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Dad shaming is a real thing — and it happens to more men than you might think

Guess who puts dads down the most?
Father brushing toddler daughter's hair in bathroom
"Why are you letting her sit on the edge of the tub like that? Or watch that tablet?!"Getty Images stock
/ Source: TODAY

Father may have known best in the past, but these days not even the coolest dads are immune to criticism. Much like the mom shaming phenomenon, in which women are judged by others for their parenting choices, men also experience dad shaming, according to poll results released just in time for Father's Day.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health asked dads with children 0-13 years old about their perceptions of being criticized for their parenting styles. The results showed that 52 percent of fathers felt criticized over their parenting choices. The most common source of criticism? The other parent of the child.

"Two years ago, we did a study on criticisms of mothers, and the results showed that there was a lot of criticism!" study author Sarah Clark told TODAY Parents. "Since that time, I’ve been interested in examining whether a similar situation exists with fathers."

Clark, who is co-director of the Mott national poll and a faculty researcher at the University of Michigan, found one statistic in particular rather disturbing.

"A substantial number of fathers said that criticism has made them want to be less involved in parenting," she said. "I expected those feelings to be associated with the father’s age, race or income, but we did not find any of those differences. Instead, the strongest link was the source of the criticism."

Clark explained that when criticism comes from a child's other parent, a dad tends to feel a greater loss of confidence than he would if the criticism came from a grandparent, friend, stranger or professional who works with the child.

So while you may cringe at the way your partner makes ponytails or helps with homework, before you put down his efforts, consider the fact that doing so could make him want to be less involved with the kids.

The poll also revealed that methods of disciplining a child were the biggest source of criticism for dads, with 67 percent getting called out for their styels of discipline. This may have to do with differing opinions between men and women on how to deal with a child's misbehavior.

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Still, many dads responded to criticism in a positive way — 49 percent made changes to their parenting as a result of getting feedback, while 40 percent sought advice from others on the topic in question.

"It was encouraging that nearly half of the fathers in this poll said they had made a change in their parenting behavior and/or looked for more information in response to criticism," Clark said. "This suggests that there are situations involving possible health or safety issues that may warrant a change, and that there are ways to engage fathers in a positive way to promote those changes."

So even though dad may let the kids climb way-too-high trees, dress them in mismatched clothing or feed them pizza for every meal, it may be advisable to hold your tongue.

"Before criticizing, consider the issue," Clark advised. "If the child’s health or safety is at stake, find a way to help that father learn more about why a change is needed. Absent a health or safety issue, try to remember that different is not necessarily wrong, and that children benefit from engaged and involved fathers."

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