Some of the best parenting lessons come straight from the person you're married to. Just ask these couples.
Debbie and Tim Collins
Debbie Collins, at-home mom
Tim Collins, investment banker
Children: Jack, 5; Erin, 3
Debbie: Tim focuses on the big picture. If we take the kids to a carnival, I have this ideal day in my head -- I want them to love the rides, laugh, and have a great time. Then if Jack scrapes his knee or Erin has a tantrum, I think that the day is ruined. But Tim will say, "Look at all the fun they had. They'll forget about the bad stuff. He doesn't get hung up on the little things.
Tim: Debbie's helped me readjust my expectations for any given Saturday or Sunday. I used to think, "We'll get the kids dressed, hit the playground, grab some pizza, run errands, and be back in time to watch the football game." Now I build in extra kid time. I plan for the inevitable hallway races in between teeth-brushing and getting dressed. I accept that they'll check out every rock and puppy on the way to the park. And I expect meltdown delays when it's time to go home.
Ellen and Joe Wong
Ellen Wong, fund-raiser
Joe Wong, systems analyst
Child: Yates, 2
Ellen: I often worry too much about whether New York City is the right place to raise a child. Once, on a vacation, we put Yates down on some grass, and he was scared of it. I started freaking out, saying we had to move to a house with a yard. But Joe said, "You had a beautiful childhood in Virginia. I had a beautiful childhood in Brooklyn. No matter where we bring Yates up, he'll be happy. Joe just assumes we're making the right choices as parents. Without him, I probably would have moved 14 times by now.
Joe: Ellen helps me put things in perspective. When Yates was a few weeks old, we were driving to visit friends and he threw a fit in the back. I like to be on time and thought we should press on. But Ellen just pulled the car over, took Yates out of his car seat, and soothed him. She reminded me that our hosts had a baby too -- that they'd understand if we were late. She knew that comforting Yates was the most important thing.
Jane and Mike Laitman
Jane Laitman, at-home mom
Mike Laitman, financial adviser
Child: Sam, 3 1/2 months
Jane: Mike helps me stay upbeat when it comes to taking care of Sam, since I tend to worry about whether I'm doing the right things. The first bath we ever gave him was a disaster. Sam could see I was nervous, and he got very upset. Mike suggested that I keep a smile on my face and use a positive voice to keep our baby calm. It worked, and Sam has loved baths ever since.
Mike: Jane has taught me how important it is to play with Sam. She's always making up songs, and she gives Sam a running commentary on what she's doing. I'm not as good at being verbal with him. But I'll try to make him laugh as we look in the mirror together or get him to kick a little stuffed ball as he lies on his back. Watching Jane has encouraged me to show affection in a way that feels natural to me.
Ruby Malik and Adrian Figueroa
Ruby Malik, psychologist
Adrian Figueroa, architect
Children: Brianna, 6; Sabene, 3
Ruby: Adrian has this technique I love. When Sabene's in the middle of a huge tantrum, he starts to whisper to her. She'll pause, look, and listen intently, trying to figure out what he's saying. The next thing you know, her tantrum is over. You'd think she'd catch on by now, but it works every time.
Adrian: Ruby's taught me that you can talk to a child about almost any topic as long as you do it in an age-appropriate way. My parents used the "Children should be seen and not heard" model. But Ruby's perfectly comfortable discussing politics and world events with Brianna. She has a way of breaking things down so that even a 6-year-old can process them.
Copyright © 2005. Reprinted with permission from the May 2005 issue of Parents magazine.