My husband has never taken a parenting class, refuses to pick up a parenting book or even glance at an article in the newspaper! Though he mostly leaves parenting decisions to me, he insists that he knows what he's doing because he turned out to be a good guy and will just do things the way his parents did. I'm getting very frustrated with all this because I don't want to always be the one making all the parenting choices alone. I've gone to classes and read about new ideas in magazines and think I've learned some good ideas. Whenever I do try to include him I don't think his ideas are very good or what would be best for our kids. How do I help him see that maybe there's a different way to do things and maybe I'm right sometimes because I've learned more?
- Can't Teach an Old Dog
Wow, the frustration you feel really comes across in your letter and I hear your concern. Parenting is a job that begins with top down administration by the adults. Parents who are relatively on the same page with their parenting ideas present a united front to their children, provide greater consistency of rules and children learn they cannot play one parent off the other to manipulate them and thereby get their way. Unlike most areas of our lives, where we plan, strategize and develop goals many parents don't even give their parenting "plan" a thought beyond how many, what age intervals and how can we afford to get them all to college. Once the babies come along parents can feel so busy with the day to day fun, excitement and survival of raising kids they can feel there's no time or reason to set a plan.
You don't mention your children's ages or how long this struggle has been happening between you and your husband. Often once an issue has been ongoing for some time both parties become entrenched in the extreme of their own side. Realizing that both you and your husband each have valid positions is key to moving this discussion forward. Both sides also probably have room for improvement. Much has been learned about child development and effect parenting techniques over the past decades - AND there is a lot of parenting bunk out there. Shifting through to a few key concepts which support your and your husband's believes can make the learning of new techniques more manageable and less overwhelming. On the flip side, ask your husband what some of the things he felt his parents did that helped him become the man he is today - a man wonderful enough that you wanted to marry him. Ask him what about the values he learned from his parents and focus on the ones that you would both like your children to gain as they mature. Then invite him to share his ideas about how you both can teach your children these lessons - find out what he thought worked and even what he suggests you avoid.
By remembering that each of your opinions and methods have benefits for your children, by working toward agreement that you both can share and incorporate into your own parenting front with your children your children will learn a lot! They will see how debate is handled by adults, they will witness communication, respect and the art of compromise. They will see that while you and your husband are individuals, you each bring to your family unique perspectives and skills which can benefit the entire family. Life is too short for extremes and battles. Your husband doesn't need to read all the latest parenting books but would benefit from your keeping updated. You don't need to abandon all your learning and fly by the seat of your pants with your parenting. What you do need is to remember that the goal is raising kids you'll both enjoy being around - that doesn't just happen by accident and either does good parenting.