Prior to pregnancy, it is of great import to discuss as many aspects of parenting as possible. This will reduce the amount of friction between couples that naturally arises when they have vastly different ideas about how to raise a child. If you don’t hash these things out beforehand, unpleasant surprises are bound to occur with frequency, and they can damage or destroy a marriage! It is rather common for one person to have an authoritarian style of parenting (even in the thinking stage), and the other to be permissive. You can imagine the kind of marital discord that this can evoke once there are children in the home. The challenge is to balance these extremes and form one moderate, cohesive style that both partners can live with. Without a united front, not only will a child be perpetually confused, the parents will be at odds, and each others’ throats.
If either potential parents experienced any type of abuse in childhood, talking to a counselor is crucial, before having children. While not everyone who was abused will be abusive, the likelihood is much higher, than for someone who hasn’t experienced physical maltreatment while growing up. The propensity towards abuse soars much higher in people who have not dealt with these issues directly, for then the ways learned in childhood become the only model that individual has to work from.
The stresses of parenthood can test anyone’s resolve not to spank, as it did for Mama and Papa Blackbear with Benjamin’s antics. When a child or cub acts up, and presses hard on a parent’s buttons, that isn’t the time for the parent to start considering these matters. One needs to be prepared ahead of time, as much as anyone can prepare for stress, so we can act instead of react! Preparation is key to prevention. Most people don’t intend to be abusive to their children. They get locked into patterns of reactions that aren’t helpful to their children’s development. Whether you’re trying to prevent abuse or simply resolving to parent without physical discipline, preparation and teamwork are essential.
Here are some questions to get the ball rolling. Each partner needs to discuss these questions openly.
- How did your parents discipline you?
- Do you feel their methods were in your best interests?
- If you didn’t like the way your parents disciplined you, how would you do things differently?
- What things that children do, might upset you? (break your belongings, flush your cellphone, get things very dirty and sticky, etc.) How are you likely to react to any of these? Which ones would really tick you off?
- What can you do to react to child-related stressors in another way? How can your partner help you, if you know you have a temper?
- How do you handle anger in general? Have your reactions to any situations gotten you into trouble before?
- How often do you feel angry or irritable? Are you willing to seek counseling? There are many low/no cost options for counseling available. Even joining a parenting group online can be quite helpful.
- Are you more likely to let your (future) child do what they want as long as it isn’t unsafe, or damaging to property; OR are you more of a manager over many situations to ensure they don’t turn into some kind of disaster?
- Does your mate’s style match yours? Are you likely to react to things in similar ways?
This is just a starter list. Think of as many hypothetical scenarios as you can, and talk about what you each might do in every scenario. The more thoroughly you talk about this, preferably in an ongoing dialogue, the better prepared you will be when you actually have a child doing these triggering behaviors. As far as I’m concerned, this plan works to prepare couples for having pets too! Pets and children depend on us to treat them with respect, dignity, compassion, and love!