Dad Shaming is a Thing: More Than Half of Fathers Say They Face Criticism of Their Parenting

Moms aren't the only ones being criticized for the way they parent. A new poll finds majority of dads are in the same boat—and often the child's other parent is the reason.

Dad and Son Before School
Photo: Sharomka/Shutterstock

June 14, 2019

Mom-shaming has been well documented. From the moms who are ridiculed for feeding their babies formula instead of breast milk to the ones who are reprimanded by total strangers for their child’s behavior in public, shaming is a harsh reality that seems to happen far too often. But a new poll finds moms aren’t the only ones dealing with shaming when it comes to their parenting.

As Father’s Day creeps up, the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health asked dads across the country with kids up to 13 years old “about their perceptions of being criticized about their parenting style.” Turns out, 52 percent of dads said they’ve been criticized for the way they parent. Whoa!

And the majority of criticism isn’t only coming from outside sources: 44 percent is from their child’s other parent. It makes sense, says study author Sarah Clark, because opportunity for criticism rises when you’re around someone on a regular basis. But it can affect dads on a greater level because “it undercuts the concept of the parents as a team that is working together,” Clark tells The data backs it up: over a quarter of dads in the poll said the “criticism made them feel less confident” while 1 in 5 said it made them want to be “less involved as parent.”

Other criticism comes from the child’s grandparents, the father’s friends, strangers (in public and online), and professionals who interact with kids like teachers and doctors. The latter could be "related to historical gender roles, where mothers were assumed to be the caretakers and fathers were assumed to be the breadwinners," says Clark, an associate research specialist at the University of Michigan. The top two areas of criticism were for the way dads discipline their kids followed by what they feed their little ones.

Dads are also criticized for being too rough with their child and not paying enough attention to them. That's a big difference between dads and moms, as evidenced by a 2017 Mott poll focused on mom-shaming. “These areas reflect stylistic differences between mothers and fathers, which has been shown in other research. But different isn’t necessarily bad or wrong. Rather, children benefit from their experience with different parenting styles and interactions,” says Clark.

Still the two studies also had similarities. The majority of moms were also criticized for their parenting (61 percent), and the child’s other parent accounted for a pretty large percentage (36 percent). Discipline and diet were also the top reasons moms were judged.

Good news is many dads respond positively to criticism, something Clark found pleasantly surprising about the results. “Such a large proportion of fathers said they had either looked for information or changed their behavior in response to criticism. That’s very positive,” she says. “Clearly, there are ways of criticizing fathers that allows them to understand the impact on their child’s health and well-being without becoming defensive or withdrawing.”

Also, 90 percent of dads believe “most fathers do a good job taking care of their kids.” So keep up the good work, Dads!

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