What kind of parent will you be? Overprotective? Authoritarian? Indulgent? Controlling? Affectionate? Permissive? Strict? Playful? Distant? Do you feel strongly about how much television your child will watch, how much junk food he'll eat, or what musical instrument he will play? Do you want to be very involved in your child's life, or would you rather he be independent? Do you believe in punishing bad behavior or rewarding good behavior? All these questions and more run through most expectant parents' minds as they think about how they will raise their children.
Pregnancy is a good time to talk with your partner about what expectations and ideals you each have about parenting styles. Both of you bring very different experiences to the parenting table based on how you were raised, whether your feelings about your childhood are positive or negative, and thoughts you may have about what you wish your parents had done differently. You also may have formed opinions about parenting by watching how your friends and family members are raising their children. Talk about these opinions and experiences and draw from them a rough outline of what kind of parenting you would like to provide for your child.
Parenting philosophies influence your actions even when your child is a baby. If, for example, you believe in being very attentive to your child's needs, and your partner believes that children should grow up being self-sufficient, these different parenting styles may clash as you disagree over whether to let your baby cry himself to sleep. You may feel strongly that you should go to your baby and comfort him; your partner may feel that it's time your child started to find ways to comfort himself and put himself back to sleep in the middle of the night. Neither strategy is completely right or wrong, but they are different. Life may be easier if you discuss such things now, rather than in the middle of the night.
You can't predict now how you will both react to various parenting situations in the future, but you can initiate a discussion about your overall philosophy and priorities. This will be the beginning of a conversation that continues until your baby grows up. If you are both open-minded, flexible, and willing to communicate, you'll find ways to meld different approaches into one cohesive parenting style that feels right to both of you.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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