Ask Mr. Nurshable: What is the Best Way to Approach a Dad About Pitching In?

Allie asked: As a gentle dad, what are the ways you feel best to approach a dad who is wonderful and loving daddy but not proactive in helping or stepping in when needed. If asked and precisely spelled out, this daddy will gladly help and do bedtime, change a diaper or whatever is needed but otherwise he sinks into the background and sometimes just sits there watching the scene. I feel like I nag when I’m constantly asking “Can you get up and help with xxx” and I feel frustrated that I have to do this regularly. This daddy also had a father who was not involved in child raising and to this day his father does not cook, clean, or lift a finger around the house so he didn’t have a positive example in this area and I would like to learn how to solicit help in a gentle non nagging way. And we both work – but he more hours than me.

Hi Allie!

Sometimes people raised in a certain environment do not have a model for how to be helpful. It’s not that they’re willfully trying to do as little as possible- more so it is that they simply do not have the connections in their brain that say “If I see a mess I should clean it up, regardless of who made it.” From the information here, it sounds like this is the case.

Since he is an adult, it is unlikely that you will be able to “train” him to be helpful (I use the word train because at this point in his age it really would be “training”). As a man, I appreciate when there are no questions about certain things. The less mind reading and guess work I have to do the better. Since you say your husband “gladly” helps when asked, I think that setting up a schedule where you split the duties on certain days might help. Basically, make a list of the things that you can both do. Then make a weekly schedule where you alternate doing certain things when you are both home. For example:

Husband has night time waking duty. Husband tidies up after work.
Wife cooks dinner. Wife puts children to bed.

Husband cooks dinner. Husband puts children to bed.
Wife has nighttime waking duty. Wife tidies up after work.

The division of responsibilities should make sense based on your household. So if dad gets home too close to dinner time for “making dinner” to not work, that wouldn’t be on the list. Or if baby has issues with not accepting dad for nighttime wakings, dad can help out some other way.

Repeat pattern until Friday. Saturday/Sunday just go with the flow. Switch the days weekly if you want to keep things fair. And of course, make sure that there is time for you both to be together as well as by yourselves doing your own thing.

This way you don’t have to keep reminding your husband to help, and he doesn’t have to read your mind.

Interestingly, Sarah and I already do this but for different reasons. I feel that a similar setup might help you greatly here.


Got a question you’d like to ask a Gentle Dad? Ask Mr. Nurshable by clicking here.

Older Child Resisting Bedtime But Finds Parent In Bedroom to be More Stimulating Than Calming

I’ve had a lot of people ask what to do if an older child is having a hard time with bedtime because the parent being in the room seems to keep them awake instead of helping them sleep.

When my oldest was around three I started needing to leave the room because my being there was more stimulating than calming.

What I would do is I would do the bedtime routine outside of his room, then we would go into his room and lay in his bed and read some books. I’d step him through the steps to relax his body and his mind.

“It is bedtime. It is time to sleep. When I am sleepy I lay down and let my thoughts get… sloowwwwww. Goodnight feet. Relax your feet and let them sinkkkk into your warm and comfy bed. Goodnight legs.. relax your legs and let them sink into your warm and comfy bed. Goodnight knees… Relax your knees and let them sink into your warm and comfy bed…. I like to breathe sloowwww and deeeeep, it feels calm. ::breathes slowwww and deep:: Then we relaaaaax our bums and let them sink into your warm and comfy bed. And we relaaaax our belly and our chest. Breathing slow… Our hands are sleepy too. And our arms are relaxed. Let your shoulders melt into your pillow. Now your body is calm and sleepy and your head is heavy and sinking into your pillow, too. ::stroke child’s face:: You are so beautiful and I love you so much. You have big beautiful sleepy eyes. ::stroke child’s face near the side of one eye, bumping gently into their eyelashes. Mmm.. Let’s snuggle down and be sleepy together.” at which point I snuggle down and close my eyes and continue to gently stroke my child’s face.

After a week or so of that I would let my oldest know that he didn’t seem to be falling asleep just yet, and that I had to feed the dog and I would be back in a couple of minutes and that if he stays in bed I can snuggle him some more. I’d go feed the dog really quickly and then come back upstairs and snuggle until he fell asleep.

I gradually increased the number of chores that I would do each night, each one brief with a check-in and a quick snuggle after. Eventually he started falling asleep within fifteen minutes with one check-in instead of taking 1-2 hours to finally wind down.

He never cried, he was never upset, and I always came back. I still check in on him to make sure he’s sleeping, to tuck him in and to tell him I love him. He’s older now and doesn’t really need it anymore, but it’s a sweet tradition that I enjoy and will continue unless he tells me it’s time to stop.

