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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

When Parenting Worlds Collide

A friend once told me something about parenting that turned out to be very true. 

We were sitting at her and her husband's home enjoying a catch up one afternoon. Our eldest son was just nine months old at the time and their two boys were preschoolers. From memory, we were talking about different parenting styles and how you tend to gravitate to other couples that parent in a similar way to you. Which is also very true (and a whole other post some time), but it wasn’t the thing that my friend told me that I was referring to in the first sentence of this post.

During the conversation, the wife turned to me and said, “You know, John* (her husband) and I never argued until we had kids. But all that changed when we had our first.” She went on to explain that once your first child is born, you soon discover how different your own parenting ideas are to your spouse’s. Even if, essentially, you have in mind the same path you want your kids to travel, and as a couple, you have similar views and morals. The fact is, there will inevitably be times when you will lock horns over how to parent your children.

SO true.

Most of us will either want to parent in a similar way to how we were parented ourselves, or we'll want to do the complete opposite of that. And as parenting styles differ so much, the way one partner was raised might be entirely different to how the other was.

Hubby and I are the same in that we are quite firm with our kids. We expect good manners, respect, thoughtfulness about others and empathy for each other as well as other people (something the 4yr old is currently working on. Ahem). We want our boys to work hard at school. If they’re given homework - and as much as I personally think homework is unnecessary for such young kids - they are expected to do it and finish it each week. We want them to wear helmets when they go riding. Hold their sibling’s hand when they cross the road. (There’s no way the 9yr old will hold mine, so I at least want him to hold the 4yr old’s!) We want them to follow rules. Respect adults. Think charitably. Not swear. Help out around the house. The list goes on…

In other words, nothing unusual, I guess. But then sometimes you see how some parents react to certain situations (or rather not react at all) and you have to wonder what they’re thinking. (Once again, that’s a post for another time.)

But there are times when our parenting styles clash.

For example, I wouldn’t call myself a ‘helicopter parent’, but I do hover a little. I warn the boys about safety etc, but I’m also conscious not to fill their heads with fear. I was a fearful child. Worried about every step I made, which is not necessarily a bad thing per se, but I want my kids to know it’s okay to take risks at times. Have some fun! Taking risks breeds independence. I get that. I also really want well-mannered boys, so I’m quick to discipline them if they’re not saying or doing the right thing. I can’t help but be, well, a mother.

I call it ‘parenting’; Hubby calls it ‘nagging’. 

He'll say, "Stop being on top of them all the time!" I'll say, "If I don't have any expectation for their behaviour, neither will they!"

He'll let the boys use the matches to light the candles at dinner - even the 4yr old! I'll be standing there watching and thinking: a) they're going to catch fire, or at least drop the match and catch the table cloth on fire; or b) they're going to turn in to pyromaniacs!

And that's just a couple of examples. There are many others I could give you. Sigh.

Do you and your partner have differing views on how to parent your kid(s)? What issues do you clash over? How do you resolve them?


Melodramatic Me said...

My husband and I are total polar opposites when it comes to parenting...and thank goodness we are because despite the odd *ahem* disagreement, we actually balance each other out. Yes, I confess to being the helicopter parent, the worrier, the 'let's just wrap them up in cotton wool and never let them out the front door again' parent. Thankfully Busy-And-Important-Husband is the risk taker, the go-getter, the 'go on son...jump from the highest rung' parent. And it works. Every now and then mum needs to step in and 'calm everything down' before someone gets hurt, and on the other hand, dad is great at encouraging the kids to feel 'invincible' and able to do anything. Love your honest posts Jodie. xo

Madmother said...

I am so very blessed for Big Boy and I are on the identical line of the same page when it comes to parenting.

We are so in-sync it is sickening. But if we had not been we would not have survived being special needs parents. In that world the stats explode where divorce is concerned.

Thank God we are.

Mrs Woog said...

Great post! Mr Woog and I are pretty laid back with the boys, but when they push it too far, we can both go bonkers x

Maxabella said...

The husbie and I were raised in very different environments, but it's worked out okay! I want to raise my kids much the same way my parents raised me (with tweaks, of course!!) and my husband does too. Win! x

Miss Pink said...

We are so opposite it's not funny.
And yep, it causes quite a few arguments.
Example, just today Mr Black told Greenie not to touch the power sander, Greenie being a typical 2 year old says "Why?" and he responds with a frustrated "Because." a minute later Greenie is back over there, not touching but hovering closely, which causes Mr Black to yell at him. I try to calmly explain across from the yard that telling him "Because" won't stop the behaviour, he wants to know why he can't. Mr Black then tells me "I want him to learn not to question my authority, and just listen" Which has me laughing. Hard. And him quite angry at my laughter. I explain that it doesn't work like that. I never tell the kids "Just because" and expect them to listen. If they ask, I tell them why, because explaining to them why they cannot do something, helps to get them to think for themselves, so next time instead of thinking "Oooh that thing is out again, lets touch it" they would see it and think "Oooh that's that thing, but dad told me it's dangerous so I better not touch it"
I'm a pretty hands on mum, like you, not a helicopter parent, but i'm hands on, I like to be there mostly to keep them and their behaviour in check because I am mortified when they're playing up and not on their best behaviour. I have high expectations, but not in a stressful way, more in the I want you to always give things a good try and remember your respect. Mr Black is a lot more laid back than me.
I think we'd get along well as parents. I have ZERO friends IRL that share my parenting style. Everyone is very very different, and it does make things hard, more because I feel a lot of judgement and questioning from them.
But to make friends who share similar parenting styles usually leaves us not being close because our personalities as individuals is so different. Not many young women who are hands on, semi crunchy, parents.

Donna said...

My husband I too had never fought until we became parents. And I admit I am the far more worried parent who seems to foresee bad things happening when he just sees a learning experience - or just plain rowdy fun!

I really loved this post, its resonated with me so much.

River said...

I remember being allowed to light the match to start the newspaper burning then shove in the kindling on our old wood stove so we could put pieces of bread on the long fork and make toast by holding it over the fire. I was 5.

Parenting has changed a lot since "the olden days".

Jodi @ The Scribble Den said...

Luckily my husband and I agree on our parenting practices 99% of the time. The 1% sometimes differs as he can be a bit more lenient about bedtimes sometimes!
However, as for my husband and his ex-wife (he has 2 girls from his first marriage who are with us almost half/half) - well it is certainly clear that it is a good thing they are not together! But it does make parenting on our side difficult at times. Oh the joys! LOL

MummyK said...

I have a feeling my husband is just letting me do whatever I want. Or maybe he does things differently when I'm not around, which isn't that often.

Corinne said...

Good post. HB and I have discussed parenting styles. We did read all those baby books and watched the Super Nanny TV shows early on. We are very alike in parenting styles.

Sure we have disagreements but we wait till the kids are in bed & debate. The HD likes to use his outside voice inside a bit. ;-(

Thea said...

We sound pretty much like you and your Hubby. We both expect the same things from our kids. And Hubba also accuses me of nagging. But you're right, it's not nagging...it's mothering. *cough* ;)

Hunter&Ivy said...

Hi Jodie, we're a 'stepfamily', so not only do we have differing parenting styles, but the kids have another set of parents with differing styles yet again. I try and keep that in mind when I want to strangle one of them...it must get confusing for them to be told one thing is okay at one house and worthy of cruxificion in another! Keep up the good work, Corinna x