Tips for Parenting as a Team
Every couple is going to clash on a few of the millions of decisions they need to make together once baby arrives. “There’s no one right way to do almost anything as a parent,” says Shoshana Bennett, PhD, a clinical psychologist specializing in family issues. “It’s really important to respect each other’s ideas. That doesn’t mean you have to agree, but you should avoid being critical.” Try these tips next time you’re having trouble seeing eye to eye on a particular parenting issue:
Ask, “Is this a big deal?”
If you disagree on something little, like how to dress baby or whether to bathe him or her in the sink or the tub, it’s not worth a fight. “When it comes to a huge safety or health issue, then it’s important to discuss it,” Bennett says, “but arguments between parents typically aren’t about whether to put a seatbelt on your kids. They’re more about parenting style.” So when dealing with those smaller, non-essential decisions see if you can each take turns—this time your partner will have the final say, and the next time it will be your turn, or vice versa.
Stay calm and listen
Don’t flip out as soon as you hear your partner’s take. React as calmly as you can—even if it’s not at all the response you wanted to hear. Then consider the situation you’re currently in when the topic comes up—if it’s 2 a.m, baby’s screaming, and neither of you have slept for hours, table the discussion for daylight hours when you feel sane enough to have a civil conversation. Then, when you’re ready ‘ask why?’. You might find your partner has a good reason for his stance and it can help you understand things better—or even make one of you more willing to give in.
Give your partner equal footing
Accept that your partner has a different style than you do, like he lets baby play independently (while supervised) and you like to play along with baby. Bennett says it’s actually good for babies to be exposed to different people who speak in different intonations, point out different things to baby and involve baby in different activities—all this variety helps baby developmentally.
Most of us swear we’re going to raise our kids differently when we become parents. Then we become parents…our parents! Why not focus on the fact that you’re a new family, and develop new ways to interact together and start new traditions together? It can help if you come at a decision from a clean slate.