When Loving You Does Not Come Easy

One day Alex texted me while I was trying to calm Keenie, who was teething. I couldn’t respond with a text back so I sent him a picture instead. I am exhausted. Frazzled. That day was not easy.

Sometimes I have to remind myself. I love you. I never forget the words, but sometimes the feeling seems strangely distant for something that I know to be so intense.

It does not always come unbidden the way the first rush of love did. It does not surge ahead loudly the way annoyance, frustration and anger can when I am stretched thin. It is something easy to see and feel and hear and know when life is calm and happy.

It doesn’t disappear in chaos, though. It doesn’t blink off when things are rough. It does not go silent. It does not get shut off in that in-between.

It just requires pause.

Like how I may freeze my body in the noise and try to slow my breathing to catch the quietest sounds. Like a heart-lifting song at a volume and frequency that I feel I can only hear between the beats of my heart and the sound of my breathing. Like a tiny twinkling of light in the dark that I lose sight of when I blink, and that I must find again.

That rush of love is always there.

I sometimes need to slow down. Bury my face in my child’s hair. Whisper “I love you so soo sooo much.” Slow my breathing, my movements, my thoughts.

It is right there, waiting for me. It never goes away.

I just forget to look sometimes.

I’m Not Afraid to Say No. (I Just Try Not To)

noThere’s a lot of talk about “No”. About why not to use it, about why to use it, about being “afraid” of it..

It’s really not that big of a deal.

It’s just that as a word it’s a closed door. Heavy, cumbersome solid wood hanging on a rusted hinge and squeaking uncomfortably against its frame for which it is ill-fit.

In the middle, printed clearly, are two letters. “NO”.

No! Not for baby. Cut it out. Don’t do that! Stop that! Don’t! Stop! Not a toy! You’ll break that! Don’t climb! No Jumping! Not for you! Put it down!

It’s a door that, when slammed shut, is often mistaken for teaching. For being firm. For setting limits.

Sure. It teaches. It teaches “no”.

Which is fine. Many people feel that “no” is a good word and that in the early years it’s impossible to over-use.

It is not the approach that I have chosen.

In that thin strip of empty space at the bottom of the door, curious shadows dance and a bright enticing light shines. There’s a world of wonders, and the promise of those things will send children to that doorknob time and time again until they are strong enough to be able to pull it open and sneak past.

And then they will. Old enough to get in trouble that they lack the knowledge to understand.

What comes on the other side of that door? When you step past that first reaction with your child and you explore that thing hand-in-hand, side by side?

Many things.

“Look. See?”

“Can I show you how?”

“Right there. Look. It is sharp. It is hot. Ouch!”

“This is what being careful looks like.”

“Hold on to it like this, see? Yes, just like that.”

“If you fall, fall away from the edge.”

“Mind the edges.”

“That is a narrow space to stand. It is high up. Is there anything to hold onto?”

“Look? See? That pulls away easily, then you will fall.”

“Maybe if…”

“That is fragile. See how carefully I pick it up? And then it goes down slow..”

“I don’t think Alexander likes it when you do that.”

“Does she look like she is having fun?”

“Oh dear, I dropped a glass and it broke. I have to clean it up carefully because all the pieces are sharp like splinters.”

“Oh no, this room is a mess! We cannot find anything. Let me show you where each little thing lives so we can put them all away.”

“How do you think we can…?”

“Can I help you?”

“I’m watching. You’re doing it safely. I’ll let you know if you need to be more careful.”

It’s not a tear-free approach. Sometimes things get broken. But I’m pretty sure that my life isn’t tear-free either, and sometimes things get broken.

And I learn from those times.

So do they.

My job isn’t to say no every five minutes. It’s to keep them safe from the unacceptable consequences while teaching them how to do all the things that they want to do. Safely.

What I Want My Kids to Know About Movies and Relationships (Fifty Shades of Whatever)

RealLifeRelationshipsFifty Shades of Grey? What do I want my kids to know about movies like this one, when they’re older? Dating? Grown up? Honestly, I can’t think of a movie that portrays what I would consider a healthy relationship. So I’m not even all that alarmed about Fifty Shades. At least it is obvious that the relationship that it portrays is less than ideal. Much of what you see about relationships in movies is less than obvious. It’s insidious.

There’s a reason for that. Movies and novels are written by writers, from their imaginations. They’re not actual lives lived by happy and contented people. They’re imaginings. Fantasies.

Most fantasies aren’t going to make good relationships.

