What Not to Say to a Dad

We’re all familiar with the long-standing joke about the couple who’s lost, but it’s the husband who refuses to ask for directions.

It may seem ridiculous and irrational, but there’s a reason for that: men learn by doing, not by being told what to do. They like knowing they’re in command of their ship, and they don’t need any tips from a stranger pointing the way.

So, by understanding the logic behind what seems illogical, we gain stronger all-around empathy. And even if you thought having your man ask for directions was a reasonable request (which it is), you must know there are other comments/questions to dad that should never be uttered.

How can you offend a dad? Let us count the ways.

“You’re quite the Mr. Mom.”

This label will never go away, and it would be as bad as calling a working mom by the title of Mrs. Dad. It’s also doing a disservice to women by implying that it’s primarily their job to handle cooking and cleaning. Besides, “Mr. Mom” was released in 1983. If we’re going to reference pop culture, couldn’t we at least find something a little more relevant and modern?

“What did your wife send you in to buy?”

When a sales associate speaks these words to a dad, it’s somewhat akin to saying, “Please don’t buy anything. Leave our store now.” When you alienate someone by making them feel devalued, you’re bound to really, really turn them off – and there’s no winning them back.

“You’ve got your hands full.”

Most men get into this parent thing fully aware of what they’re undertaking. They know the risks and rewards, and they can handle it. You’d never walk into a co-worker’s office and randomly declare, “You’re got your hands full.” Your co-worker can handle the work or he/she wouldn’t be there. Dads can, too.

“Did you check with your wife first?”

No, because a dad isn’t a child who needs a mom’s permission. He’s an equal and a partner in this thing called marriage. They make decisions as a team, and sometimes, even – gasp – independently.

“You must be babysitting today.”

When they’re your own children, this theoretically isn’t possible. If you’re a dad, it’s simply called parenting. Babysitting is when you’re getting paid for watching children. (Disclaimer: if you’re willing to pay a dad for watching his own kids, he’ll let you call it anything you want.)

“The baby must want her mommy.”

The baby isn’t crying because it wants its mommy. It’s crying because it’s hungry or tired or lonely or wants comforted or whatever. Moms are no more instinctually capable of raising children than dads. So, let’s give dads a little more respect than this.

“Who did your daughter’s hair?” or “Who dressed your kids?”

How many times do we have to see headlines about dads learning to braid their daughter’s hair? Wouldn’t that be a little like stories about moms who work on cars? Dads have fashion sense more than you realize. Suggesting anything else is sexist.

“You’re such a good dad.”

What’s so bad about this? It depends on how it’s said, so you have to be careful here. You don’t want to offer kudos to a dad for going above and beyond, because then it implies the ugly stereotype that dads like to do the bare minimum when it comes to dishes, diaper changing, etc. No parent deserves praise for doing what they should be doing. Never miss a chance to offer a word of kindness to your fellow neighbor but give careful thought as to why you’re saying it.

“Wow, you’re brave.”

For being alone with the children? No, you’re brave for actually saying that to his face.