Kyle and Marsha (he an MD, she a PhD in social work) offer practical advice, tips, and insight to help parents be effective partners in raising happy and healthy children. Central to the success of a two parent family is the respect and cooperation shared by the parents. The subtitles: How Men and Women Parent Differently - Why It Helps Your Kids and Can Strengthen Your Marriage really sums up the whole premise of the book.
The book is divided into two parts. The first section reviews the many ways that men and women differ in terms of how we parent and why these differences exist. But the authors also emphasis that some of the differences between parenting styles have as much to do with personality as they do gender or sex. This section also offers advice on how to build and maintain a healthy, respectful relationship, even through times when you are annoyed with your partner or disagree about how he or she handled a situation. I particularly like the questionnaire for moms to evaluate the ways we may act as a gatekeeper in the family, acting like the leader or expert of the family that gives Dad assignments, instructions, and criticism. The last chapter in this section reviews what we think we know about child development and age appropriate behavior and what the realities are.
The second section of the book devotes a chapter to the different kinds of parenting decisions and challenges faced by most families at one time or another: discipline, care and feeding, co-parenting and sleeping with children, safety, and education. Each of these chapters follows a typical progression in issues and highlights some really common problems and approaches. The last chapter of the book is entitled Divorce Prevention and the advice given is really priceless and will go a long way to help preserve peace and successful family life.
The appendices include two questionnaires. The first questionnaire is designed for each partner to answer concerning their values, feelings and beliefs about parenting decisions and challenges. The questions offer a great starting point for further discussion and planning for co-parents. The author suggests that couples work through these kinds of discussions as early as possible, preferably before pregnancy. The second set of questions are about child development and milestones.
So what did I think about this book? Well, overall I believe it was well-written and well-balanced; no particular point of view or gendered approach was favored. Moms and dads were equally held accountable and praised. To be honest, the book wasn't as helpful to our family as I was hoping, because we generally operate from a partnership model in our parenting roles. I am not saying that everything is 50-50, but we do each take responsibility for caring for our son, as well as the fun stuff. I do like that the authors repeatedly stated that co-parents should not keep tally on who did what or who's turn it is to cook dinner, do the laundry, drive carpool, etc. They encouraged couples to work together, support one another, and recognize each parent's strengths and weaknesses. The real life examples from a few different families were also helpful in illustrating how men and women approach parenting differently, both in how we see situations and the solutions we devise.
One of my personal pet peeves about the book is that some of the comments seemed anti-attachment parenting, in particular on the issue of co-sleeping. But that might be my own bias. But overall, I feel like the authors do not espouse any one parenting philosophy. It is worth the time and energy to read, especially if you and your partner find it difficult to come to consensus on family decisions. But really, any and all families could benefit from the advice shared and the introspection encouraged by the authors. I know I have.