This essay on parenting through different perspectives was shared by The Local Moms Network contributor Reon Baird-Feldman, PhD.
It’s summer and many of us are taking on travel again! Some of us are headed to road trip destinations closer to home and others are headed further away. When approached to write this article on strategies to manage different parenting experiences or philosophies, I literally laughed out loud! I’m currently writing from Sydney, Australia, where my two girls and I are vacationing while my husband dives the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns as part of a monumental birthday celebration.
I have the amazing opportunity to work for a reality entertainment television show and this year my family was invited to accompany me on location in Fiji. I knew this meant that I would have to exercise greater patience, flexibility and trust. I was there for work, and while my husband was still working during the typical 9-5pm U.S. shift, he would be the full-time parent most of the time. This is a shift for our family. If you consider the widely used parenting styles created by Baumrind, Macoby and Martin (i.e., authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and uninvolved/neglectful — see below), I would best fit a mix of the authoritative and authoritarian style. My husband would best fit a mix of authoritative and permissive, and our girls are aware of his soft spots!
So, after spending the month in Fiji with Dad as the primary parent and now it being just the girls and I in Sydney, you can visualize the horror on my face when my eldest casually informed me that she was taking her laptop to the bathroom with her to finish up some “research.” This was a deal breaker! Why? “Because it’s gross and we should avoid potentially gross situations!” I was happy to choose my battles (e.g., increased screen time, addition of Barbie and dance related apps on the iPads, making of their own smoothies in the cafeteria, providing the key to the room if they wanted to leave the kids club early) as needed. While we were away in Fiji my husband (or maybe the children) held the reins most of the time. But because I was back to full time parenting and single parenting in Sydney, so the rules were being tightened, and clearly needed to be adjusted and reviewed (for clarity, sanity and from a hygienic standpoint)! I later learned that my husband would take his middle of the night work calls from the bathroom which my eldest observed and therefore felt she was appropriate in doing herself!
It’s much easier to enforce and collaborate in parenting when on home ground versus away in an unfamiliar location. Communicating this difference with your partner ahead of the vacation and foreshadowing challenges which can arise, in addition to agreed upon resolutions, can aid in managing parenting styles and help to avoid friction as well as stress on children. I’ve learned that providing more independence (while still providing guidance) and choosing battles while on vacation can offer our children opportunities to grow, and to make mistakes and learn from them without me pointing them out. Offering more leniency also allows me to gain trust in their ability to reason through new environments and situations. In addition, it fosters their own self expression and self confidence, which can be comical at times and provide a laugh for both my husband and I (which helps to relieve friction) but also beautiful to witness in our children.