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Written by: Katya on 15/09/17
Ever wonder what it would be like if mums and dads were exactly the same in their approach to marriage and parenting? What a one-sided perspective their children would have regarding life and relationships! There is so much to appreciate when considering the differences between fathers and mothers. From their complementary parenting styles to the marriage advice they can offer as a couple, the combination of fathers and mothers provides children an ideal environment for their development and a well-rounded education on how to relate to others.
Newsflash: as a woman goes through her day, her week, and her month… it’s somewhat likely that as a mother she may have trouble demonstrating a consistent level of patience and optimism. Why? Mums have this lovely phenomenon called a cycle that can play havoc on patience and emotional stability.
People can pretend this isn’t a factor in a woman’s ability to be impartial and have good judgment. Men know better. The truth is, there’s one week out of the month in which a woman is going to be less disciplined, or less focused, or in general, not quite herself. One of my favourite tips for enjoying happy married life is that during these times, it is important for both spouses to practice listening to what the other means to say… not necessarily what they actually say.
It goes both ways! There are so many times a husband will intend to make his wife feel better, and it just comes out completely wrong. Whether she feels like it or not, a compassionate wife can decide to realize that he means well, and not read malicious intent into his comments.
Likewise, a wife may not mean to be disparaging, but her tone and mood can be unintentionally less than encouraging simply because she doesn’t feel well. Her husband can choose to look beyond the moment and practice patience, knowing that 2 days later her temperament will be sunshiny once more.
How would this marriage advice impact the effectiveness of a couple’s parenting?
Surprisingly, even this biological and psychological difference between men and women means that together, mum and dad really are the parenting dream team.
The example of how parents interact in times of struggle provides a critical component in a child’s education on learning to relate to those around them. The truth is, sons can learn how to effectively demonstrate compassion by seeing how their fathers interact with their mothers during displays of emotional turmoil or physical discomfort (or in this case, both). Simply by having both a father and a mother, a young boy can observe and incorporate what he learns into his own interactions, resulting in an emotional intelligence that enables him to be compassionate and understanding with the opposite sex. This puts him light-years ahead in the realm of relationships!
But sons aren’t the only ones who benefit from having both a father and a mother. A daughter will develop her understanding of what to expect from boys based on the example of how her father interacts with her mother. This can, of course, be a two-edged sword. Not every parent is diligent to provide a good example. But when children have the advantage of growing up watching healthy, everyday interactions between their parents, they have a blueprint to follow. The example they see and the conversations they can have with their parents result in a steady stream of successful marriage tips they can apply to having healthy marriages themselves in the future.
Children don’t always have a natural tendency to be polite, respectful, or considerate. They are learned attributes. Kids can often have natural tendencies for leadership, but it usually needs to be tempered with wisdom. Dads have such an important role to play in cultivating these qualities in their boys. Mums are an integral part of this, too. Mothers can impress on their boys the value of these virtues by demonstrating sincere appreciation for her husband’s efforts in these areas. But it is powerful when children can actually see them lived out by a caring father. The combined efforts together create an immersive experience that allows children to effectively internalize both verbal and nonverbal tips for a happy marriage communicated by their parents.
How cool is it that parents have an opportunity to create a legacy of happy marriages simply by focusing on building a happy marriage themselves!
How else would children learn that, despite the vast differences in thinking, communication, and decision-making, men and women have the most to offer when they learn to work together?
How else would children learn that compassion is most critical when we don’t quite understand what another person is going through – so we make the time and endeavour to understand? This is the highest form of communication! It demonstrates a willingness to invest in the relationship when one can put one’s own internal script aside and endeavour to comprehend what is going on in the mind and heart of another.
So often, men and women will have disparaging remarks about their counterparts. “She will never understand what I’m going through!” “He never listens!” But, the challenge is not to learn how to read each other’s minds. It’s in opening ourselves up to really understanding one another – and actually giving our spouse the chance to understand us.
I’ve mentioned before how productive it can be for a husband and wife to regularly make time in a neutral setting for communicating on difficult subjects. Again, this is marriage advice that will positively impact how a couple approaches their parenting! When mums and dads develop the ability to appreciate their differences, rather than be put off by them, their children learn the benefits of thinking synergistically with their peers – and in the years to come, with the person they marry.
So here’s to you, fathers and mothers. Keep up the good work, knowing that each day brings about an opportunity to grow. Every misunderstanding can be a catalyst for greater intellectual intimacy. Every difficult day provides a chance to model compassion to your children. And every time you think, “I wish I knew what he/she was thinking…” remember that it is this very idea that can prompt each of you to step outside yourself and really strive to understand one another. What more powerful lesson could we give our children on how to build loving, healthy relationships?
What other benefits come from fathers and mothers being so different? Share what you think with us in the comments below!
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