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Mom Talk: My Husband And I Have Different Parenting Styles

Written by Jennifer Landis

Photography by Alex Elle, Photographed By Erika Layne

We’re back with another round of “Mom Talk”, where we invite some incredible mothers, from all walks of life, to share their personal experiences and journeys through motherhood, whether it be struggles, triumphs, or anything in-between—nothing’s off limits when it comes to topics. This week, Jennifer Landis talks the differences between her laid-back parenting approach and her husband’s more authoritarian style, and how they navigate raising their three-year-old daughter together. -JKM

My husband and I have spent the last ten years of lives together. We agree that if you’re going to have pizza, it should probably be pepperoni; we both prefer red wine over white; and we both (begrudgingly) root for the New York Mets every baseball season. We have quite a bit in common, he and I. But, it took having our daughter to realize a big difference between the two of us: we do not parent the same. His style is more authoritarian, while I take a more relaxed approach. You might think we’d confuse our little girl, but we actually balance each other out well.

Our daughter is what we refer to as a “threenager”, which means she gets herself into all kinds of trouble. My husband sees a clear difference between parent and child, and while children and parents aren’t friends first, I understand the importance of allowing our little girl a choice, so she doesn’t act out. Toddlers will be toddlers, and our different styles have created some interesting obstacles to overcome in our daily routine. Here’s just a few examples of how we make it work:

Getting Dressed In The Morning
My daughter is already obsessed with shoes, and if she had her way, she’d wear her rain boots every day. So, one morning, we’ve successfully picked out a cute dress, tantrum-free, and are getting ready to leave. Along with her dress, our daughter comes out in her rain boots on a bright, sunny day. Typically, my husband is good about laughing, but his patience wears thin this time; we’re already late. He doesn’t yell, but raises his voice, insisting she goes and puts on her pink shoes. I remember to breathe, and ask her, “Do you want to wear your pink shoes or black shoes?” She tells me she wants to wear her boots, but I remind her of her choices. A few tears later, she chooses the black and we move on with our day.

I believe that giving toddlers choices is developmentally appropriate, as an early decision-making ability builds respect and cooperation. She still had options, although she had to give up wearing her non-weather appropriate shoes. On a calmer day, my husband would’ve reminded his daughter that’s the main reason why she can’t wear her boots, too.

Deciding On And Eating Meals
My husband believes a child should clear his or her plate and not waste food when other children are starving in the rest of the world. After our daughter does this, she can have a treat. Fortunately, he also gets that our girl is little and will take time to understand that reasoning. This still creates obstacles. While we both want our daughter to eat healthy, we have to balance out nutritional needs with her palate preferences, but also make sure she eats more than yogurt on a given day. So, we focus on dividing up her plate based on nutrition, portion, and personal preference. For nutrition and portion, we divide her plate into fours for fruit, grains, protein, and vegetables.

While the plate division is based on nutrition, it’s also colorful and creative. When her meal is bright, she takes an interest in what’s there. We also try to focus on what she likes. She loves peanut butter, so we go the extra mile to give her an almond-dark chocolate spread on top of whole wheat toast, for example. She’s more likely to clear her plate, and it’s important that we don’t give her more than her little tummy can handle.

When She Really Wants To Do This, Not That
I have a problem with giving in and being too permissive with our daughter. It’s a work-in-progress, as sometimes giving her a clear “this or that” doesn’t work. Part of her developing personality is being a stubborn little rugrat. If she wants to climb a shelf to reach something sharp and shiny, that’s a big fat “Nope, kiddo. Get down from that shelf!” I struggle not to appease her, and my husband is good about being stern without yelling. Still, she’d start wailing. He’d tried to give her time out, but we finally settled on having her close her eyes and focus on her breathing. It combines my mindful style with his authoritarian style, and it gives her time to process her emotions before we decide between a punishment and a reminder.

Balancing differing parenting styles requires you to be aware of your individual methods, yet open to accepting what’s best for your unique child because all children are different. What works on television or in the parenting books isn’t always right for your kid. In certain circumstances, you have to take a more authoritarian approach. Other times, you can allow them more freedom. The good thing is there’s no one right way, and in the end, it’s about doing what’s best for your little one and maintaining an open line of communication with your spouse. My husband and I aren’t perfect parents, but we love each other and our baby girl unconditionally, and that’s the best way I know to make it work.

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