“I guess what I’m asking is, how do I get my husband to make more positive changes and parent more like I do?”
This is a very short quote from a very long email I got from a reader recently. I could totally relate to her as I read her plea for help.
I remember a conversation my husband and I had before we had children. I asked him about what kind of parent he thought he would be, and how he wanted to raise our children. He looked at me like a deer in headlights and said, “Well, I figured I’d let you show me, you’re the one who understands kids.”
3 years later, that’s kind of what happened.
I do take the reigns when it comes to parenting. It is my full-time job, and I have a hands on experience and education with children that my husband doesn’t have. I read the books, blogs and articles about parenting, and he has not.
But, my husband has thoughts about how he wants our family to work and our children to behave, any good parent does. I can’t dismiss his wants and trump them with what I think is best. We are a team and we discuss these things together. Even though we are basically on the same page, we are very different people and so we parent differently.
We handle J’s behavior differently. We approach Baby E differently. We have different techniques, skills, and backgrounds that play a part of how we parent.
I used to get frustrated when my husband dealt with an issue differently than I would. I’d get so angry that he was doing it “wrong”, so I would try to teach him and ended up nagging. It wasn’t pretty and our relationship was suffering because of it.
So I made a change.
1. I’ve had to take a step back. I used to step in and take over when my husband was trying to talk to or discipline our kids. I didn’t even realize I was doing it until he pointed it out to me. When I step in, I not only confuse the kids with too many people giving them direction, but I’m also undermining my husband as a parent. Why would they ever listen to him if I keep jumping in?
Also, how is my husband ever going to practice his parenting skills if I keep taking over? He has to learn what works for him. I need to allow him to find his own way. It’s terribly hard to bite my tongue when I know of a more effective way to handle the kid’s behaviors, but it’s so important that I do.
2. I remind myself that there is no perfection in parenting. The times that I am the most critical of my husband are the times when he gets angry or he’s made mistakes. I have to remind myself that I am not perfect either and that we all make mistakes as parents. He knows when he’s messed up, and he’ll take ownership of it. He doesn’t need me to point it out too.
3. Remember that he doesn’t know kids and parenting like I do. I’ve spent years of my life studying child development and parenting skills. I read blog after blog and soak in as much information as I can about kids and parenting. He doesn’t do that, and that’s okay. What does matter, is that he’s a loving and fun Dad who is a great parent.
4. Tell myself that he’s a different person that I am. He doesn’t need to do exactly what I do and to be a clone of me. Our children need to see that their parents are different and have personalities unique to them. He deals with life differently than I do, because he’s a different person that I am. Because of that, our kids will see different ways of coping and dealing with life.
5. Kids are resilient. My husband is not going to mess up the kids because he does things differently. He’s not abusive and he’s not going to ruin our kids because he doesn’t handle things the way I do.
6. Talk it out. For the big stuff that we have to be on the same page about, I schedule a time to talk to him without distractions (usually that night after the boys are in bed). It’s best to do this when neither one of us are angry, but at a time when we are calm and can talk to each other without so many emotions. I approach him by saying “WE need to figure something out” and I use the words “us and we” instead of “you”. I try to make it our problem instead of confronting him with things I’d like for him to change. We are a team after all, so I try to problem solve with him.
Really, in the end it’s all about letting go and letting him become the parent he wants to be. It’s up to him to build the relationship he wants with his children. I can not control what he does. As long as we are on the same page about the big stuff, then we’re good to go in my book.
Even though I am taking a step back, we do still talk (a lot) about our kids and how we want to raise them. We work together as a team to make plans and strategies for our family.
Since stepping back and relaxing more, I’ve noticed that not only has our relationship improved, but he’s become a more confident parent. He’s been able to relax in his role and find his own way more easily, without his wife watching his every move. Looking at him now, I see such a great dad, who handles our kids beautifully. Does he parent the way I do? No. He’s even better at some things than I am!