You have a style of parenting in mind, you envision yourself as a certain kind of role model and nurturer -- but reality doesn't always mimic your daydreams. Find out if it's wise to try to determine your parenting style pre-baby.
Set the ground rules for parenting
As with all aspects of parenthood, the rules for parenting are all about setting realistic expectations and developing flexibility. Sharon Fried Buchalter, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author of New Parents Are People Too, believes it's essential for parents to come up with a parenting action plan before the new baby arrives.
"New babies bring so many wonderful joys to new parents, but they can also bring unneeded stress and anxiety if you aren't prepared," she says. "Sit down as a couple and discuss your views on parenting. You don't need to solve all of your parenting questions at once, but you should get some key basics under your belt before the baby is born."
Some of the topics to discuss include your views on discipline, religion and schooling. Parenting infants comes with its own unique set of challenges -- who will get up in the middle of the night, who will do the laundry and chores while you settle into a new family life, what will your bedtime routine be?
"It's also important to discuss your relationship as a couple and set expectations for that as well," says Buchalter. "For example, don't argue in front of the children, stay united and don't let the kids pit you against each other."
Reign in your parenting expectations
Parents learn to adapt. Jen B., a mom of three, says, "I envisioned myself as a patient parent, reveling in teaching my young children wonderful and interesting things. But I have become more of a crisis negotiator."
Buchalter offers the following tips to help you temper your expectations about the rules of parenting:
- Parenting is hard work. If someone tells you otherwise, walk in the other direction.
- No one is perfect. You will make mistakes. Don't be so hard on yourself.
- Take time for yourself as an individual and for you, as a couple. Happy parents are good parents.
- The most important thing you can provide for your baby is unconditional love.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. Grandparents, friends and babysitters can be a huge help, especially in the first couple of months when you are sleep-deprived.
Avoid labeling your parenting style
You may think you're going to be the strict parent and your partner the lenient one, but what actually occurs in your household may surprise you. Whatever you do, try to avoid labeling yourself as a certain type of parent. In fact, deciding ahead of time that you are one kind of parent and one kind of parent only can box you into one way of thinking that may make it difficult for you to adjust to your child's shifting needs.
"It's great to brainstorm and figure out ways you'd like to parent; however, it's equally as important to remain flexible. No one way is the right way," says Buchalter. "A lot of parenting is trial and error. What works for one parent may not work for another. And what works for one child may not work for another. Be prepared, but be flexible."
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