I have a few fantasies. Mostly revolving around a husband whose hobbies include a deep love for washing and polishing the floor, and that has mind reading capabilities. And the ability to make the perfect chocolate mousse on demand. And teleport it to me from work.  Fantasies may or may not evolve over time and depending on circumstances.

I’m sure that my partner has fantasies as well. Or things that I could do differently or like better or spend less time on or more time on.

Instead we have each other.

We have a real life that looks… Well.. It looks like two people. With assorted other small people, the kids. Living together as a family. And real life is gonna look different from relationship to relationship.

What does it look like? It can look like a lot of things. Too many things to list. Too many things for a single person to imagine.

Real life looks like dancing with your wife when she is in labor and holding her up during contractions when she hangs from your shoulder. (The curve from my partner’s neck to his collarbone is still one of the most deliciously comforting places to bury my face.)

Real life looks like sitting by your husband’s hospital bed after he has had emergency surgery and helping him use the bathroom.

Real life looks like partners discussing whether they want to have children, how many children, and sometimes it looks like them disagreeing. Discussing. Resolving. Trying to understand what the other person is experiencing.

Real life looks like being there when your partner is hit by waves of grief after a death in their family. About trying to understand what it is that they need to make it through.

Real life looks like two partners wanting to two very different things. And trying to figure out the logistics of the in-between.

Real life eventually looks like the unromantic aspects of getting old. Arthritis. Incontinence. Mysterious health issues. Figuring out how to get things done when they’re harder to do.

Real life doesn’t look like the movies. It shouldn’t.

If you try too hard to find your examples there, you’ll end up nothing but confused.

It’s simple. In a real relationship you’re in love with a real human being who is probably going to be very different from you in a lot of ways. And your partner is also in love with a real human being that will be very different from them. And both of your wants and needs and desires and hopes and dreams are valid.

So what do you do with that?

Certainly not what you would see in Fifty Shades of Grey.
And not what you would see in the movies.

You sit down and you talk. And you figure things out. Because a relationship isn’t about fulfilling any one person’s fantasy. It’s about two full independent human beings that are trying to build a life together.

Do you want to be tasked with fulfilling someone else’s fantasy at the sake of yourself? Would you want someone that you truly love to give up themselves to fulfill yours?


That only happens in movies. Where actors are given the scripts to act out the fantasy that a writer has created.

Real life isn’t scripted. Real love isn’t scripted.

It plays itself out moment by moment over the lifetime of the people involved.

And it lasts a lot longer than a 125 minute movie.

Day Two: Share One Thing that Has Helped You Become a More Gentle Parent

My Share:
For me, one of the things that has made the most impact on my ability to be a more gentle parent is this: I made the choice to try and model a different way of dealing with mistakes. What would normally happen when I made a mistake is I would become very frustrated and snappish and singleminded about fixing my mistake. I would get annoyed at my pets, at my kids, anyone who was near me when the mistake was made. This has been my response since I was a child.

Now, when I make a mistake I try to focus on teaching my children about fixing mistakes. I will tell them that I have made a mistake. I have dropped something. I have made a mess. I have done something wrong on the project that I’m working on. I will tell them that I am frustrated. I will talk them through what I did, what I should have done, what the cleanup will be, and then I will follow through by taking care of the mistake that I have made.

By viewing it as a teaching experience for them and consciously and deliberately slowing down and involving them, I am modeling behaviors that will help them a lot as they get older.  As an added bonus, when I make mistakes I’m finding that I am forgiving myself a lot faster. I’m not feeling like snapping at everyone. And I’m slowing down to think about what will actually help the situation instead of getting upset with the situation and myself and sometimes making everything worse instead of better.

Your turn to share!
In celebration of the Nurshable Facebook page hitting 10K likes, we’re doing five days of sharing stories about gentle parenting, and a give-away at the end of each day.

I’ve shared my story above, you can share your story in the comments below and I’ll use to pick a random comment and the commenter will receive one of each of the things that I sell in the Nurshable store. (One copy of Keenie + Zeebie, One copy of Mac & Cheese Please, and two Wait It Out bracelets.) You can visit the Nurshable store by clicking here.


Day One: Share a Time When Gentle Parenting Helped You and Your Child Get Through a Difficult Situation

My share:
He was four and a half and having a rough week. He asked for a specific lunch and I agreed we could go to the grocery store together to get the lunch that we both wanted. When we got there it was cold and raining and I rushed in without listening to something that he was saying. He wanted to ride in the car cart and I had grabbed the regular cart that was closest to the door.

He melted down in frustration.

