life.  1)  One’s first real job, where expectations and demands are challenging, clear, and not coming from parents or teachers. 2) Marriage.  and 3) becoming a parent.  In each of these situations, we have the opportunity and the mandate to stretch our capacity and we learn yet again, that it’s not all about us. 

So accept the challenge with a healthy attitude. If as parents, you find yourselves polarized and unhappy with each other, realize that you are in a negative cycle or Control Battle, and most likely your kids are caught up in it as well.  Your challenge here is to change the pattern.

If as parents, you find yourselves polarized and unhappy with each other, realize that you are in a negative cycle or Control Battle, and most likely your kids are caught up in it as well. Your challenge here is to change the pattern.Click To Tweet 

My Message to Dads

Dad, quit saving face, don’t waste your time and energy protecting your ego, and quit worrying about being right.  Change the pattern and partner with your wife.  You want the same things, you just have different ways of getting there.  You both want well-raised confident kids who are well prepared for adulthood. 

If she’s upset with you, don’t allow yourself to become defensive or avoidant.  Listen, hear her concerns, appreciate and respect her thoughtful hard work, and find out what you need to do to support her.

There’s plenty of time to play with the kids when their work is done.  You can support responsible behavior by being clear and still bring warmth, encouragement, positivity, and humor.  If your wife is approaching things negatively, it’s because she is frustrated and maybe even burned out.  By bringing fresh positive energy to the situation, and helping your wife get the kids to the finish line that your wife responsibly established, you’ll be a real HERO.

Rules of thumb, no negative judgment of your wife, only support.  Forget protecting your ego.  That’s a relic from your childhood operating system, or your OS1, and I won’t go into a long explanation of that, but you can listen to an earlier podcast titled How to Transition From Surviving To Thriving or Am I Programmed for Parental Burnout? Both of those podcasts will explain my use of the metaphor and how it can help you with the process of change and personal growth I’m talking about. 

My Message to Moms

Here’s my message to moms struggling with partners who polarize, make you the designated bad-guy, and undermine your efforts to teach high standards to your kids.

Think change the pattern.  Even though you may be shouldering the load of teaching the kids responsible high-quality behavior, don’t allow yourself to sink into righteous indignation.  That only supports the pattern and it’s no doubt a relic from your childhood, your OS1.  Your partner wants responsible healthy, happy, kids, just as you do. 

Communicate clearly and positively with your partner about what you want.  Be sure to appreciate what he does with and without the kids.  If he’s being happy good-time dad, appreciate his positive energy and let him know exactly where and why you need him to bring that energy.  If he actively disagrees with your standards and expectations of the kids, let him know you are open to discussing it, but for right now, you need his support. If you are burned-out trying to get kids to manage responsibilities and your partner isn’t supporting your efforts and goals the way you need them to, take a break.  No one is going to die and step one is for you to take care of yourself, get some self-time away from parenting and family life. When you come back to it with some fresh energy, bring optimism and positivity with you and don’t let anyone else’s negativity or criticism, bring you down.  That way you will break the pattern, end the Control Battle and promote personal and family growth.

So Sharon, you might be right about the common pattern and the differences between moms and dads, but it doesn’t stop there because it’s all about parents, kids, and families growing, changing, avoiding or ending control battles, and making ourselves better.

Thanks for tuning in today everyone and special thanks to you Sharon for your question.  Don’t forget, if you prefer to listen to books rather than read them, Ending the Parent Teen Control Battle, is now available in Audio form.

And please, take care of yourselves; you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it. Bye for now.

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