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The truth about grumpy dads... and how to make them smile

By Lisa Salmon

Fathers get grumpy when their children rely on them as a taxi service, when they're not glued to the X Factor that is; but a new report says work pressures may be to blame.

What's the link between The X Factor, leaving the lights on, and the neighbour's cat?

They're all things that can make dads grumpy.

Almost a quarter of dads here admit they're always cranky, while another 73% say they're becoming more so as they get older.

A poll of 1,000 UK fathers found that leaving the lights on is most likely to make dads grumble, followed by potentially annoying things like bad drivers, general bad manners and The X Factor.

Further down the list, there are all manner of 'offences', ranging from kids not helping with chores or not eating their meal and then complaining they're hungry, to being treated as a taxi driver, the neighbour's cat, and reality TV shows.

The Merlin Annual Pass survey found that 62% of dads say they're most grumpy during the working week, coming out of their mood at the weekends. And indeed, the biggest general reason for grumpiness was work, while money and household chores were also bugbears.

Work Pressure

While Jeremy Davies of the Fatherhood Institute says there's no evidence dads are any more grumpy than mums, he points out that the pressure of work may well have an adverse effect on fathers' moods.

"More dads than mums are probably working full-time, and there's evidence that it's dads who are most dissatisfied with their work-life balance," he says. "They want to spend more time at home, but they don't see a way of achieving that."

Gender stereotyping

He points out that some families drift into parents taking on stereotypical roles, with mums looking after the kids and dads going out to work and having little to do with childcare, when in fact the whole family might be happier with more flexible arrangements.

"Sometimes, what can help is for mums to take a step back and allow dads to develop their own skills as a parent, without someone looking over their shoulder all the time.

"It's about collaboration and playing to your strengths - gender stereotyping can get in the way of parents becoming the best parent they can be. For the sake of our kids, we ought to all be sharing responsibility for the details."

Happy taxis

Davies suggests that for some of the grumpiness triggers on the list, dads - and mums - would do well to change their perspective a little.

"There are aspects of being a parent that we tend to think of as chores and something to be endured, when in fact 'taxi-ing' the kids around and spending time with them in the car, for example, can be a really positive experience.

"Dads do do a lot of taxi-ing the kids, and it tends to be thought of as a boring chore, when in fact kids will often open up during chats in the car, and you can play music together and games. If parents just shift their attitude a bit, some 'chores' can be worthwhile and enjoyable for both them and the kids."

Smiling dads

While three quarters of dads believe they need to make more effort to be less grumpy, 72% say time with their family improves their mood, and more than half think a good night's sleep is often all it takes to bring an end to their grumpiness. Another 27% say food helps.

A family day out, a nice gesture from a partner or children and a cold beer can also put a smile on their face.

Davies adds: "There are background reasons why dads can feel challenged by their roles these days - they may bear the brunt of bringing the money in, but want to be at home and involved more.

That might make them grumpy sometimes.

"But I think many of the things on the list, like The X Factor and traffic jams, could make anyone grumpy, not just dads."

Their pet peeves

  • Leaving the lights on
  • Traffic jams
  • Bad drivers
  • General bad manners
  • Cold callers ringing in the evening
  • Football team losing
  • Not spending time with family because of work
  • The X Factor
  • Planning and cost of family activities
  • The kids arguing

'They won't tell me anything... it's like they are part of MI5'

Dan Gordon (49) is an actor and playwright. He lives in Belfast with his wife Kathy and their daughters Sarah (26), Hannah (23) and Martha (17).He says:

They never clean their rooms which are like bomb sites. They don't have a wardrobe, they have a floordrobe. They won't let me into their rooms either, but they'll take the curtains off their windows so the whole street can see what they're doing - but they won't let me come in.

I've paled into insignificance with my kids and the thing that makes me grumpy is that no one ever tells me anything.

My eldest daughter has just gone to Bali via Amsterdam and I didn't even know what day she was suppose to be leaving. I don't have a flight number and I'm not entirely sure if she's not going to Vietnam after that.

If any plane crashes in the world I wouldn't know if she was on it.

Things like leaving the lights on and squeezing the radiators to see if there's enough heat in them is petty stuff now because they won't tell me anything. They won't tell me if they're going out or if they have a boyfriend - it's like being in MI5. I actually don't mind driving them places - it's one of the few ways I have to find out what they're up to.

The problem is they're all 13 in my head."

‘I sing for a living but I bang on floor to turn their music down’

Harry Hamilton (50) is a Freddie Mercury impersonator and lives in Lurgan with his wife Heather. They've three children - Brooke (19), Lucy (18) and Tianna (14). He says:

I'm constantly telling the girls off for being on their phones, particularly at the dinner table. We don't ban the phones but we expect them to exercise courtesy. That doesn't necessarily work out all the time.

That's the main thing which makes me grumpy but the other thing is singing in the house and loud music.

It might be considered strange from someone who actually sings for a living but the other night it was 1am and I was banging on the floor asking them to turn their music down.

The two eldest girls will still rely on me if they're out for a night and they want to have a drink.

More often than not I will go to pick one of them up and then all of their friends pile in too expecting a lift.

I even stayed sober on New Year's Eve to make sure they could all get home safely and not have to wait for taxis.

It is a very girly house - there's no sport and everything is pink and fluffy and there's a lot of glitter but then they are all girls and embrace all that."

‘They park their car at the door while I’m banished to the back’

Adrian Cochrane-Watson (48) is a UUP MLA and lives in Antrim with his wife Heather and children; Ashleigh (23), Lyndsey (18), Cameron (11) and David (14). He says:

Untidiness is the thing that makes me grumpy and my daughters are absolutely the worst.

I can't wait until my two get shiny new apartments of their own. When they buy their own places, I plan to go there and empty my bins over the floor, stuff papers down the side of the sofa, drying my hands on a towel then dropping it on the ground and getting the soap from the dispenser everywhere.

I'm really looking forward to the day when I can visit their homes and leave a real mess where ever I go.

I don't act as a taxi service too much anymore because my elder two both drive - but that makes me grumpy, too. Their car has to be parked six foot from the front door while mine has been banished round the back.

They have no idea about car washing or maintenance and, again the car is really untidy.

When anything goes wrong, I have to fix it, as well as sort out their tax and MOT. I was rather surprised when my daughter found out that insurance only lasted for one year and not for as long as you have the car."

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