Marriage basics 101: Children
By now you remember the big four sources of marital conflict--sex, money, in-laws, and children. Today’s blog is about kids.
My wife and I got along very well about almost everything. Everything except child rearing--not a small topic area in family life! What we agreed on: We both wanted children. We both wanted them to become honest, hard working, caring adults. We both wanted them to have many different experiences; and most importantly, we both loved kids!
But that was where our common ground ended. I grew up in a family that was extreme in many ways. Both of my parents just assumed that their three sons wouldn’t need much guidance, direction or limits. We were pretty much allowed to run wild. Sure, we all did well in school. But our parents didn’t worry too much about safety. They just figured we would be ok. And, this was not always the case.
My wife, on the other hand, grew up in a more normal family- although her father was a bit eccentric. But in our generation, fathers didn’t have too much to do with raising kids.
So we fought about safety issues when our kids were little and when they were older. We fought about the need for limits. And we fought about how much direction they needed. We were both pretty stubborn and it was hard for us to agree when we disagreed. I think I was the one that needed a reality check--it took me a long time to figure it out. In retrospect, I think my wife was closer to the reasonable mark than me. Now, if we only had that third child….
Much of the conflict that arises between parents stems from differences in the way they were raised. Sometimes adults go in the opposite direction of their upbringing. Children raised in overly strict families want to be more permissive when they are in the parental chair. Those that grew up in poor families may go overboard on buying toys and gifts. What seems like a wild teen to one parent may seem like a member of the “get along gang” to another. It all depends on your own life experience.
Some parents strive to be like their own mom and dad. Others would rather walk the plank than be like their parents. But all of these concerns merit introspection, reflection, and yes, you guessed it, discussion. Not when you’re angry or when you’re arguing.
Yes, it is true that the more worried parent will probably get their way more often. But this parenting thing is not about who wins or about getting your way, it is about figuring out what the right thing to do is, and then doing it--consistently and predictably.
This is what we all have in common. We all suffer over getting it “right” and then doing it well. We worry about bad things happening to these apples of our eyes. We want to get it right. But what is the right way? That is where we struggle.
Here are some tips on collaboration:
When you bump into big differences, look back to your own childhood. You will probably find the answer you are looking for there. Remember that you can’t make up for the deficits in your childhood through your own children. Better to consider what you think is reasonable. If you did grow up in a more extreme background, seek other perspectives that may bring you balance.
Don’t impose your fears onto your children. This is a tough one. Based on our own life experiences, our fears often seem reasonable to us. Because my brother was killed by a drunk driver, I was very fearful about my children driving. When my oldest daughter decided to drive across country with a friend, I was terrified. But I didn’t prevent her from doing it. I knew that my fear was irrational.
Find common ground even when you don’t agree. In other words, don’t be stubborn!
What issues around child rearing have you and your spouse struggled with? Join the Family Talk conversation!