Magazine article Work & Family Life

The Importance of 'Partnership Parenting'

Magazine article Work & Family Life

The Importance of 'Partnership Parenting'

Article excerpt

Partnership parenting is based on the idea that when any two adults share the parenting of a child, the nature and quality of the relationship between those adults will have a strong impact on the child's development, for good or ill.

This seems like common sense, of course. But, until recently, most advice to parents focused on what one parent could do to influence a child's behavior and attitudes. It rarely considered the importance of a parental alliance. And we are not just looking at husbands and wives. Parenting partnerships can be between a grandparent and his or her adult child, same sex couples and other combinations of connected, committed adults.

How children benefit

Kids benefit from having two nurturing, competent, engaged partners, regardless of whether those individuals live together. The real story is how the partners balance their strengths for the joint benefit of the child and of their relationship-because that alone can make the difference between happy and unhappy families.

A successful parenting partnership requires:

* Making decisions together and sharing responsibilities for child care.

* Striving to agree on what your children need and want and how you'll go about giving it to them.

* Valuing the other person's differences and accepting them as part of what makes family life interesting.

* Recognizing and appreciating gender differences that lead to thinking, feeling and behaving in distinct ways with respect to childrearing-and how you express love, anger, fear and sadness.

* Putting kids' well-being first when disagreements arise.

* Finding a way to talk about conflicts so you both feel heard and understood.

* Sticking together even when the going gets rough. Making the health of your relationship a priority.

* Committing to find ways to grow individually and together in response to your ever-changing family's developmental stage.

Building the partnership

Couples face many challenges as parents and partners, but there are ways to stack the deck in your favor. Here are some of them:

Focus on your relationship. Couples need time as couples to recharge their common, collective battery and talk about their partnership outside the world their child inhabits. Choose activities you both enjoy. Spend time individually and together with family and friends-without kids, if you can. Banish talk about logistics for as long as you can.

Check in with each other about any feelings that may be simmering but not expressed. Just don't do it on a "night out." Find some time at the end of a day or whatever works for you.

Women often bring up the need to talk in order to make changes in their relationship or marriage. Men's ability to change in response to these requests is one of the strongest indicators of whether a couple will be happy and stay together. So, for men, it isn't so much whether they get it right the first time that matters, it's whether they're willing to be responsive to a need for change.

Gatekeeping. A gatekeeper is usually the person who assumes the bulk of the responsibility for the coordination of children's care. Although moms are typically the gatekeepers of young kids, dads can be as well, especially when they are the primary caretakers. Gatekeeping can occur with parents who are married, divorced or never married. …

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