If you are in the thick of new parenting, or even a few years in, you know how hard it can be to push for greatness when you are tired or stressed. As a family, you are figuring out what it means to be yourselves while also having these big, burgeoning personalities of your kids beginning to take up space in your home and in your minds.
Maybe you've noticed a slightly tired attitude toward parenting from your partner lately; it could be anything from a big project at work to total fatigue at the afterschool pick-up line, but everyone gets burnt out sometimes. Here are some of the no-fail ways to inspire your partner to be a great Dad.
Split Up For Special Bonding Time With Kids
Sometimes, the prospect of hanging out with multiple kids, possibly multiple high-volume kids can be really draining! Figure out a way to split the crowd for special Dad-daughter and Mom-son (or whatever combination!) days. Go do things that particular kid really likes; your partner will get to see how much fun it can be to follow a child's intuition into more fun activities and you won't have to deal with sibling rivalry for a few hours. Another benefit is that your partner gets some time to parent without you around; often, feeling observed in one's parenting can be a little claustrophobic for us all, and this let's him develop his Dad style in an uninhibited way (even if you would never dream of judging him).
Check In With Him About What's Up
Sometimes, a lack of interest in parenting duties can be a sign that your partner really has something he needs to talk about. If possible, try to make time after the kids are in bed to just let him talk: whether he's bummed about a hurtful thing your child said, or just stressed about the upcoming home repairs and the family budget, talking to him allows him to release some of his burdens, making it easier for him to put on his game face for hangout time with the kids.
Create a Rhythm So You Both Feel More Rested
Sometimes, a crunch time in the day is the source of one's parenting frustration: for instance, if everyone is coming home from work and school in rapid succession, the ensuing chaos can make life hard for everyone involved. See if your partner would really appreciate, say, a 5-minute break when he first gets home from work to decompress after fighting traffic; or, see if he'd prefer to do morning drop off instead of school pick-up due to his greater patience and calm in the mornings. Your needs also matter here, but if you talk it out, you can often find a compromise that actually plays to both of your strengths and preferences.
Lead By Example: Imaginative Play With Kids
If it seems like your partner hasn't fully engaged with the kids, demonstrate it! Don't assume that he'll instantly know how to spend time with little kids at every stage of life. When he's around, initiate a board game, a make-believe game, or any other idea you can imagine with the child. When he sees the glee in your child's eyes, he's going to start to figure out what his role in the world of play can be.
Write A List of All That Makes Him a Great Dad
Everyone loves to be built up sometimes, and nowhere is that more true than in the trenches when you are a parent experiencing a lot of exhaustion. When you think of things, add to a list of all the ways your partner makes parenting easier and more fun for you and makes life for your kids better. When the list is nice and long (or when Dad just really needs a pick-me-up), show it to him. Who knows? He might start keeping a list about you as well.
Be Patient and Communicative Throughout
Above all, assuming that your partner will do things on your time scale or without you communicating is a recipe for frustration. Recognize that patience is a virtue, and giving your partner space to work out his own parenting style will be worth it when he feels confident and self-assured. Similarly, if something he does in the parenting part of your lives is making you crazy, find a way to communicate about it clearly and fairly. It is very hard to change behaviors without any kind of explanation, both for you and for your partner, and when you open up, he may also share and trust you more.
No matter what tactic you try, you'll likely remind your partner just how valued he is, by you and by your kids. This will, in turn, fuel him in his pursuit of being a great partner and parent, making the job for you both more fulfilling and doable.