“Don’t do that! You’ll fall down!” cautions mum. “You can do it! Don’t be afraid!” yells dad. While parenting approaches between genders may seem contradictory, there is a good reason why the differences you have in raising your child are necessary and beneficial.
Dr Emmett Brown, eminent scientist and inventor of the time machine back in 1985 (you may remember him in the movie Back to the Future), once referred to women as “the other great mystery of the universe”. And sometimes women don’t get men either. It becomes especially apparent when parenting comes into play, but opposites attract for good reason when it comes to raising your child.
Gender differences are deeply entrenched in history and culture, the very basic principle being that men are hunters and women gatherers. Given the typical aggressive male psyche stacked against the gentle, nurturing maternal instinct, parental disagreements are bound to happen.
If you take a little time to observe both parents supervising a child at play, you will commonly hear the mother instructing her child to “be careful”, “don’t do that” and “you’ll fall down”, whereas dad tends to encourage the child to push further into the fun, with words like, “don’t worry”, “you can do it” and “don’t be afraid”.
It sounds conflicting, but it isn’t. As far as the child is concerned, it’s still business as usual (you’d think much of what the parents are saying is just being ignored), but the different approaches are both being instilled on the child in the form of constant reminder.
It takes two
When we become parents, a lot of what we do with our child is based on instinct. Mothers are naturally inclined to protect the child from danger, and will teach prudence, care and caution. Fathers, on the other hand, are instinctively equipped to prepare their child to face risky situations, and through dad’s interaction, the child learns decisiveness, risk-taking and how to pick himself up after a fall.
Both approaches are necessary for well-rounded child development. There are just 2 key things for both parents to agree on: trust, and communication.
Parenting: a partnership
If all this clicks with you, then you’ve embarked on your first step: understanding that the differences you have in raising your child is necessary and beneficial. Your next step is accepting this fact, and that’s when parents will build a trust partnership with each other. Remember that as parents, both of you only want the best for your child, and that is the driving force behind bringing your child up into adulthood.
Parenting is very much a team effort, so open communication is also a must. Discussing your motivations and intentions in bringing up your child helps tremendously in alleviating conflict. Talking about your differences in style will also help you both come to agreement on dealing with parenting situations, like when to take a backseat when the other is keeping the child in check, or stepping in when the other needs help with the child.
Most importantly, be involved. Active parenthood is a good habit that takes time to nurture and effort to get used to. Your children have so much to learn, so give as much time as you can to be with your kids. Then you can be assured that they’re learning from a most reliable source — you.