Parenting, even in the easiest and most normal of times, can be likened to a delicate balancing act. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought this truth into stark light. As parents, we negotiate our own experiences and personalities, our own philosophies, our children's needs, their behaviors, and day-to-day changes and challenges all at once. Coming to an agreement on one consistent style of parenting is complicated and has the potential to spark heated and impassioned debates, always with the children's best interests in mind, of course. My husband and I have had a plethora of discussions about how best to parent, discipline, handle schedules, educate, and speak to our kids. We both advocate an authoritative style of parenting, but in rather different aspects.
We believe in establishing and adhering to a set of rules for our children that changes only after discussion and mutual agreement, and we both believe in listening and responding to feedback from our kids. Their input is essential to us, and we recognize that children need to be heard and feel some sense of agency in their own upbringing. Despite these similarities, my husband and I have had differences of opinion on when to be permissive and to what extent.
I, for example, ascribe to the notion that children need a steady and predictable routine. This gives structure to the seemingly interminable days at home, helps the kids to regulate their emotions and responses, and it makes nap time decidedly smoother. A floating nap time that depends on how the kids are feeling is a recipe for tantrums and fights, in my opinion. My husband, on the other hand, has embraced the idea of doing things based on the kids' natural rhythms and relying, at least partially, on their behaviors to determine when to change activities or take a nap.
Discipline is another area where our styles have differed. I prefer to use supportive discipline strategies as much as possible, such as using nonverbal cues like eye contact, engaging with them as they play, coming in close physical proximity when they begin to get restless or argue, and giving verbal warnings to deter them from misbehaving too badly. My husband has used both supportive and corrective discipline strategies, such as timeouts and temporarily confiscating toys followed by explicit discussions of why the kids are being disciplined. Being together at home 24/7 during this pandemic, though, has turned out to be a great equalizer. Maybe I should call it a harmonizer, since we have finally decided to embrace the same version of an authoritative parenting style, and that has made our home life much more harmonious.
I felt frustrated with a lack of routine, and my young children were having more and more frequent nap time meltdowns. It got to the point where nap time, whether this was at 1:00 p.m., or sometimes as late as 5:00 p.m. (I know, I know!), and all of the rituals and fights surrounding it, ate up three hours of each day. My oldest son also stopped responding to timeouts as they were. He would shout endlessly and leave his room without our permission. We were all emotionally exhausted and had reached a breaking point.
After much discussion, we decided that we would stick to a set daily routine with home learning in the mornings, playtime, nap following lunchtime, hands-on arts and crafts in the afternoon, and family time in the evening. As for discipline, we both agreed that supportive strategies are best when possible. We also chose a few corrective strategies that we both agreed would be effective, but not too harsh, and we use those when necessary. This experience has taught us that discussing and agreeing upon one style of parenting is invaluable to maintaining a calm and peaceful home life, and it leads to far less confusion and emotional turmoil for our children. We both had to make compromises, but in the end, a few compromises are worth it to make things more consistent for our kids.