This may not come as a surprise, but apparently my kid’s dad is a Neanderthal. Ba dum bum. Questionable personal habits aside, I’m talking about parenting style. His approach to our kids closely resembles a good deal of what Psychology Today calls “Playful Parenting,” the style used by hunter-gatherer societies. He has few rules for them, doesn’t tell them it’s time to go to bed, lets them do pretty much whatever they want whenever they want.
This drove me crazy.
I had my own ideas of parenting that involved nurturing, nutrition, protection from unsuitable things, and constant attention. Helicopter parent? *Cough* That may have been me (I prefer to say “Attachment Parent,” but whatever). I spent 24 hours a day with them; he spent, well, less. Way less.
We fought about this constantly. He wasn’t doing enough. He was too lackadaisical, didn’t pay attention. The kids could get hurt.
He didn’t do things My Way. The Right Way.
Is it a Mom vs Dad thing? Are all men Neanderthals (’scuse me .. ‘playful parents’)? I hate to paint with a broad brush, but that seems to be the trend whereas moms are encouraged to be downright helicopterish. We protect them from evils that could befall them while walking to school, for example. We are afraid to trust their innate abilities to care for themselves and to make sound decisions when they’re small. We feel responsible for their well-being. It’s difficult to see our role any other way: our kids are small, and they … need us, right?
So what do you do when Mom and Dad have totally different parenting styles?
(My solution (divorce) is extreme. Not recommended. Plus it didn’t solve this problem.)
1. Meet in the middle. Helicopter parent becomes more cavemannish and loosens up a little. Neanderthal becomes more responsible. Win-win. But it can be hard to do.
2. Agree to disagree. But I’m still right (No, I am!). So the other parent has shortcomings, in your opinion. You see them, you even joke about them. (And you’re still right!)
3. Fuhgeddaboutit. Kids can benefit from being around multiple parenting styles. Those parenting magazines that tell you that you should both stay on the same side of the fence and create a unified Parenting Wall of Authority can go jump in the lake. Kids can be okay with inconsistency. It’s a skill we admire later: flexibility.
What about you? Is your parenting style different from your partner’s? How do you make this work (or not!) in your family?