I wanted to turn around and just go home. Instead I walked with him over to the side of the store. I got down to his level. I listened to what he was trying to tell me. I waited for him to be done talking. I apologized for not listening, and I asked him if he could forgive me. He said he forgave me. I explained that it was super-cold and rainy outside and that the car carts were parked where all the rain was coming down so they were all wet.

He listened. And he understood. We went around the store getting the rest of the things that we had come for instead of immediately leaving the way I thought we might have to. He just needed me to slow down, listen, and explain.

Your turn to share!
In celebration of the Nurshable Facebook page hitting 10K likes, we’re doing five days of sharing stories about gentle parenting, and a give-away at the end of each day.

I’ve shared my story above, you can share your story in the comments below and I’ll use to pick a random comment and the commenter will receive one of each of the things that I sell in the Nurshable store. (One copy of Keenie + Zeebie, One copy of Mac & Cheese Please, and two Wait It Out bracelets.) You can visit the Nurshable store by clicking here.



The Pace of My Life Had Changed

JustAFewShortMomentsWith my first child it was all so rushed together. It felt like infancy would never end. Wakeups and diaper changes and naps and pajamas covered in spitup. Both his pajamas and mine. I was waiting for sleep and wondering if he would still be nursing when he left for college. The days seem strangely long because I was suddenly living at a infant’s life-pace after so many years of living at the speed of an adult. I didn’t have the space to breathe, even though each hour felt like a day and each day felt like a week all on its own. Back to back growth spurts. Back to back diapers. Back to back milestones. Back to back wakeups. Trying to learn why my child was crying, what to do about it, and then as soon as I learned it, it changed. I wanted time to slow down to give me the space to respond, but I wanted time to speed back up, too. Speed back up to naptime. Speed back up to bedtime. Speed back up to sometime when I could breathe for a few minutes before it all started all over again.

The pace of my life had changed.

And then suddenly it changed again.

He was three. Within the span of a week or two he was all done with diapers, all done with nursing, all done with waking up at night, all done with sleeping in my bed.

It feels so endless when they are small. But then you realize, looking back, that it was just two years. Just three years. Just however long it was. It’s flabbergasting because you felt like you were moving through a decade but then you look back and it feels like a few short days. Just a few short days that you want back for a moment more.


Why Are You So Clingy When You’re Sick?

sickchildWhy are you so clingy when you are ill?
Why wouldn’t you be?
It’s a wise thing for a little person.
Your instincts are to cling close to the person that will take care of you.
Your instincts are to cling close to the person that will clean you up and help you take little sips of water.
That will keep you safe when you are too sick to keep yourself safe.
Your instincts know nothing of all the amenities of modern-day life.
Right now those instincts of yours speak louder than all the parts of your mind that do know those things.
They tell you that the safest place is here.
In my arms.
Where I can care for you.
Of course you’re clingy.
Your tiny body contains much wisdom about your needs.
So cling close, little one, you are tiny still, but together we will be big.


Is It Spoiling?

20140630_063009Is it spoiling?

Is it spoiling when a small child whines because his teeth hurt and he hasn’t developed the coping skills or perspective yet to know that it is a small and manageable pain? And you hug him close and show him that you will always be there for him if he is hurting?

Is it the same as running to a child that has bumped his head and trying to smother them with comfort before they’ve even figured out if it hurts or not, just because you’re afraid that they will ever feel pain and you can’t deal with the fear of what it is that they’re feeling?

Is it really the same as giving a child a toy that you don’t want to buy and don’t need to buy because you’ve said no and he’s pitched a fit that you don’t want to deal with?

Is that the same as telling that disappointed child that you understand how upset they are, but that buying everything all the time is not healthy or necessary and that you won’t be buying that toy today? But that you will be there for them while they are disappointed, just like you will be there for them if they don’t get the job that they applied for or they don’t get into the college that they really wanted to go to?

Little kids get upset by little things because they are little. Because their brains haven’t fully developed yet and because their lives haven’t given them the perspective to know the difference between what is little and what is big. They learn that as they grow. They learn that from your responses. You can honor the fact that something is BIG BIG BIG to your child while still showing through your calmness that it’s not the end of the world. And you can show them how to deal with those disappointments by showing them how you deal with disappointments and little ouches in your own life.

You show them tough love by dealing with YOUR life well. Not by diminishing the experiences of theirs. Be tough when you drop something heavy on your toe and breathe while the pain passes instead of cursing. Be calm when you are disappointed. Be as rock solid as you can be, and they will grow to emulate that as long as you show them how. That’s tough love. By being tough while understanding that toughness is something that they grow into, and by showing them along the way what they can do to become like you.

Otherwise “tough love” is just being mean to someone little because they aren’t as tough as you’ve grown to be.