Whether you love him or hate him, you have to concede that Barack Obama is unique among former presidents. But one unexpected quality of Obama’s that may be his most unusual legacy? His parenting style.
Read on to find out why the way he treats his daughters make Barack Obama unique among former presidents — and very different from Donald Trump.
1. Many presidents were terrible dads
The Guardian reports that even a great president doesn’t necessarily make a great dad. Founding father Thomas Jefferson was a “control freak” with his daughters. Herbert Hoover made an absentee father. Franklin Roosevelt was a workaholic, to the point that he even had his sons make appointments for him. (Not exactly a traditional father-son bonding activity.)
Lyndon B. Johnson had little time for his daughters, and Richard Nixon found little time for his daughters, either. And Ronald Reagan had distant relationships with his kids. Many presidents spent little time with their children.
Next: Americans liked the first president precisely because he didn’t have kids.
2. George Washington was appealing because he didn’t have any children of his own
Today, Americans might favor presidential candidates who have families (regardless of whether they’re good at parenting or not). But The Guardian learned that the very first president, George Washington, was an appealing choice as president at least in part because he didn’t have any children of his own.
Americans favored Washington “once America had escaped the clutches of King George III in part because he did not have biological heirs who might expect a monarchical succession,” the publication explains. The United States hasn’t had many father-son president pairs (though there are a number of first sons who could have become president).
Next: Obama goes down in history as one of the few presidents to ever deal with this parenting task.
3. Barack Obama was the only president ‘ever to do diapers’
Unlike George Washington, most — but not all — American presidents have been fathers. But very few took a hands-on approach to parenting. That means that most commanders in chief probably never changed many diapers, even if they had lots of kids.
In fact, as The Guardian reports, journalist and historian Joshua Kendall thinks that Barack Obama is “the only president ever to do diapers.” Donald Trump definitely didn’t, as his first wife, Ivana Trump, said that the current president “never changed a diaper.” Obama also seems to be one of the few presidents who had dinner with his family five nights a week, as The Washington Post reports he began doing soon after his inauguration.
Next: Obama changed this about his parenting style when he became president.
4. Becoming president enabled Obama to become the kind of dad he wanted to be
Kendall reports for The Washington Post reports that when Barack Obama became president — and got to stop spending time away from his family on the campaign trail — he could finally “become the child-centric parent he had always longed to be” to his young daughters. ”
By nature a nurturer, Obama is just one of a handful of presidents who have been exemplary dads — what child development experts call authoritative parents. This type of dad is loving but sets firm limits,” Kendall explains. Few presidents fall into that category, with Kendall reporting that “the other members of this small fraternity include James Monroe, Rutherford B. Hayes, Harry Truman and Gerald Ford.”
Next: Succeeding as president and excelling as a parent require different skills.
5. Being a president and being a dad necessitate different skill sets
It may sound obvious, but it bears pointing out: The goals of excelling as a dad and achieving success in the Oval Office require two very different skillsets. Kendall told The Guardian, “They are two different spheres. Politics is about personal relationships and family life is about building personal bonds.”
However, Kendall made the argument in The Los Angeles Times that “For most presidents, who they are in the West Wing is pretty much who they are as family men.” Just as Ulysses S. Grant struggled to control his aides, he let his children do whatever they wanted. And James Garfield stressed inclusion both during his short term as president and at home, as a father.
Next: Donald Trump didn’t have time for this when his children were young.
6. Donald Trump didn’t have time to send his kids off to school
Donald Trump supposedly didn’t take the time to change diapers when his children were small. And according to Ivana Trump, he also rarely had time to send them off to their private schools in the morning. Newsweek reports that according to Ivana Trump’s book, the children traveled from their sixth-floor apartment in Trump Tower to the 28th floor, where their father worked, to say goodbye before school.
“And he was always on the telephone. He was a good, loving dad, but he could not do . . . the kids’ talk. He did not know how to do that until the kids were in university and he could talk business with them,” Ivana recalls of Donald Trump’s parenting style over the years.
Next: Trump is different as a parent not only from Obama, but also from Hillary Clinton.
7. Trump is a very different dad than Hillary Clinton is a mom
The Los Angeles Times noted that the 2016 election season pitted two candidates against each other who were not only wildly different as politicians, but also very different as parents. Hillary Clinton is a collaborative parent, while Donald Trump is used to giving orders not only in the boardroom, but also at home.
He has managed to build relationships with the three adult children he has from his first marriage. But he is very clearly their boss at the Trump Organization, which says a lot about his parenting style.
Next: Voters didn’t want somebody with the same traits as Obama.
8. Voters didn’t want someone with the same traits as Obama
As Parade points out, voters in the 2016 election season “sent a clear message that in their next president, they do not want someone with the same character traits as Barack Obama.” Many Americans like how supportive Obama is of his daughters. But they were also frustrated by what Parade characterizes as Obama’s “deliberative leadership style.”
Donald Trump promised to achieve success in the Oval Office by making others bend to his will. And as Parade puts it, “as parents, both candidates have been much more like the preoccupied LBJ than like the attentive and attuned Obama.”
Next: Trump still plays ‘the dad card.’
9. Donald Trump plays the dad card
Even though Donald Trump isn’t the attentive parent that many Americans strive to be, he still talks about his family all the time. The Guardian reports that Donald Trump loves to play the dad card, parading daughter Ivanka Trump (and his other children, of course) during his presidential campaign.
But what he’s really showing off is how loyal his children are to him. As The Los Angeles Times notes, “Trump often showcases them to make the case that his autocratic leadership style would prove inspiring rather than alienating to the rest of the nation.”
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