Today’s Dads Feel Put-down

When asked, half of fathers report being criticized about their parenting.

Posted Jun 13, 2019

Have You Ever Been Criticized For How You Parent?

Are you a father? Have you ever been criticized for the way you parent your children? If the answer is yes you are not alone. A recent nationally representative survey commissioned by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital found that 52% of fathers say they've been criticized about how they parent.

The poll was administered in February 2019 to a random stratified group of 2,032 parents ages 18 and older. 60% of the panel members completed the survey and the report was based on responses from 713 fathers with at least one child zero to 13 years old. The margin of error was plus two to six percentage points.

Most Common Source of Criticism

  • 44% - the child’s other parent.
  • 24% - child’s grandparents.
  • 10% - strangers in public places or online.
  • 9% - father’s own friends.
  • 5% - teachers, health care professions, etc.
/C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, 2019
Source: /C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, 2019

Most Common Complaints

  • 67% - how they discipline.
  • 43% - what they feed there child.
  • 32% - being too rough.
  • 32% - not paying attention.
  • 24% - decisions about their child’s sleep.
  • 23% - a child’s appearance.
  • 19% - a child’s safety.

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Father’s Response to Criticism

  • 49% - make a positive change in their parenting.
  • 43% - feel the criticism is often or always unfair.
  • 40% - seek out information or advice on the topic of criticism.
  • 28% - feel less confident as a parent.
  • 23% - felt they were excluded from communication about their child’s activities.
  • 19% - want to be less involved in parenting.
  • 12% - felt the doctor or nurse assumed they were not knowledgeable about their child’s health.
  • 11% - felt that a teacher assumed they were not knowledgeable about their child’s needs or behavior.

How Do Fathers Think They Are Doing?

  • 90% of fathers feel that most fathers do a good job taking care of their kids.

The Take-Away

First, today's fathers want to be involved with their children and when they are engaged in a loving, caring way they have a positive impact on their children's growth and development.

Second, parents often disagree on how to parent their children. The disagreement most often comes from not agreeing on how to discipline children for misbehavior.

Third, parents who do not agree on a consistent framework for discipline send mixed messages to their children and it often ends in a conflict between the parents.

Fourth, most fathers respond to criticism by making a change in their parenting choices and or seeking new advice on the topic of criticism. This is really good news. It means that these fathers are open to learn and grow in their parenting skills!

Fifth, a little more than one-quarter of fathers felt less confident as a parent when they were criticized for their parenting. As a result, these fathers disengage and become less involved with their children.

"In short, too much disparagement can cause fathers to be demoralized about their parental role."

When giving feedback I recommend this formula:

Instead of _________. Consider trying _________. Because _________.

For example:

Instead of horseplay with Sean before bedtime consider following our bedtime ritual and reading a few of his favorite books because this will calm him down and get him ready for bed.

Sixth, professionals like teachers, doctors, health care providers, and family life educators who interact with fathers should not be dismissive of fathers or make automatic assumptions about their parenting skills.

Do all things with Love, Grace, and Gratitude

© 2019 David J. Bredehoft


Clark SJ, Schultz SL, Singer DC, Gebremariam A, Freed GL. Parenting put-downs: How criticism impacts fathers. C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, University of Michigan. Vol 34, Issue 3, June 2019. Available at: