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Whether you and your partner have children yet or not, understanding your parenting styles will increase trust and avoid potential conflict. While you might have decided not to have children of your own, you might have found yourself with step-children. Furthermore, most of us have nieces and nephews. Although much more removed, the issue of parenting styles still arises.
Even if have been together for decades you learn a lot about yourself and your partner when you discuss parenting styles.
From the outset, I need to clarify that the only ideal parenting style for you is the one that you craft together with your partner!
How you parent will be a unique mix of your two personalities and backgrounds, the temperaments of your children, and a lot of other factors. So this Insight is not about how to parent, but how to have conversations about parenting.
Discuss parenting styles – useful questions to ask each other:
The following questions are good topics for conversation, discovery and collaborative change. Maybe there will be conflict too – but let’s begin.
Do you imagine that your partner has the same ideas around parenting that you do? Have you checked?
Do you have specific expectations about gender roles as parents? The same question applies to same-sex couples.
Do you agree with the way that you were parented? If so, do you intend to parent in exactly the same way? What does your partner think about that?
Do you think that ways of parenting have changed much since you were a kid? How much of this change is reflected in your parenting styles? Or do you want to go with tradition? If so, which tradition? Whose tradition? Will your parents – your children’s grandparents – support you in your parenting style?
Or as grandparents are you bewildered about how your grand-children behave around you? Can you bring this up with their parents? You might need a Courageous Conversation here!
Ideals about parenting styles can be very different to actual behaviour
Have you clearly communicated your ideas and concerns around parenting to your partner? Is this subject difficult for you to discuss, either because you experience fear, or because your partner does not seem receptive?
Do your ideals about parenting, and how you actually behave, match?
Are you able to tolerate your partner expressing contrary views about parenting without you shutting down or arcing up? Are you able to maintain respectful communication?
The Parenting Questionnaire! Don’t enter a relationship without it!
Here is a questionnaire that will help you to discuss parenting styles. The questionnaire defines three styles of parenting: authoritative, authoritarian and permissive. From this questionnaire, you can structure many conversations with your partner. I use it in my work with couples. Answer as honestly as you can. Remember that this questionnaire will not tell you how to parent, but will help you identify your attitudes to parenting and values around parenting.
Sometimes a person who identifies themselves as having a permissive style of parenting might find themselves acting in an authoritarian manner when under stress or pressure. Or it might be the other extreme: someone who likes to rule the roost might turn into a marshmallow when pressed. So the answers might be quite complex and contradictory. This is normal!
Suggestions on how to use the parenting styles questionnaire:
- Print a copy for each of you, and fill it out separately. Take your time. You might have to think deeply. Strong feelings might arise!
- Set aside a quiet time as a couple, and read the other’s answers. Once again, strong feelings might arise!
- See where your answers are exactly the same, or very close to it. You can congratulate each-other on these areas of overlap! Phew!
- Tread carefully on the areas where you diverge the most. Acknowledge that there is a divergence. Then ask each other questions like – “I’d like to understand more about why you hold that view”. “How important is that to you?”
- Hear each-other out on one issue at a time. Be patient. You might appreciate the help of Courageous Conversations.
- Ask your partner for feedback about how you answered the questionnaire. “Is there consistency between how I answered, and my real parenting?” Another way of approaching this is to fill out the questionnaire for the other person. The point here is that we can have illusions about how we behave, and there is nothing like our intimate other to show us where these illusions are!
Come back often to this questionnaire to guide you through contentious points.
Inevitably there will be some issues that are not negotiable. They matter too much. You might feel you can never compromise. How does your partner respond to this? How do you respond to issues your partner cannot compromise on?
There will also be issues on which you change your mind, given more information or experience. Perhaps you had just never thought about it enough before.
Inevitably, there will also be issues where you prefer your partners style to your own. As a result, do you to defer to your partner on this occasion? Or do you learn to emulate your partners style because it is more effective, compassionate or harmonious?
Fill out the questionnaire again in a year or so.
Are your answers the same as before?
What have you learned?
How have you grown as parents?
There are many additional issues related to parenting which are not covered by this questionnaire. For example: different ideas around diet, exercise, medical care, education, religious values and community engagement. These too, are all worth discussing.
If you enjoyed this questionnaire you will like this one too – on Personality Types.
Copyright © Kaye Gersch 2018.