Q/A Defining Role in Parenting
Updated: Oct 22, 2020
Q: How do you draw the line and define the roles in parenting. Often moms spend more time with the children than dad. We take them to doctor appointments, playdates, we handle their schedules and discipline more often. Usually it is because we are with them more. How do you handle it when the husband has different ideas on parenting and takes the approach, “Well, I’m their dad”? What language should I use instead of saying, “I know them best?” How do you resolve the tug-of-war?
A: The context of a parental discussion is to be considered when making decisions that are best for the children. I would ask myself why my husband might feel the need to pull the “I’m the dad” card. I think this is the bigger question. Does the husband feel the wife has an alliance with the children and he feels like an outsider? Is he trying to stake his claim as a leader of the family? The wife needs to consider the cost vs. benefit of including her husband in decisions, especially if he is trying to step up and become more involved in the decision-making process. If the mom is with the children more than dad, then there is no doubt the mom has had opportunities to make child-rearing mistakes AND learn from them. Has the dad been given these same opportunities to bond with his children, make mistakes with his children and grow and learn? I would also ask if letting your children follow dad’s lead when he is with them, as opposed to correcting your husband, even if there might be a better way, could be viewed as teaching your children disrespect for their father. Witnessing the battle between two parents can be damaging. A husband and wife need to create a unified front when the children are around. Wisdom becomes your friend as you seek an appropriate time to discuss options with your spouse. If the husband can see his wife as his partner, someone that is for him and not against him, he will welcome her input. But if the wife is acting out of a heart filled with hurt, or a place of arrogance because she feels she knows better, the issue will not be resolved by telling the husband he is not needed as a decision maker. This will only serve to divide the couple, which, ultimately, hurts the child. Parents that are united, even when mistakes are made, create healthier examples for children than parents that are divided, even if the “right” decision won out. And making a mistake as parents, united, also affords you both the opportunity to show your children you are not perfect, correct your mistake and ask their forgiveness. This teaches a child to have a forgiving heart (assuming the mistake was something the child even notices). We make mistakes, we say we are sorry, we forgive. As parents, stay united, and have discussions on parenting, when possible, in private.
Patti Hatton, MA, LPC