Catapulting the Kids


By Curt Leitz, MN Guide By Your Side Parent Guide

One of the times I found my parenting style questioned came when our elder daughter was about eighteen months old. She and I had spent all day together in our small apartment due to wind chills of about a zillion below. Among other things, we developed a fun way to practice counting—which we attempted to demonstrate for Mom when she came home from work.    “Anja,” I said enthusiastically. “Show Mom what you can do!” Anja clambered up onto the sofa, then stood on its arm. “One!” she yelled, as Mom looked on with disapproval. “Two!” she yelled, teetering a bit, as Mom looked on with genuine concern. “Three!” she yelled, leaping straight up—but not out, onto the sofa, as she had all afternoon. Instead she slid into the space between the sofa and the wall with a dull thud and erupted into tears. I got the stern look.    Anja lived to count another day, though, and ultimately my wife accepted that I go about things a bit differently than she would.   

Actually, studies show that children benefit from the different ways that moms and dads tend to interact with them. At the risk of engaging in gross generalizations, studies show that dads are more likely to engage in rough-and-tumble play, moms more likely to cuddle. Dads are more likely to communicate with higher-level vocabulary, moms to use simpler statements. Dads are more likely to engage in turn-taking and require responses of their kids, moms more likely to engage in rich narratives and descriptions.    Both styles are beneficial. Research suggests that children’s social and linguistic development is best fostered by a complement of parenting styles. (Most of the research in this field compares and contrasts mothers and fathers, but kids benefit from the different communication styles and play styles of all the loving caregivers in their lives.)    Since linguistic development is of special concern for our children who have hearing loss, it becomes particularly relevant that mothers and fathers tend toward different communication styles with young children.

Turn-taking develops expressive language skills. Using “adult” language helps develop vocabulary—which is the linguistic skill at which kids with hearing loss are most likely to be behind their peers. Thus, our children with hearing loss are even more in need of the complementary gifts that each parent has to offer.  So dads, don’t feel like you need to parent the same way your spouse does. Moms, give your spouse some latitude. I’ve known too many families where the primary caregiver (usually a mom) has trouble giving up control to the non-primary caregiver (usually a dad). Inevitably the non-primary caregiver contributes less and less to childrearing, often avoiding tasks such as diaper changes, bath time, and bedtime rituals. Everybody suffers.    And dads, if you expect not to be micromanaged while catapulting the kids onto the sofa, then you’d better accept that there’s more than one way to pack the car, mow the lawn, or clear snow from the drive! Happy parenting!   ~


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