Being a parent is a huge responsibility, one that most people take very seriously. But when we are young and falling in love, how many of us really discuss parenting philosophies and the ways in which we wish to raise our children? Aside from discussing whether or not we want children at all, it is unlikely that we get down to the nitty-gritty of child rearing and methods of discipline.
Perhaps it would be wise for couples to have a conversation about their parenting philosophies before they are faced with the parenting challenges I see amongst my clients and within my own social circle.
As synchronized as couples might be in their work ethics, culture and religious beliefs, I see among my clientele a growing trend in couples who cannot agree on how to parent or discipline their children. Although they fundamentally agree on the message that they are trying to send, they disagree on how to relay that message.
Differing Parenting Philosophies:
Whose job is it to get up with the children during the night?
Clearly, this is not referring to a mother who is breastfeeding. (Although many would argue that even if a woman is breastfeeding, as soon as she is done the feeding, it should be her partner’s responsibility to get the baby’s diaper changed and back to sleep.) There is also the assumption that women, by default, much to their dismay, take on this role. In same-sex partnerships, I have seen a more equal division of labour.
Involvement of the grandparents.
How much is too much? How much is not enough? By involvement are we referring to physical access or are we also referring to discipline?
Couples have a tendency to disagree on this issue. While they want their children and their parents to have a relationship, they often disagree on how far grandparenting should go.
More often, when I see couples seeking guidance around this issue, it is usually the male partner who is more at ease with his parents (more so his mother) disciplining the children. His wife, however, often feels that this boundary is too fluid and that her in-laws might use this opportunity to undermine the structures and discipline that she has already put in place.
Criticisms on how our partners parent.
Who’s to say if there is a right or a wrong way to do something? Growing up, we become accustomed to doing things a certain way. We watch our parents manage the household, and we learn from their parenting philosophies, rightly or wrongly, how tasks get done.
When we get married and have children, we believe that certain tasks are supposed to get done in a certain way. But when we raise children with someone with different experiences, are we able to admit that sometimes, there is more than one way to achieve the same goal?
Couples have a very difficult time releasing control over what they feel is the right way, and it can become an ongoing source of conflict between them.
Disciplining our children.
Let’s face it, we all have our own ways of disciplining. We all grow up being disciplined differently. Some of us are strict. Some of us are more laid back. Some of us are not afraid to stand our ground with our children. Yet some of us are more worried about upsetting our children than the need to discipline them.
Our children pick up on these mixed messages. They see mom and dad disagreeing. They gravitate to the parent who will ultimately give in or discipline them less harshly.
The truth is that children are better off when their caregivers present a united front when it comes to discipline. Children thrive on consistency. And receiving mixed messages from parents has been shown to increase anxiety levels and insecurity.
So what is the answer?
Partners should take a few minutes together and discuss how they wish to approach their child on a matter that requires discipline.
Parents are better off walking away for a few minutes to discuss and regroup and then approach their child together.
Most significant, partners in parenting need to remember that parenting is a team effort. It really does take a village. If primary caregivers are prepared to communicate openly with one another, focus their efforts on supporting rather than contradicting each other, they might discover that they share more common ground in their approach to parenting than they initially realized.
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