How can we parent as a team?
No two people agree entirely on every parenting decision, so it’s
natural that your toddler will check with each of you to see which one
will let him have what he wants. Being aware of this means you can
present a united front. Friction can be caused if you undermine each
others’ decisions, even if this is done unintentionally. For example,
your child may be in the habit of asking one of you for a treat, then,
if he gets told “no,” going to the other for a different answer. To
avoid this situation (called “splitting”), make a habit of checking with
your partner to see if a decision has already been made. If this can’t
be done easily, delay giving your answer until you’ve had a chance to
talk it through. This way your child sees you as a parenting team who
will back each other up. If you do disagree, and this is bound to happen
sometimes, do it away from the children and then let them know your
Why does my child try to wind me up when she knows I’m tired and busy?
It must seem that your toddler picks her moment to have an
outburst but, developmentally, she does not yet have the ability to
judge whether you are stressed or not. She can pick up on basic
emotions, but she simply doesn’t have the sophisticated reasoning to be
calculated about when she cries or is uncooperative. Unfortunately, the
times when you are most stressed tend also to be the times she is
overwhelmed or tired, too.
Take a moment to see the
situation from your child’s point of view. For example, difficult
behavior at dinnertime, such as refusing to eat her meal, spilling a
drink on the floor, and screaming, could be a result of her being tired.
She might also have missed your attention when you were occupied with
making the meal, or possibly she is not yet used to the food tastes and
textures you’re asking her to try. Rather than being a deliberate
attempt to upset you, she is simply expressing strong needs.
Seeing things from her
point of view allows you to be sympathetic, and gives you ideas to
remedy the situation. For example, you may decide to make her mealtime
earlier so that she’s less tired, have some playtime with her beforehand
so she’s had your attention, and offer her fewer new foods to try.
Parenting Getting the balance right
I was determined not to
parent like my mother. She was very strict, imposing a rigid timetable
of homework and chores. With my son I tried to be the opposite. I wanted
to be a playmate and thought if I set limits or a routine he wouldn’t
love me and would go wild later, as I had. I was surprised and hurt when
he behaved badly all the time, and, at my wits’ end, I asked his
pediatrician for help. She pointed out that he needed both playtime and
limits to teach him that I loved him but that I was in charge. I
realized then that setting a routine didn’t make me a bully.
There are patterns and habits in almost everything we do, and this includes bringing up our children
Old-school parenting Looking back to your childhood
The greatest influence
on your values, aspirations, and parenting style is likely to be your
own parents and upbringing. Whatever your experiences as a child, how
you raise your child will be affected by how you were brought up,
whether you want it to or not. It’s worth noting that most parents, when
asked, would choose to go to family and friends as their first choice
for parenting advice; a demonstration that much of the time the last
generation got child-rearing right.
Blast from the past
How often have you
heard yourself say something to your own child exactly as it was said to
you, even down to the tone of voice? Depending on your experiences you
may be pleased to repeat something that made your childhood special, or
disappointed that the memory of a negative comment has broken through
your resolve to parent differently. The powerful nature of learning
through experience means that these automatic reactions will intrude
unless you actively try to control them. At times of stress you’re most
likely to copy the parenting you experienced as a child. If you’re
anxious to avoid these reactions, then identify situations when they’re
most likely to arise and practice alternative responses. Creating new
patterns of behavior will help override habits from history.
Rejecting the past
One reaction to a
difficult childhood can be to apply the opposite parenting style when
raising your own child. For example, if your upbringing was strict or
harsh, perhaps now you put in place very few rules or boundaries, or buy
your child all she asks for to compensate for having had very little
yourself. A common fear in these circumstances is that, if you start to
use discipline, then you will lose control and go too far, repeating the
patterns from the past that hurt you. Unfortunately, in rejecting
everything from your childhood you may be going to a different extreme,
which means your child doesn’t have the limits and regulation she needs.
If you don’t have a positive role model, effective ways to establish
your own style are to read parenting books, observe others, and attend
Your child will face a
different world and present you with new dilemmas. She’s taught to
challenge your opinion rather than go along with it, she is exposed to
more technology than you were, and later in life, she will face choices
and pressures that weren’t present for you.
to previous generations can remind you that the underlying principles of
caring for your child—predictable, loving parenting—still applies.
