In a recent column, I addressed the issue of whether a couple is "on the same page" regarding the idea of having children. This concern is often an easier one to resolve than how to actually discipline your children once you’ve made the decision to have them.
For some savvy couples who have actually discussed styles of child-rearing, kudos to you! For most parents, raising children is generally based on the manner in which you were raised—either you do the same things or you make sure not to.
But even when there is discussion and carefully thought out plans, many of the nitty-gritty, day-to-day particulars can’t be foreseen. And, of course, there is always the reality of stressful living that gets in the way of even the best intentions.
Naturally, children at various ages and stages will need different types of supervision. As an example, two-year-olds need a lot of protection. However, this is also an age where children are trying to find their own identity and explore their surroundings. It’s a tough job for parents to maintain a balance between watching out for their child while also allowing them to experience the world.
But whether your child is two or 16, you and your spouse may often disagree about how to manage issues with him or her. What is important is that you talk to one another along the way to discuss how you want to handle matters.
It is also very important you come to a decision privately. If the child hears you and your spouse in disagreement, they learn to play the two of you against each other. And, to continue along this line, once you have decided on a course of action, make sure to back each other up.
Children have different personalities. It has been said the best parenting is that which works around the child and his or her needs. Of course, this is not always possible.
I would also like to point out that there are a number of different parenting styles:
1. Authoritarian: Children are expected to respect parents because they are the parents. They are not included in decision-making. Rules are rigid and discipline tends to be harsh.
2. Authoritative: Children’s input is considered, though not necessarily followed. Explanations for why something is being done are offered. Discipline is based on what has occurred.
3. Over-protective: Children are guarded and sheltered.
4. Laissez-faire: Children are not given much guidance, there aren’t too many restrictions.
Research has indicated that the authoritative parenting style is the one that allows children the best support and ability to gain self-esteem. Clearly, being a parent is a tough job, but there are lots of good books now to help with some guidelines as to what to expect from children of different ages. By referring to those and offering your child love, you’ll really set a good foundation.
Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is co-author of Marriage Magic! Find It! Make It Last.