For most couples, there just isn’t enough time to do everything that needs to be done. That means that choices are made about what gets done and what has to wait. Parents may even find that their priorities aren’t the same. This can lead to conflict, for example, if Dad is worried about finances, while Mom is worried about the safety of their older model car.
In life, priorities change and that’s totally normal. Being aware of each others' priorities can help to decrease friction and increase your ability to support one another. Download and complete the My Priorities worksheet. First, fill in your own personal priorities and then share them with each other. After sharing, you may want to alter or add to your list of priorities.
|Download the My Priorities Worksheet (PDF)|
Your priorities will change as your baby grows and new challenges will emerge. We recommended you review your My Priorities worksheet about every 6 months.
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Here are some more tips from our experts to help you and your partner avoid competing over your differing parenting strategies.
Be aware of how society's expectations may be influencing how each of you approaches parenting. If you’re like the majority of new parents, neither of you is an expert. Research shows that in this day and age, moms are no more knowledgeable, skillful or confident at handling babies than dads are—although society expects moms to be more expert. In large blocks of Canadian society, dads are not expected to know anything at all about babies, and there are pressures to give moms the lead in parenting.
Think this over—and talk it over. In your situation, is Mom really more knowledgeable about parenting than Dad? If she is the "expert" parent, is that the way you want it to be? There is no one correct way to answer these questions, but it may help to discuss your views about this with one another.
Your baby’s favourite
Don't let your baby's natural preference for one of you at a particular time trigger guilt or insecurity. It's normal for children to have some preference for the person with whom they spend the most time. For tiny babies, that person is usually Mom, and in some cases, it's Dad. However, most babies are also interested in any person who comes into their lives, especially a playful, smiling person.
In Canada, moms frequently take on most of the routine care of infants and spend the most time with them. Dads, while providing less routine care, are no less important in their babies' lives. Much of their time spent with baby is playful and activity-driven. Babies frequently prefer receiving care from one parent and play from another. It's important not to let this slip into a competition. Your baby needs both of you.
Make sure that each of you shares fun tasks as well as difficult ones. Taking care of your baby is demanding and relentless. It’s essential that each of you has fun with your baby.
Each of you is probably sensitive to criticism from the other. Research shows that over 90% of new parents say that parenting is the most important thing they do and yet, they know little about parenting and child development. So there they are, with a tiny precious bundle and little idea about what to do.
In many cases, both parents fear failure at this most important responsibility. This makes them very sensitive to criticism, especially from each other. It is even worse for dads because they already have society telling them they are inferior to moms at parenting. The bottom line? Avoid criticizing each other.
Remember to compliment and encourage each other's parenting style. Parents who support each other generally have children who are better adjusted than the children of parents in conflict. Offer each other help and support. You made this baby and now, you're in this together! Genuine compliments and encouragement about each other's parenting style go a long way towards making a happy family.
Keep your couple relationship healthy and strong. The relationship you have as a couple will have a direct impact on your relationship as parents, a parenting team and a family. With the added responsibilities of parenthood and care of a new baby, it is important to spend time as a couple. (LINK to Quality couple time articles.)
How do you avoid competing as parents? Share your tips by leaving a comment below.
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Proud parents love to talk about their babies…
"Our little Jake is already holding his head up. He's only a month old!"
"Oh, your daughter's not rolling over yet? Cynthia started when she was only 3 months."
"I never had to worry about looking for the pacifier. My son would suck his fingers and calm himself down—practically from the time he was a newborn."
You’ve probably heard some of those yourself, or maybe even said them. All parents love to talk about their little one, however, when moms and dads brag too much to other parents, they can bore and alienate otherwise good people. Plus this can add stress—for them and their baby.
All babies are unique and each parent’s relationship with their child is unique.
Your Baby vs. Their Baby
While your delight and enthusiasm over your baby may be hard to contain, remember—children each develop at their own pace. Some skills emerge early, others show up later. There is a very wide range of what is considered to be "normal development."
Some babies achieve most of their milestones at the early part of their age group; others—at the end. Unfortunately, many parents whose babies are late bloomers worry about this, wishing their baby could be first at least part of the time. So, when sharing your pride with other parents, keep tabs on whether your enthusiasm is welcomed and shared. If their baby isn't developing as quickly, this might create some distance between you and your friends, making the other parents feel like you're competing with them.
And if you’re the parent of a late bloomer? “Be sure to show your child your amazement at her strengths. Point out her accomplishments to others. The late bloomer gets enough attention from people who notice that she's developing more slowly. You can boost her confidence by taking notice of what she does achieve,” says Palmina Ioannone, a Child Development expert.
The Pressure of Pleasing You
Maybe your baby is only a late bloomer in some areas of development. Competing with other parents over any type of development puts pressure on your baby—the pressure of either pleasing you or disappointing you. Your baby is finely tuned into you, the parents. Even before he can speak, he can pick up on your disappointment and worry. Bragging to other parents adds pressure to your baby, not only to perform, but to risk disappointing you—even with the most basic things, like sitting or standing alone.
So be proud and amazed at your baby's development! Don't lose sight of just how astounding infant development is. By all means, share your discoveries with your family and friends but stay away from unhealthy competition.
Parents know their own child the best. Remember—developmental milestones are only guidelines. If you have any concerns about your child's development, by all means consult your child's physician.