Do I have a parenting style? Elements you may recognize
There is no one
correct parenting style, but some approaches are more likely than others
to create the rich, loving relationship you want with your child. You
may find your parenting approach is a collection of ideas accumulated
through reading books, watching others, your values and experiences from
childhood, and trial and error. Being able to identify and challenge
how you parent allows you to cut out unhelpful ideas and stick to those
that suit you and your family best.
Elements of your parenting style
This is a quality to be
cherished. If you have this type of parenting style, you’ll dedicate
many hours to your child’s development through play and stimulation.
This style works well when you also provide the routine your toddler
needs to feel safe and secure. Although you can be her playmate, avoid
the temptation to be her best friend, since this makes it difficult to
apply the limits she needs.
This encompasses the many
ways you show your love to your child. It is in the physical affection
you show, your gentle tone of voice, the softening in your expression
when you see or think of her, and the unconditional love you feel. If
you were raised not to show your feelings, to be embarrassed about them,
or to believe that telling a child you love her will spoil her, you may
feel limited in the expression of warmth that is needed in your
relationship. Speak to a counselor or parenting expert if your beliefs
about expressing affection are getting in the way of warm parenting.
Firm but fair
You establish a clear
routine for your child but don’t apply it so rigidly that she misses out
on play dates or other activities. You have a few simple house rules
but don’t go overboard with a long list of do’s and don’ts. Most of the
time you say “yes” to your child but you’re not afraid to impose limits
when it’s for her own good—for example, you set a reasonable bedtime
even though she protests.
A predictable routine and
the same rules and rewards applied regularly means your child knows
where she stands. She can be confident about what comes next and
understands what is expected of her. What may seem repetitive to you
equals security to her.
You have the confidence
to make parenting decisions and stick to them. You do not fear losing
your child’s love when you apply consequences for misbehavior, since the
bond between you is strong. While you usually get your parenting
decisions right, when you need to apologize you do so quickly and
honestly and this builds your child’s confidence in you.
Whether you parent with
a partner or have your own parents or friends helping you raise your
child, it is helpful to discuss and agree your parenting values,
discipline strategies, and rewards. If your styles are poles apart—for
example if one parent is “soft” and one parent “tough,” difficulties can
arise, and resentment may build between you if one feels undermined by
the other. It may not be possible to reach full agreement, but
discussion and negotiation bring you closer together.
Parenting styles to avoid
You try to stay calm, but
there are times when you shout and fume. No parent is expected to stay
perfectly calm at all times, but feelings of anger directed at your
toddler can be distressing and unsettling for your child. The reasons
you are angry often have little to do with her. If you already do or
feel you may express your anger through shouting or unkind words, long
periods of ignoring your child, or physically hurting her, seek help
A style which gives
little or no routine, few limits or guidance on behavior, and no
parental authority can be very frightening for a young child, since
their world does not feel predictable, safe, and secure. It leads to
misbehavior and, in later years, may result in lack of respect for
parents or authority, which goes on to affect educational achievement
and respect for the law, other people, and property. Often permissive
parenting comes about as a reaction to having been strictly or harshly
parented yourself and not wanting to repeat that pattern. It may also be
the result of feeling so stressed, overwhelmed, or depressed that you
have no motivation or energy to apply rules and routine.
You may have
high aspirations for your child, but these translate into expectations
of her behavior which are almost unattainable. You tend to be distant,
with warmth and acknowledgment dependent on achievements rather than
being an integral part of everyday family life. This style teaches your
child that her self-worth is dependent on what she achieves rather than
who she is in herself. She may become highly critical of herself and be
vulnerable to low self-esteem if she does not reach her goals. This
style should not be confused with authoritative parenting, which means
being firm but fair, assertive, and warm, and has clear rules,
boundaries, and expectations which match a child’s age and level of
A small number of
parents cannot or will not recognize the physical and emotional needs of
children. Not providing enough for your child to eat or drink or
leaving her alone and unsupervised, can place her in immediate danger
and is punishable by law.
Parenting is a big job, and you may need some help to do your best. Be open to exploring new ideas with other parents.
Parenting as a team will make your child feel secure, since it will form part of her consistent and predictable routine.
Fun and games
Giving playful physical affection is an essential element of parenting.
Firm but fair
Having consistent rules and consequences is important for children.