If Your Approaches to Parenting Differ…

When people come into my counseling office with marital problems, I always ask them, “When did these things start to be a problem?” The majority of people trace it back to when they started having kids.

This makes sense. When kids come along…

  • You have to share your spouse’s attention with a very needy child.
  • The demands of parenting, leave you with less energy for marriage.
  • Money is tighter, leaving less to spend on the relationship.
  • Free time becomes a thing of the past and things like dating often go by the way-side.

But there’s another reason why kids disrupt a marriage as surely as pulling the pin on a grenade. When kids come into a marriage, we become parents. And although we’re parenting the same child/children, our views on parenting often differ. These different views on parenting can create a lot of conflicts.

DIFFERING VIEWS ON PARENTING

Where do we get our views on parenting?

Gender differences.

There are distinct differences between the genders. Some of these differences are the result of genetics and some are the result of socialization. But the differences are there and they affect our views and approaches to parenting. Men and women will always view parenting differently on some level.

Family of Origin Differences.

But most of our views on parenting come from how we were parented. You and your spouse had different parenting experiences growing up, so it makes sense that you would have different views on parenting now. Let me give you an example…

One of the biggest disagreements between my wife and me centered on how our teenage girls kept their rooms.

Walking into our girls’ rooms was like going on a safari in the jungles of Africa. There were so many clothes on the floor you needed a machete to cut a path. Bras and scarves desperately hung from mirrors as if they were afraid of falling to the floor and getting lost in the undergrowth. School books were scattered around the room as if their book bag had suffered from projectile vomiting. And there were drinking glasses and dishes that had been there so long, I had forgotten we had them.

My wife and I responded very differently to the girls’ rooms. I would look in their rooms and shake my head, much like you would when you see someone pushing on a door that says “pull.” Then I would shrug my shoulders and keep moving. But my wife would look in their rooms and respond so heatedly it would set off the smoke alarms and send the kids into a duck-and-cover mode.

Why did we react so differently? Because we were raised by different parents.

As a boy, I shared a very small and well lived-in bedroom with two other brothers. My mother sensed it was futile to expect it to stay neat all the time, so she gave us our space…asking only for an occasional cleaning.

But my wife was parented differently. Her parents believed that children showed respect by keeping everything neat and in its place. To do otherwise was considered disrespectful. So she always kept her room neat and clean.

You can see why we reacted differently to our girls’ messy rooms. We viewed room cleanliness based on how we were parented.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOUR APPROACHES TO PARENTING DIFFER?

I can sum up the answer to this question in one statement…

If your approaches to parenting differ…you must parent differently.

It took us a while to come to a mutual agreement on how our kids should keep their rooms. I wanted an approach in which the kids were not always complaining about living with a room nazi. My wife wanted an approach in which the kids respected her enough to keep their rooms from looking like a toxic waste dump.

To find a solution, we both had to change our approach. We both had to parent differently.

We came up with a solution that was different from what we each wanted but had enough of what we each wanted to satisfy us. Here is what we came up with…

Six days a week, the girls could keep their rooms pretty much the way they wanted, with two exceptions: they couldn’t leave food lying around, and they had to keep their door closed so their mother didn’t go into cardiac arrest each time she passed by their rooms. But one day a week, they had to clean their rooms to pass mom’s inspection…and mom’s inspection could be tough! And if their rooms didn’t pass her inspection, then they lost privileges.

You see, my wife and I had to parent differently than we wanted to accommodate each other’s parenting views.  We had to find out what was important to each other when it came to parenting, and then find approaches that honored us both.

It’s easier said than done, but there’s no other way. You each will approach parenting differently, which means you must each parent differently.

On a side note: both girls survived. They grew up to have kids of their own and now have to fight their own room battles. There is some poetic justice in life! 

How Parenting Can Improve Partnering

In my last post (How Partnering Can Improve Parenting,) we looked at how improving your marriage could improve your parenting. It stressed the importance of making sure your partnering takes precedence over your parenting. (If you’ve not read that post, I encourage you to go back and read it.)

Now, we need to answer how parenting can improve partnering, and the answer is simply this…

 “Your parenting should instruct your partnering.” 

