Parents should operate as one unitPublished 8:00am Sunday, March 9, 2014
Question: Can one parent take too much responsibility in parenting?
Response: Think about this scenario: your three-year-old yells “No!” when your wife asks him to pick up his toys. Since you love her, and you don’t want your son to think that it’s okay to be defiant with his mom, you are tempted to step in and discipline him on the spot.
If you take charge of the situation in an attempt to be a supportive spouse, what do you achieve? Is it possible that you’d send the following messages? 1) Son, your mother is really too weak and incapable to handle you. I’ll have to do it. 2) Honey, since you don’t have any parenting skills, I’ll take care of this.
Because they care so much, sincerely loving and conscientious people are at the greatest risk for sending these messages — and undermining their spouse’s ability to handle the kids. The best way to help under these sorts of circumstances is to step back and allow your spouse to prove that he or she has what it takes to handle the situation without you coming to the rescue.
When my first child was about 18 months old, I had an opportunity to participate in a women’s retreat for a weekend. I really wanted to go and my husband was willing to be the “parent on full-time duty” for the weekend. I had never been away from my son overnight and I was feeling guilty for leaving him for two nights. The first evening of the retreat, we were walked through a valuable exercise. We were asked to identify our goals for 10 years into the future; then we were asked to think about five years ahead, then two years ahead. Then we were asked what would change in our goal-setting if we learned we only had six months to live. I clearly remember being jolted into a new perspective. I knew that in those circumstances my top priority would be to be sure my son was bonded to his father and that they could manage successfully without my physical presence. It was eye-opening to become so aware of the importance of “getting out of the way” and leaving my son and husband alone enough that they were relaxed and secure together.
To talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in child-raising, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 1-877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out www.familiesandcommunities.org and Love and Logic CDs and DVDs by Jim and Charles Fay at the PRC Specialty Library (105 First Street S.E., Austin).
Maryanne Law is the executive director of the Parenting Resource Center in Austin.