Before having children, many couples spend time talking about the basics of what having children will look like. Do we want kids? How many? What sort of life do we want for them? And those basic questions can be a great conversation starter when considering such a significant life change. But they don’t really prepare you for the many ways in which you and your partner might differ on the everyday details of parenting.
The truth is, every marriage is a cross-cultural experience, especially when it comes to raising children. Each partner brings different things to the table—different life experiences, both positive and negative. Each had their own unique childhood and relationships with close and extended family. Both parents harbor philosophies on parenting that have formed over a lifetime of influence from society, social circles, and other life experiences. Each brings their own family culture into this new family, and it can be difficult to mend them together seamlessly.
It’s no surprise that once children are in the picture, many couples realize they have entirely different parenting styles. One may be more nurturing and accepting, while the other may be more demanding with specific expectations for behavior. One may have an easier time dealing with the swiftly changing emotions of a toddler. One partner may want to give children more freedom on what they wear, while the other may want more control over the little things.
But who is right and who is wrong? The answer is—it depends. There are many ways to work together as partners to provide the most supportive environment for your child and to nourish your partnership together. Figuring this out is not always easy, and may take consistent work from both parents. When these differences in parenting arise, it can be helpful to remember that part of the reason you were attracted to each other in the first place is because of the ways in which you differ. And keep in mind that kids having parents with different skill sets can also be an asset. One parent may be more playful while the other is more structured. Both of those are good for kids.
When you find yourself at odds with your partner, particularly over childcare challenges, it can be tempting to give it the old “my way or the highway” treatment. But learning to listen to each other and work together can help children feel more secure through consistency in parenting. And the key is not in implementing one parent’s beliefs over the other. It’s in listening, speaking about priorities, and finding ways to adapt to each other’s approaches. This will help to provide a positive environment for both parents and children.
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