4 Ideas to Encourage Partner Participation in Playful and Gentle Parenting
A reader recently asked for ideas on how to help her partner digest and implement some of the playful and gentle parenting ideas that many of us practice. The subject is one that my own partner and I have been discussing. Tom works full time, and when he comes home he is either playing with Kieran (to help give me a break), working on a website (he designed Code Name: Mama and Natural Parents Network), or trying to catch his breath.
He doesn’t feel like he has time to commit to reading a book. We rarely have the time (or the peace and quiet) required to discuss something that I have read. During his little downtime, one of the last things he wants to do is “learn” something – he’d rather relax and veg out to a movie.
And who can blame him? It was difficult for many of my readers to finish the Playful Parenting book during our recent online discussion, even when we were only reading about 50 pages every week or two! Books – especially non-fiction books about parenting – are simply not high on many parents’ very long priority lists.
So for those parents who don’t have time to read long articles or books or to research parenting topics on their own, how can we make those parenting concepts come alive to them so that they understand the theories, the reasons behind why we parent playfully and gently? Here are four ideas to help you share what you have learned with your partner so that you can be on the same parenting page.1 (And if you and your partner are like me and mine, being on the same parenting page can really help you find balance in your relationship.)
1. Find the Interest: Before you start reciting chapters on child psychology or renting DVDs on gender stereotyping, talk to your partner about the issues that most interest him or her. Is he having a specific challenge when relating to your toddler? Has she wondered aloud why your (weaned) preschooler suddenly wants to nurse again? Is he thinking about initiating a special quiet time with each of his stepchildren?
Spend a little bit of time finding out what is on your partner’s heart and mind, and then find information on those topics. If you focus on sharing tidbits that interest your partner, he will be more likely to want to read/hear about it. And once he figures out that learning about those things can really help his real-life relationship with the child, he may be eager to learn more.
2. It’s All in the Presentation: One reader joked that she wished she could relay information to her husband by PowerPoint presentation. I say, why not?! If a PowerPoint presentation will get your partner’s attention, then condense several bits of information into PowerPoint bullets, find a couple of humorous parenting cartoons to compliment the material, and then share it. Chances are, your novel method of sharing parenting pointers will be remembered and appreciated.2
The point is to find out what will get your partner’s attention. How does your partner learn the best? Ask her!3
- Does she retain more information when she hears it? Make a recording of you reading several different paragraphs from a helpful source. Cohen’s Playful Parenting is on CD now, as are several other good parenting books.
- Will she learn more by reading? Copy and paste a couple of paragraphs once a week, and email it for some light lunchtime reading.
- Is she an experiential learner? Come up with a few scenarios to “act out” with her. Take turns being the parent and child. Discuss the different ways each might react, and talk about how each of you feel in those roles. A great book to find exercises like this is How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.
- Does she enjoy watching videos? Kohn offers some Unconditional Parenting advice on video. Karp’s Happiest Toddler on the Block is on DVD. Do you have a favorite parenting video? Please share it in the comments.
3. Evaluate and Brainstorm: Set aside ten minutes two times a week (or whatever works for you), find a quiet place, and have a mini-meeting about your child’s most recent developmental milestones/challenges and some ideas to respond gently.
Come to those mini-meetings prepared with a couple concrete examples of incidents with your child that have happened during the week, how you responded, and whether it worked. Talk about why it did or did not work, and if it didn’t, brainstorm a couple of ways with your partner that you (or your partner) can respond more effectively next time. By making it about you, your partner will not be as likely to feel attacked by some perceived parenting mess-up of his own.4
4. Model It: Of course you can’t go wrong by modeling the behavior. One thing to remember, though, is that your partner will never understand why you are interacting with your child in a certain way just by watching you. That’s why sharing information about child development and gentle parenting strategies, brainstorming creative solutions, and learning what challenges your partner is experiencing are so important. Modeling should be used in conjunction with one of the other ideas.
Another thing to keep in mind (and remind your partner) is that your relationship with your child is different than your partner’s relationship with your child. So your little one may react to you one way, but react to your partner doing the same thing completely different. Encourage your partner not to get frustrated if something she saw you do does not get a positive response from your child. You are different people, and the beauty of learning about gentle/respectful/playful parenting is that your partner will eventually develop her own unique ways of responding positively.
- I started to call these “four steps” to encourage partner participation, because I really think that doing all four together will be the most helpful. But any one of them will probably be beneficial, especially if you and your partner are feeling a lot of disconnect. So start with one and then slowly add another and another . . . ↩
- Need help creating a PowerPoint presentation? Try this Microsoft Office tutorial (super fancy!), or this easy text tutorial by Prof. Jim Lengel. ↩
- Interestingly enough, there are three different styles of learning: listening, seeing, and touch/experiential. Read more about them at WorldWideLearn. ↩
- Again, I’d recommend acting some scenarios out, taking turns being the parent and child. It’s an eye-opening experience to put yourself in the shoes of your child! ↩
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