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Dear Emuna: Different Parenting Styles

September 17, 2013 | by Emuna Braverman

He thinks I’m overprotective and I think he’s not careful enough.

Dear Emuna,

My husband and I have three small children. We get along very well and agree on almost everything – except our parenting strategy. He thinks I’m overprotective and I think he’s not careful enough. This has led to a lot of fights and hurt feelings. How can we move past this?

Parents in Turmoil

Dear Parents,

Our teacher, Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg zt”l, told my husband and me that it doesn’t really matter whether your children are raised in a permissive home or a more authoritarian one. What matters is that the parenting style should be consistent and that the two of you should be on the same page.

With your children still young, this is the time to work out your differences.

Women have an unfortunate tendency to marginalize their husbands in the parenting department (and then criticize them for not helping enough). Give your husband more credit for being a responsible, caring father and stop supervising or trying to control his interactions with the kids. Try to discuss situations of concern ahead of time – for example, arm him with hats and sunscreen for a day at the beach or with healthy snacks or with suggestions of activities and their limits of their attention span for a Sunday afternoon – and then let go.

Children are not as fragile as you believe. And you might actually find that you are also a better parent when you don’t feel like you are the only one on call, like you have to handle everything.

Men, on the other hand, need to try to indulge their wife’s over-protectiveness, especially when the kids are very young (and her hormones haven’t settled down yet) or when the price isn’t too high. If it’s not too restrictive and if she will feel better, don’t be committed to proving a point of being right on the issue. Just do what will give your wife peace of mind –as long as doesn’t lead to absurd restrictions on the kids or foolish limits on your ability to effectively parent.

If she is sensitive to your needs and you are sensitive to hers, then I am confident that, in this area, as in all areas of your marriage, you will succeed.

Dear Emuna,

My wife’s parents are very needy. When we go visit her mother expects us to spend every minute with her, she calls my wife and me nonstop daily and she expects my wife to be her best friend. The time demands and emotional demands are really making me crazy. Am I just being selfish or is something wrong here?

Frustrated Husband

Dear Frustrated,

You may be selfish but something is wrong there. No matter the age, parents and children should not be best friends. It is not a relationship of peers and it is an unfair burden for a parent to place on a child. And it is an even more unfair burden to place on a marriage.

You don’t mention how your wife responds to this. Is she resentful? Does she do as her mother asks? Do you suffer as a result?

Your wife needs to know that you and her marriage are her priority. Her mother is never going to recognize that so it’s up to our wife to set the boundaries

This is uncomfortable and she may not wish to do this but it is absolutely crucial if you want your marriage to succeed. When you go to visit, make some plans for the days so that you are not always on top of each other.

She is your wife’s mother so you have to be kind to her but if her demands are affecting your shalom bayis, peace in the home, then you both need to pull back in order to save your marriage. That’s probably the best general advice I can give you given the very general description of your situation. I wish you well.

Dear Emuna,

I have three school-age children that I have to get ready and out the door by 7:30 every morning. Every morning it’s a struggle. Someone isn’t dressed, someone’s bed isn’t made, someone’s teach aren’t brushed, someone’s lunch isn’t ready and on and on and on. I get so frustrated and frequently lose my temper. Then I feel guilty that I sent them off to school on such a negative note. How can I change the morning experience?

Frazzled Mom

Dear Frazzled,

Your morning sounds like that of most mothers I know. There are a few practical ways in which this experience of the morning can be changed.

It is helpful if you get yourself up earlier than your children, giving yourself enough time to have a cup of coffee and read the paper before the rush begins. You will approach the morning with a different attitude if you have had just a little time to yourself first.

Make sure you have realistic expectations. Your kids are probably not eager to get out of bed and will probably not leave a lot of extra time for morning chores. Therefore don’t saddle them with too many. Pick one or two that really count (taking their lunch and homework with them is a good place to start!) and let go of the others. Accept that your house will be a mess!

Give them some type of incentive (reward, bribe) to perform certain mandatory tasks – be in the car by 7:30, put their lunch in their backpack, avoid provoking a fight with their sister.

Get as much as you can – homework, lunches, supplies, projects – ready the night before.

Set up a seating chart that changes month for seats in the car (this saved my life!).

Make a commitment not to yell and evaluate everyday to see how you do.

Mornings are definitely a challenge for all of us but with determination, will, and a coherent strategy, you can change that experience for the better.

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