Parenting together when you have different styles
Parenting together when you have different styles
Parenting is hard. It’s especially difficult when you and your spouse have two different ways of looking at things. My husband and I are a blended family, with 4 kids between us- 13, 11, 10 and 8. We both grew up with pretty strict parents- in my case I swore I would parent differently than mine did, in his case, he thinks the strict parenting style was a good one.
I’m a pretty lenient mom- and my kids know it. They know that I rarely get mad, and when I do- to back off IMMEDIATELY. Well, my oldest does- the 11 year old still likes to push a little harder. I tend to try and reason things out, and I pick my battles as best I can. Don’t get me wrong- I can (and will!) be a hard-nose when I need to be, but for the most part I try to be reasonable and understanding.
When I get home from work- I like to go and lay on my bed for 20 minutes to decompress. In our bedroom, we have a picture that my husband found and brought home. I read it often, almost every day. Today, I saw it in a different light. My husband and I had a disagreement about how I handled something with my oldest, and it had made for a frustrating day and evening yesterday. As I read the picture I realized that as parents sometimes we believe we have to be tough, and we can’t be our kids friends, and we have to be tyrants. What I realize is that sometimes that is necessary, but the rest of the time, the Love Rules I see every day apply not just to my husband and I, but also to our relationships with our kids.
Rule # 1: Listen to your heart. None of us really know what we are doing. Every kid is different, and whether it’s your first one, or your fourth…we are still just feeling around in the dark, trying to be the best parent we can. Trust yourself. Believe that your love for them will guide you to do the best job you can.
Rule # 2: Kiss each other goodnight. We always kiss all our kiddies goodnight- no matter what- even if they have made us crazy that day, or if we have done the same to them. No night passes without us giving them a kiss, a hug and telling them we love them.
Rule # 3: Say “I love you.” Every single day. Before we leave them for school, every time we speak to them on the phone, and at bedtime. Various other times throughout the day as well, but those times for sure.
Rule # 4: Be thoughtful and generous. Give as much as you can. Of your time, of opportunities for them. Remind yourself when they are costing you an arm and a leg for horseback riding lessons, and you are driving them all over the city to go on playdates with their friends- that someday, they will be gone, and you won’t have anyone to take anywhere anymore. Give them all that you can, while you still hold them in your arms.
Rule # 5: Run away together. This one, I have to admit-is much harder with four kids than when it was just me and my two. Often, they would get home from school on a Friday and I would tell them to pack a bag and get in the car- we would go away for a weekend- stay at a hotel, swim in the pool, eat at a restaurant, go for a hike, or skiing in Banff, wander the streets and go to a candy store and load up. Lay in our hotel bed and watch movies and eat snacks. I travelled with them- we went to California, Mexico and Hawaii on our own. This is something I want to do more of now that there are so many of us- and I will.
Rule # 6: Have candlelight dinners. I don’t know what my kiddies would say if we sat down for a candlelight dinner together- they would probably love it, and I will add that to my list of things to do with them. I do know that their absolute favorite times with us is when we all sit down together and have a Sunday night dinner, talking and laughing and sharing our time around the dinner table.
Rule # 7: Be patient and kind with your words. Too often this is a tough one. We get frustrated when we have asked them 5 times to clean their rooms, or make their lunches. Or we get the phone call from school because they forgot their homework…again. Remember…they are self-absorbed little creatures. It’s in their genes, and they are supposed to be this way when they are young. They can be empathic, and they can be generous and grateful, but their world revolves around them. It’s impossible to be patient all the time, and not get frustrated…but try and remember to be kind.
Rule # 8: Hold hands and cuddle. We try and get cuddle time in with all of them on a regular basis. It’s easier when they are little- but if you have a strong, healthy relationship with them, it doesn’t have to end as they get older. My 13 (almost 14) year old still holds my hand, and my husband’s hand when we are out shopping. All four of them still want to cuddle when watching a movie together or laying on the couch.
Rule # 9: Know when to say you’re sorry. This is a big one for me. My mom never apologized. Even when I knew she felt bad about how she reacted to a situation, even when she knew she was in the wrong. I believe part of that generation was the belief that you could “never show weakness.” I believe my ability to apologize when I’m fully aware that I’ve over-reacted, or that I am have made a mistake- makes me a stronger, better person. And it shows my children that I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong…and that it’s ok to do so.
Rule # 10: Laugh together every day. I love to laugh. I love it when I can make my kids or my husband laugh. And at least one of them tend to say or do something every day that makes me giggle. Everyone should laugh together, every single day.
Rule # 11: Be willing to compromise. This one is hard for me sometimes- I tend to believe I’m always right. (just ask my husband!) But I try my best to find ways to work around differences in opinions, and I am learning to get better at compromise.
Rule # 12: Write love letters. I like this one. I don’t do it often, but every once in a while I will put a little note into lunchboxes. Every year, I buy a book for their birthdays- inside I write a long love letter to them- talking about the year, what they have accomplished, how proud I am of them, and how much I adore them. The books are keepsakes that will be around long after I’m gone, for my children to read when they are missing their mom.
Rule # 13: Never go to bed angry. I tend to get over things pretty quickly. I have gone to bed mad, but I usually wake up and feel much better. And I really do try not to go to sleep like that, and with my kids, I try and talk things through and get to a better place before bedtime.
Rule # 14: Be spontaneous and impulsive. Last winter, one random afternoon, my husband was off work early- he showed up at the kids schools, pulled them all out of class- and took them sledding for the afternoon. It is still one of their best memories.
Rule # 15: Respect each other. My parents generation were about kids being “seen and not heard”, and respect was to be given to adults no matter what. I do believe that children should respect their parents- but it goes both ways. If you want your children to respect your beliefs, your behavior, your attitudes, you….then give them respect as well. They deserve it.
Rule # 16: Grow old together. If you do a good job- they will always stay close to you as you grow older. I’ve loved each and every stage of my kids growth so far- and I look forward to seeing so much more.
Rule # 17: Remember why you fell in love. Remember that moment you held that little one in your arms for the first time? I do. I remember thinking it wasn’t possible to love another human being as much as I did when I held my first daughter…until I had my second daughter and realized that I still had so much room in my heart. Watch them while they are sleeping…and cherish those moments as they will be gone all too soon
Rule # 18: Live Happily Ever After. The days are long, but the years are short. Cherish your moments together.
There are no perfect parents, and no perfect way to parent. It’s all negotiation, compromise and figuring it out as we go along. Talk to you partner and share your ideas and thoughts often. Try not to let two different parenting styles come between you. Know that there will be good and bad on both sides and together you can find what works best for you.