Q: My husband is more than willing to play with the kids. But when it comes to the practical side of parenting -- dinner, diapers, bath times -- I don't think he pulls his weight. What's a woman to do?
Jim: I've heard this complaint from many wives. Men and women often have different understandings about parenting. You may feel it's natural that tasks be shared equally. But for your husband ... well, it might not be so obvious.
It could be he wasn't expected to help around the house when he was younger. Or maybe his parents had clearly defined roles that now guide his thinking.
Whatever the reason, communication between a husband and wife in these situations is key. So start by sharing your concerns and see if, together, you can agree on ways to split household duties to your mutual satisfaction.
If dialogue doesn't do the trick, counselors often suggest you set appropriate boundaries to motivate his involvement. For example, let him know he'll likely have to fix his own dinner since you'll be busy with other things, like feeding and bathing the kids or cleaning the house and grocery shopping. The idea isn't to punish your husband, but to help him understand the realities of the workload around the house. If he's into sports, you might try using team-based descriptions to illustrate how different players may change assignments based on the game situation and play design.
Fortunately, most guys will get the picture and step up. But if this is still a source of tension in your marriage, I invite you to call our staff counselors at 1-855-771-HELP (4357). Or visit FocusOnTheFamily.com for more information.
Q: We have a 4-year-old daughter who is a very picky eater. Every meal seems to turn into a fight. Can you offer some practical ideas for easing this conflict?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: The first thing I'd suggest is this: Don't panic over a finicky child who wants the same food for every meal. I know one family whose two young boys asked for corn dogs and pizza, no matter what was served. The parents didn't give in to those requests, but also didn't leave their sons at the table for hours until they finished their spinach.
When kids are hungry, they eat. As a parent, you get to make the initial choice of what foods are going to be available in the home and shop accordingly. But in that context, try involving your daughter in choosing and making the meals. When children participate in this way, in many cases they inevitably taste a variety of foods and get accustomed to a range of options. They also feel some ownership of the food.
You can be creative and play "gas station" with your 4-year-old at meal times. Explain that filling up our bodies is a lot like driving and riding in cars. You can't skip the gas station; and if you put the wrong fuel in, or none at all, the car/body won't work right. The ideas are endless. As your child gets older, help her identify and distinguish "fuel" foods from "pleasure" foods.
Of course, through the years I have also worked with several children who had sensory issues. This presents a different challenge. If you try various creative ideas to get your child to eat and nothing seems to work, she may need to be evaluated by an occupational therapist. An assessment can help determine if there are any sensory processing issues that create a reaction to certain textures or tastes when it comes to food.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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