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Parenting from the Same Page

2. Establish a favorable foundation. Create a context of mutual rapport, empathy, and good wishes. Choose a good moment and place, and be prepared to take the time you need, rather than tossing off comments as you rush on by.

Frame the issue as a "we" problem rather than an "I" or "you" problem. You are in the same boat together, each affected by the other's actions or suffering.

Try to treat each other as teammates rather than opponents. If that doesn't feel natural, you could do an experiment in which you act as if you were teammates, and see what happens.

3. Communicate clearly. Try to say what you want explicitly and without apology, rather than hinting or saying nothing while hoping he'll somehow just know. Of course, this can be hard for several reasons. For one, you may think that what you want should be obvious by now. But, it often isn't - since he probably is not holding as much information about the kids in his mind as you are, and he has his own preoccupations as well - and even if it is, it can't hurt to go on record with it one more time. Second, you may want him to figure it out on his own, as a sign that he understands and cares about you: I anticipate his needs without his asking, so why can't he return the favor? But there's a good chance that that the issue for him is not a deep matter of whether he cares about you, but simply a practical question of finding out what he's supposed to do, since many men show their caring mainly through action. You can pursue more direct and effective ways to feel understood and cared about, like finding times for good conversation....

A third reason is contained in this comment from a mother at one of Rick's talks: It really, really irritates me for him to say, "What do you want me to do?" Then I have to be the mom with him and say, "Well, you could do this or that." Understandable as these feelings are - since you've probably been telling your kids what to do all day - try to step out of the mom frame and into the colleague frame with your husband. Certainly you shouldn't have to spell out every detail like a contract. Yet if you do not tell him what you want, how can you expect him to fulfill his part?

Finally, it is common to have had experiences as a child that make it feel scary to come out with what you want. Try to be aware of those inhibitions. Inside your own mind, challenge the expectations from childhood that are probably not valid today, and give yourself encouragement to push forward and let your true voice ring free.

Once you start talking, try to explain your point of view in terms that will make sense to him, given his values and concerns. Avoid distractions such as other issues or arguing about what happened in the past. Anticipate his doubts: I know you want to be able to feed Emma yourself and I'm willing to pump milk so you can; therefore, I don't think we need to wean her right now. You can make it easy to try the approach you're suggesting by framing it as an experiment, putting a time limit on how long you'll give it a go, and perhaps linking it to certain conditions: Could we just try for a week insisting that Serena eat some vegetables before dessert and see what happens? And if she goes on a hunger strike, we can do something else.

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From Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships by Rick Hansen, Jan Hansen, and Ricki Pollycove. Copyright © 2002 by Rick Hanson. Jan Hanson, and Ricki Pollycove. Used by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit amazon.


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