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Different Parenting Energies: Not Always a Bad Thing

July 5, 2010

During a recent phone consultation with a mother, she was describing how she and her husband tend to interact differently with their toddler. While I believe it’s beneficial for children to be raised by parents who are more or less (preferably more) on the same page with each other with regard to parenting philosophy and values, I also know from both personal experience and from the research that children also benefit from some parenting differences.

The classic difference is often that fathers are more physical and playful in their interactions with their young children while mothers are more calming, gentle, and also often more involved in the daily practical routines of feeding, diapering, bathing, etc. These differences may not hold true for all families, but for many, they do. I clearly remember my husband throwing our babies up in the air in ways that I would never imagine doing myself.

I came across this short video from Zero to Three which depicts a father playing a version of peek-a-boo with his baby. While I’m sure many mothers play with their babies in a similar way to the dad in this video, I’m also fairly confident than many mothers wouldn’t dream of purposely covering up their baby’s face. Babies who are stimulated in this way sometimes and who also have the benefit of a calm, soothing presence in other interactions really get the best of both worlds. They are exposed to a wider range of activity and energy level and learn skills to interact with different types of people. It is key, however, that the adults in the baby’s world learn to read the baby’s cues of over- or under-stimulation and adjust their interactions accordingly.

So if you and your parenting partner do not always interact with your little one similarly, I encourage you to take a step back and reflect. Are the differences between you meaningful and potentially harmful? Or are the differences more at the level of style than substance?

For additional thoughts on co-parenting, please see these previous helpful posts:


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