How Can I Get My Husband to Help?

Filed under: Relationships, Expert Advice: Just For You, Expert Advice: Home Base

Dear AdviceMama,

My husband and I both work long days. After work, four nights a week, I go to school so I don't come home until about 9 pm. That leaves my husband picking up the kids from school. On my day off I do any running around that's needed, cleaning that has been missed around the house and I give my husband a break from picking up the kids. Since my husband has a lot more free time than I do, how can I get him to help with the children's homework and clean up on a regular basis, and not just when I ask him?


Dear Help,

While women tend to be instinctively good at multitasking, most men are wired to focus on one thing at a time. Rather than taking his behavior personally, and criticizing him for not doing more, acknowledge the many things he does do, and let him know the relief it brings you at the end of your busy day. Regardless of the fact that he is jointly responsible for your children and household, appreciating him for his support will go a long way toward motivating him to stretch further.
Approach your husband as a partner -- rather than a scolding parent -- so he won't feel like he's "in trouble" and become guarded and defensive. Focus on what you need, and the positive things his help will do for you all.

Typically, men are happy to help if they know the specifics of what we want. Rather than saying something vague like, "I wish you would do more around the house," communicate clearly what you need, and how it would benefit you and the family.

"Could you spend 20 minutes on Tuesdays and Thursdays with Daniel, supervising his math homework? His teacher says he's been struggling. I'd be so relieved to know he's getting some extra attention." Or: "I want the kids to help with their own laundry. On Wednesdays, would you be willing to supervise them loading their clothes and getting them into the dryer? That would give us all an extra hour or so on the weekends to relax together. I'd love that!"

The more you appreciate your husband's efforts and let him know the positive results they bring -- and the more specific you are with your requests -- the more he'll tap into his desire to offer you the support you need and want.

Best of luck!

Yours in parenting support,

AdviceMama, Susan Stiffelman, is a licensed and practicing psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in developmental psychology and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her book, Parenting Without Power Struggles, is available on Amazon. Sign up to get Susan's free parenting newsletter.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.