Too Much Good Advice
Many parents turn to one another for information and advice. Frequently, the person or couple you trust the most has more experience than you, or are just ahead of you on the parenthood track. Most parents are very happy to pass on their hard won tips and tricks. However, sometimes unhealthy competition arises among couples around what each considers to be "proper" parenting. A heated conversation can result from even silly things, like whether you should take your baby to the mall or not or whether it does any good to read to your 1-month-old. And, of course, there's often competition among couples over larger parenting decisions, such as whether your baby sleeps in the same room with you or whether you're breastfeeding or not.
Guard against feeling inadequate around more experienced parents. These days, everything parents learn, they learn on the job—and that's how you're going to learn, too.
There is no one way to parent. We are a multicultural society—with a large number of parenting values and approaches. Appreciate the variety that Canadian parents bring to their role. Every family is unique. We can learn from each other.
Have you ever dealt with any of these issues? How did you handle them? Leave a comment below and share your story with other parents just like you!
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One Mom to another…
"Martha, you will never guess what Sally just told me about her little Jason…but keep it to yourself, okay?"
Dad says to his friend…
"I want to see my father this weekend, but I know Jane is tired. I know, I'll tell Jane my mom wants to see her grandchild."
One child to another…
"I told Mom that you won't let me play Lego with you and your friend."
Mom to child…
"Honey, you should tell your father how much you enjoyed the dinner he bought us…and after that, maybe I'll gently mention the little fender bender we had on the way home."
These are examples of daily conversations that take place among millions of people. However, they all have something in common: They’re examples of what communications experts call triangulation. Triangulation happens when an issue exists between two people and one of them involves a third person. This is done in an attempt to control the conflict, achieve a desired goal or to prevent someone from getting angry. Triangulation is frequently used to maintain closeness or become closer to someone, to avoid conflict with or transfer conflict to someone else. Typically, one of the parties is not aware of what is happening.
Usually, triangulation occurs to give a message in an indirect way or to share information that is personal and private. This happens because, for whatever the reason, the person sending the message is not comfortable to do it directly. For example, a husband who wants to have some time alone might triangulate a message to his wife by saying, "Do you know what I heard on the news last night, Mary? Men who spend time on hobbies tend to have stronger marriages," rather than saying, "I need more time for myself."
Are you now wondering if you're guilty of triangulation? Don't worry. We all use triangulation and we all become triangulated: it's commonplace in how we deal with issues. Pay attention to how often triangulation happens around you. Most soap operas and sitcoms are based on it—you know…Mom, Dad and in-laws. As you become more aware of triangulation, you'll be fascinated at just how common it is.
During the Victorian era in European and North American high society, triangulation was the preferred way of communicating. It was almost an art form! Some cultures around the world still value triangulation as the preferred way to communicate about interpersonal problems. In some families today, it's simply unacceptable to speak directly to a person about feelings—especially when it's likely to have an unhappy or angry impact, or when it concerns an intimate topic, such as sex or health issues.
Although triangulation is common, it can have a negative impact on your family.
Triangulation doesn't allow couples to resolve the issue between them. If you're only talking secretly to your parents or your best friends about an issue with your partner, there's no chance for your partner to give you the real facts. Unless you speak to your partner, there's no way for the two of you to deal with the issue in a constructive way. The problem can become a thorn in your relationship—especially if it's a recurring issue.
Triangulation interferes with building trust in a relationship. In intimate relationships, it's difficult to keep issues a secret for long. When one partner—Mom, for example—discovers that Dad has been discussing aspects of their relationship with his friends, it can move his partner relationship to disappointment and even distrust. This is especially likely if as a result of those conversations, Dad tries to manipulate Mom indirectly.
Triangulation can make it easy to misrepresent a person's actions or motives, or to exaggerate them—even if it's unintentional. In the example above, when the triangulation comes to light, not only will Mom be hurt because her husband didn't trust her, but now she feels like she looks bad to the friends her partner confided in.
Children will attempt to triangulate very early in life. One of the most common ways is to maneuver between Moms and Dads to get what they want. Here's a simple example: Bradley toddles over to his Dad to see if he can have a piece of candy. Dad permits it. However, after Bradley has the candy in his mouth, Dad finds out that his son asked Mom first and she said "no". While Brad is enjoying his candy, Mom and Dad are in a heated argument.
In these situations, parents need to quickly learn to band together for their own sake, as well for their children's sake.
Another way children learn to triangulate is when parents say something like, "Don't tell Mommy." or "Don't tell Daddy…it's our secret." Fortunately, there's a natural stop for this type of triangulation—children can't keep secrets until they are 3 to 4 years old. They can't knowingly lie either. So, don't encourage your child to hide anything. Your child needs to be able to speak freely to each of you.
As parents, you will be triangulated—by your child and by each other—not to mention family, friends and coworkers. Here are the three key strategies to stop triangulation:
Make sure everyone knows what is being said.
For example, if Granddad tells Dad that he believes Mom shouldn't be working, Dad should encourage Granddad to speak directly to Mom. Dad could say something like, "I think the two of you need to talk about this together. Why don't you tell her what you think, but do it in a way that makes it easy for her to say why working is important to her?"
Discuss touchy subjects.
For instance, in the example above, Dad may have to work hard to find the right time and place to get Granddad to talk honestly about his views with his daughter-in-law. If emotions are running high, it won't be an easy conversation. But having everyone's views out in the open—especially when they are deeply felt views—is more constructive for long-term relationships than triangulating or keeping issues a secret.
Keep a united parenting front.
This can make a huge difference! It doesn't mean that you have to agree with each other on everything, but it does mean that you have to make sure you respect each other's decisions and deal with issues when all those involved are present. Statements like, "Wait until your Dad gets home," or "I don't agree with your Mom, but you know how she is," give the wrong messages to your child.
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