Yes, your partnering should take priority over your parenting, but your parenting can teach you to be a better partner. Here’s what I mean by this. If you listed the things you do for your kids, your list would look something like this…

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How Partnering Can Improve Parenting

We don’t often think of how parenting can improve partnering. Usually, we think of just the opposite…how parenting makes partnering harder. We instantly think of all the demands parenting makes on our time, money, energy, and resources, and how those demands complicate marriage.

It’s true that being a parent can make being a partner more difficult. This is why I always tell spouses, “You’re partnering should  take precedent over your parenting.” I firmly believe this to be true for every marriage…

  • Young spouses as well as senior adults spouses.
  • Spouses who have biological children as well as those who have step children or adopted children.
  • Those who have just one child as well as those who have twelve.

No matter the situation, the principle is the same. You’re partnering should take precedence over your parenting, because:

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How Parents Can Bring Out the Best in Their Teenagers

In my last post, How Teenagers Bring Out the Worst in Their Parents, I talked abut the very difficult job of raising teenagers, and how it can effect parents.

In this post, let’s talk about how parents can bring out the best in their teens. It starts when you’re aware of your own issues of control, self-esteem, memory loss, fears, and aspirations. (Check out the previous post for more on this.)

Once you have addressed those things in yourself, there are some things you can do to bring out the best in those opinionated, strong-willed, hormonally challenged aliens we refer to as teenagers:

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How Teenagers Bring Out the Worst in Their Parents

I typically write posts focused on marriage, but this post is going to veer more into the area of parenting. Specifically, parenting teenagers, and more specifically, how teenagers bring out the worst in their parents.

As a former youth pastor, I have a special place in my heart for parents of teens. And, as the father of two grown children, I still have the twitches that can only come from teens or Turretts.

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What Does a Ham Have to Do With Marriage?

At the beginning of every year, we look at things we can do to make the new year better. But when it comes to marriage, what you do now will not only effect the new year, but generations to come.

There’s a story about a young wife who always cut off the end of the ham before she baked it. When her husband asked why she did this, she responded, “I don’t know. My mom always did it.” This made the husband curious, so he went to his mother-in-law and asked her why she cut off the end of a ham before baking it. His mother-in-law replied, “I don’t know. It’s something my mother always did when baking a ham.” The mystery went unresolved for some time, until one day the young couple were visiting the wife’s grandmother.

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The Power of a Few Seconds

Sometime back I was listening to a news report about a school shooting when I heard the newscaster say, “It only took 80 seconds for a high school senior to enter the high school, shoot a fellow student and then kill himself.” 80 seconds! Less than a minute and a half! That’s all it took to take two lives, irreversibly devastate two families, and traumatize a school and community forever. Just 80 seconds!

Listening to this story, I was struck by the power of a few seconds and I began to think of other situations effected by the power of a few seconds. A few seconds of distraction behind the wheel. A few seconds of inattention to a safety valve. A few seconds of leaving a child unattended by a swimming pool. There is power in a few seconds.

The same is true for marriage. A few seconds can make all the difference.

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Kids and Marriage – What Were We Thinking?

There are some things in life that seem like a good idea at the time, but later cause you to ask, “What was I thinking?”

Maybe it was that person who seemed so good on the first couple of dates that later left you asking, “What was I thinking?” Maybe it was training for that half marathon that caused you to say, “What was I thinking?” Or maybe it was that job change that looked good on paper, but left you wondering, “What was I thinking?” (For more ideas, take a look at your high school yearbook pictures.)

Having kids can be one of those things that seems like a good idea at the time, but can leave you wondering, “What was I thinking?”

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The First Day

It’s Monday morning, I’m walking in our neighborhood, and it’s the first day of school. School buses are crisscrossing the neighborhood like bees swarming a hive. Parents and children are gathered in groups along the streets. Kids are dressed in new school clothes and toting new book bags. Parents are lining up fidgety kids for those infamous first day of school pictures, while cheerily encouraging them about what a great day it will be and what a great year they’re going to have. It’s the first day of school!

Do you remember your first day of school? What about your first day of high school? Your first day of college? Your first day on the job? Your first day of marriage? Your first day as a parent? Your first day as an empty nester? Your first day of retirement?

Life is full of “first days.” As the cliché goes, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

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