Parenting your child - Mother and Baby

Once a baby joins your family life is changed forever! From day one and even before we need to make decisions: what kind of birth do we want, do we will we feed on demand or only every three hours, will we let the baby cry herself to sleep or comfort her when she cries?   These decisions don’t end and become more complex over time.  When should he no longer be drinking from a bottle? When can he take the bus by himself? What will I do if he hits his sister?
We often have a vision of what kind of parent we will be, sharing the wonder of discovery, imparting our values and developing in them a positive attitude, sense of humour and robust sense of self-worth.

Generally by the time your child has turned one this vision may seem a little fuzzier! After a particularly fraught clash of wills over meals, bedtime or outright defiance by looking right at you and doing just what said not to do,  you may have asked yourself – ‘Wait a minute, who is this child?’ Or even - ‘Who is this frustrated, screaming parent? Why is my partner letting her get away with this!! Things are not going according to my parenting plan!’  This means it is time for you and your partner to have a rational, unemotional discussion about how you feel you can best parent your child.
As soon as you see that you may have different opinions about acceptable behaviors then you need to discuss and come up with a mutually acceptable game plan.  Unless you can show your child that you two are a strong team, he or she will divide and conquer!  

The four important dimensions of parenting have been identified as:

Authoritarian Parenting – children are expected to follow strict rules set by parents.  Parents will often respond to queries with ‘because I said so” and may believe children should be seen and not heard. They are very focused on obedience and the training of their children.

Authoritative Parenting – these parents also establish clear rules and guidelines but are much more responsive to children’s questioning authority. They are more nurturing than Authoritarian Parents when children fail to meet expectations and are assertive but not intrusive or restrictive.

Permissive Parenting – these parents are more non-traditional and lenient. They generally have relatively low expectations of maturity and self-control. Permissive parents are generally nurturing and communicative with their children, often seeming more like a friend than a parent.

Uninvolved Parenting – this style of parenting is characterized by very little communication and low expectations.  Parents are generally detached from their child’s life.

How we parent our children will have a huge impact on their overall development. How we communicate our expectations and guidelines and how we react when they meet or fail to meet these expectations is vital. If we are divided in our reactions and opinions it makes it much harder for the child to understand what is expected of them.

Children will naturally look at how they can best get their own way, and often this comes when they see that parents are not on the same page.  In our house my husband is much more likely to remove the privilege of playing games on xbox or on the iPad, therefore the children will often ask me if they can use these things.  I have now learnt that I must always ask “What did Dad say?” If I just say yes then they run back to Dad saying “Mum said I could!” As soon as the children have you pitted against one another then they have won!  

Parenting is not all about cuddles and sweet times together.  You soon realize it is probably the hardest job you will ever do, it is filled with challenges and a very steep learning curve. In order to create a positive and supportive environment in your home you will need to support each other. Even if your marriage does not last when it comes to parenting,  you are in this together!

Positive interaction between parents not only makes boundaries and expectations clear it also plays a large part in children developing positive self-esteem. Children’s happiness and development is so dependent on the quality of their relationships with their parents.  If there is frequent clashes and severe conflict between parents we often find behavior and developmental problems in the children. 

When you are a team, together you bring balance, peace and security into your family.  Your children will develop trust, in his environment and in himself.  He will know you are there together to protect, nurture and guide him.

Parenting is a journey, there will be good days and bad days, ups, downs and sharp turns but if we are honest about knowing our children and ourselves, and most importantly invest the time in positive communication and teamwork, it will be the journey of a lifetime and one we will cherish for the rest of our days.

In some families the ‘good cop /bad cop’  roles naturally arise given the different parenting styles you may have but it can be upsetting for the parent who is always called in to be ‘bad cop’. For both parent parents to enjoy their role as parents equally and to be able to show a united front when dealing with undesirable behaviors it is important that you take the time to do the following:

a)  Understand each other.  

b)  Come up with a game plan. 

c)   Be willing to compromise. 

d)  Communicate with the children. Let them know what will happen so that consequences are clearly understood by everyone.  Make sure when you do talk to them it is clear you are both in agreement.  With young children it is a good idea to have a few, clear ground rules that are non-negotiable.

e)    Have a signal. If, in the heat of the moment your partner says something you don’t agree with it is a good idea to have a signal where you can agree to step out and discuss rather than disagree in front of the child.

Q. My son likes to play one parent off against the other – for instance my husband will tell him to check with Mummy when he requests to play an electronic game.  He then comes to me and announces, “Daddy said that I can play Minecraft, mummy.”  How do I deal with this?

A. All children will try this at some stage.  The best thing to do is to check in front of them.  “Daddy, did you say he could play Minecraft?” Remind him then to listen carefully, “Daddy said to CHECK with mummy, right?”  This will reinforce the fact that the two of you are a team.

Q. How should I deal with my emotions when I see my daughter favouring her father over me?

A.  Many little girls are “Daddy’s girls”. Especially if they see a bit less of Daddy then he will often be able to do no wrong in their eyes.  Remember that you are so lucky to have a family unit where your daughter has two loving parents.  Don’t feel upset if she seems to favour Daddy over you, there will come times when she will need her Mummy more. Just sit back and enjoy watching your daughter developing what will be one of the most important relationships in her life.   

Q. My wife is too soft on our son, she doesn’t believe in punishing him when he speaks back or ignores our instructions. I am worried that by letting him get away with such behavior he will never learn manners and respect.

A. It is really common to have differences of opinion over parenting, especially when it comes to disciplining your children.  It is important that you and your wife can find some common ground though.  I suggest you find a neutral time to discuss your concerns and listen to each other. Work together to come up with a strategy that will appear consistent to your child.  Be open to trying different ways of working together so you can find an approach that will work. 

The fact is that parenting requires an enormous amount of patience, boundary setting and consistency. You want to avoid falling into the ‘good cop/bad cop’ trap as this often leads to inconsistency, family disputes and division within your relationship with your partner. It is important to be clear about your parenting style and your partners parenting style.

Until a child comes along you may not have realized how important it is to your partner that your child have good table manners, or how important it is to you that they speak politely to everyone who talks to them. 

Warmth and nurturance

      Talk about your child and what you hope to achieve.  Think about what will suit your child’s character and personality.  If you find yourself falling into the bad cop role while your partner seems to be the good cop on most days talk about how that makes you feel and what could be done to better work as a team.

Disciplinary strategies

IMPACT: children can be obedient and proficient but often with low self-esteem, poorly developed social skills and rank lower in happiness indexes.

IMPACT: children generally are happy, capable and successful.

IMPACT: children generally rank lower in happiness and self-control. They are also more likely to have difficulty with authority and this can affect performance in school.

IMPACT: these children, unfortunately, rank lower in all areas – happiness, self-control, self-esteem, social awareness and academic competence.
   Discuss what boundaries you want to set and what would be reasonable consequences.  Even trivial issues like whether or not your little one can have dessert if she didn’t finish all of her dinner can become an issue if you both feel differently.   Having agreed upon ground rules also gives your child a sense of security.

      Of course the two of you will not always feel the same way about everything.  On certain issues you will need to compromise.  I know how strongly my husband feels about the children being polite, even if they are upset, so I support him in that using a rude tone of voice to anyone in the house is unacceptable.  They will need to go their room until they can speak calmly and kindly.

Communication styles
Expectations of maturity and control
Studies which focus on parents’ responses and attitudes towards these dimensions have enabled the identification of four parenting styles.


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