Relationships — January 13, 2017 at 5:42 am

Marriage Communication After Baby: How to Handle Parenting Style Clashes

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Let me give you a common scenario: before you and your husband have children, you discussed your parenting philosophies and even did some research on the newest parenting methods and theories. You agreed on things like what to do when the baby cries, whether you wanted to practice attachment parenting, and whether to use cloth or plastic diapers. Then, once you have your first child, all hell seems to break loose. Whether it’s when the baby should sleep, whether to breastfeed, and how to store all the toys, you suddenly find that you and your husband disagree about everything.

“But we thought we were so prepared! How did this happen?” Having a child is a major challenge and joy at the same time. Even prepared parents can struggle with contrasting parenting styles, since you don’t truly know what works for you until you begin to experience parenting for the first time. It’s not always possible to predict exactly how you will react until you have a colicky baby who hasn’t slept in two days.

My sister and her husband found out that they had a lot of differences after their daughter was born. My sister Sandy was more laid back, whereas my brother-in-law Jim was more uptight. Sandy will get down on the floor and player anywhere, even if that meant toys were all over the kitchen floor. That drove Jim crazy.

Jim had it in his head that they should set up stations in two rooms that would contain the toys, and that all toys would be put back where they were stored immediately after the play session. When it came to sleep habits, the two switched roles, with Jim thinking that naps were no big deal, and Sandy feeling like the baby needed to stay on a schedule.

Eventually they found a good solution: letting each other deal with the consequences of their preferred parenting styles. That way they stopped arguing about who was right and who was wrong. The day Sandy let the play sessions go on all over the house and there were toys in every room, she wound up having to do a lot of cleaning up in order to prepare for a party they were having later that night. She adjusted her style to start keeping things tidier. Conversely, when Jim was doing laundry, he started keeping the baby occupied with a bouncy seat and toys that were left in the laundry room. Suddenly it dawned on him that having toys accessible helped him do his chores faster.

Dealing with the consequences of your own method also helps teach whether the method will actually work. One Saturday night, Jim felt it wasn’t important for the baby to take a morning nap, and instead let her nap at 6:00 pm. So they agreed that if the baby stayed up, Jim would get to deal with the consequences. When Jim was up with the baby until 4:00 am, he conceded that keeping her on a schedule could be helpful.

This method works beset for parenting areas where the baby’s overall health and well being are not seriously at risk. On more serious parenting issues, you should look to guidelines set by experts. Rely on your pediatrician about things like sleep, introduction of solid food and developmental issues. Above all, remember that your baby will not be harmed by a little experimentation to see what works best for you, your husband and your child.

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