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Getting Dad to help out with dinner — Good Parenting

Welcome to Good Parenting, our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Headshot2011Getting Dad to help out with dinner — Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

I have a gripe. My husband hardly lifts a finger at dinner time. When he was growing up, father and son were expected to take the trash out, that’s about it. His mother took total responsibility for shopping, cooking, serving, and cleaning up. So I understand that he wasn’t trained to do so. Our children, on the other hand, get asked to help, which they will do if I’m persistent. But I think he sets a bad example. Especially for our son – who is more inclined than the girls to try to avoid dinnertime duties. I hate to think of this trait persisting into the next generation.

All Hands on Deck

Don’t miss last weeks column (No) Bullies in Brownies — Good Parenting

Dear AHoD,

You are quite astute in your observation that behaviors modeled by parents, especially those of the same gender, become the habits of the children. Have you talked with your husband about this? Statistically speaking, the traditional role of wife as homemaker is passé. Modern couples divvy up housework and child care, as they balance career aspirations with the practical needs of the family. Rather than rigidly following a “mothers should” and “fathers should” script, the one mostly likely to bring in the most bread may take on more income earning responsibility, leaving the other to fill in with domestic duties. If family trends continue in this direction, your son should have a better command of the kitchen than his grandfather needed to.

By the same token, car maintenance, yard work, and handyman (handywoman?) tasks should be taught to daughters as well as sons, with some intentional modelling by mom.

One needn’t stick to out-of-date models from childhoods past. Dividing the “work” of dinner can actually make it more fun for everyone. Parent-child partners can take on aspects of the meal, such as shopping, cooking, or washing up, and forge wonderful memories in the process. Children can learn cooking skills, be creative with table setting, have some one-on-one with dad, and even have more time with mom than when she declares “Stay out of my kitchen!” to manage a solo act for two hours each evening. See if your partner is willing to help his children leave “boys should” and “girls should” in the past.

Your children – and their future families – will benefit from an expectation that everyone in the family can contribute to the process.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com

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