Mothers carried and grew the child inside her for nine months; and the other, well, as helpful as he thinks he was, had a path to parenthood not nearly as difficult. Fathers have to understand and come to terms with the fact that mothers and their children just have an extra level of connection that they are unable to obtain. That being said, parenting is in no way a competition and fathers can be every bit as good of a parent as a mother. There can be (and are) similarities between mothers and fathers, but let’s focus on the inherent differences, the ones that seem to be ingrained in each parent. Let’s touch on two major areas of parenting where differences can exist – Nurturing and Discipline.
“Nurture” – to care for and encourage the growth of development. As a parent, you want what is best for your child. You want them to blossom, bloom, grow, (insert other flower metaphor here) and become the best children, teenagers, and adults they can be. There is a difference in accomplishing this between a Mother and a Father. Both Mothers and Father want their children to learn life skills and prep for the future, but the way they go about it differs. Both moms and dads have priorities, wants and needs, you just might have them spelled out differently in your mind.
Mothers – tend to be more tuned in to what your child wants and needs in specific situations, especially as a baby. There seems to be a built-in emotional connection, that while I am sure science might be able to explain, those of us who are not scientists just chalk it up to the mother-child bond (going back to those nine months you spent together in pretty close proximity). Being affectionate comes naturally and easily for most moms. Wanting to be close to your child and hold your child is instinctive. You will put the child before yourself first and demand the father does the same. Unintentionally, you are likely to coddle the child more and hold higher expectations for the father to do more around at home or for the family. You are often more serious and straightforward, tending to try to talk out situations with your children in order to teach lessons and make points. Mothers like to also focus on the way their child looks (clothes, hair etc.) and tend to choose activities that are more learning based, such as reading, coloring, and drawing. It might sound cliche, but I think you know as a mom – you care about your child’s image.
Fathers – tend to need to make up for lost time when it comes to forming that connection with their child. I do believe that children are born with a connection to their fathers, we just have to work a little harder to foster it. While fathers can be (and are) emotional, they react to situations differently. As a father, you might have higher expectations than your significant other for your children. You always want to see them succeed immediately at whatever they do, and you may even be disappointed if they don’t. You want to prep them for real-world situations instead of coddling them. You want to challenge your children more to learn things and then be able to do them on their own, instead of doing them for your them. Fathers like to worry less about the immediate present and instead think about the long-run in terms of toughening up their kids to be able to be self-sufficient and more responsible. Fathers also like to act sillier and less serious as a means to connect with their kids (For example, my daughter likes to say “Daddy is funny!” or “You’re silly Daddy!” a lot when we are just messing around). Being silly is a way for you to open up more with your kids without being overly affectionate, especially if you are not that good at that sort of thing. Also, let’s face it, what father among us hasn’t let their kids leave the house in whatever they chose to wear (as long as they were sufficiently covered) or without brushing their hair, or maybe forgetting to wash their face? It’s just not always first on the list (or even ON the list for us)
When it comes to disciplining a child, I am not sure that any parent really relishes doing it. Disciplining your children can be a difficult and heartbreaking experience but sets a tone not only for family life in the future but also as a direction as to how you want your child to act. Knowing what is acceptable and what is not is crucial. Some of this rolls into the nurturing department, but there are typically substantial differences between mothers and fathers when it comes to discipline. These read somewhat like horoscopes, but I wanted to highlight the emotions and actions on a general level.
Mothers – Mothers are by far the gentler parent when it comes to discipline. While moms can certainly be strict since they tend to be more tuned in to what the child needs, they can assess the situation better and use a softer approach. Mothers are not as quick to anger and often speak calmly and talk their children through a problem, no matter how much the child might be acting out. Sympathy comes into play here as well. You sympathetic side bubbles up more in situations of stress. Showing affection also comes into play in these situations, as you tend to be more emotional and affectionate when a child misbehaves and needs to be punished. Hugs go a long way! Of course, this means a child might come running to you when they do something punishable, but there is something to be said for a parent that is able to emotionally connect with their child while also laying down the law!
Fathers – Known as the disciplinarians for a reason, fathers tend to be a little sterner when it comes to dealing with a child who is out of line. You tend to think about long-term goals when you discipline or form a punishment, meaning your goal is to make sure your children remember what they are being punished for and to curb a behavior so it does not happen in the future. The goal is not only to stop what is happening in the present but make sure a point has been made. Like it or not, fathers are normally the ones who anger quicker and use harsher words and tone of voice. Raising your voice to get a point across, being more critical (and potentially less understanding in the moment) and doling out punishment faster and harsher. As mothers are sympathetic in these situations, fathers tend to be less so, offering less sympathy and more actions and words that will drive the child to toughen up. As a dad, you want to be loved, but you also want to make sure your children know the rules and follow them as implemented. Stricter parenting might mean your children won’t like you at that moment, but you know they will be better off for it.
Why this is important
Finding a healthy balance between your parenting styles is a big part of making parenting work. If you find yourself trying to overrule or undermine, take a step back and listen to what the other has to say. Differences between parents are helpful, raising your children is a two-lane street, one for you and one for your partner, there is no barrier between them and you can cross into each other’s lanes at any time. Communication is key and letting each other know how you feel and how you think a situation should be handled will go a long way. Children should never be put in a situation where you force them to pick one parent over the other. This will only set a bad precedent, as children are smart and learn how to manipulate parents easily, especially if one parent is normally looked at as wrong. This can also happen if you tend to give in to your child a lot (especially if one parent gives in and the other doesn’t; who do you think the child is more likely to lean towards in those situations?).
Father. Husband. Knower of many things. Master of none.