Book Review: Partnership Parenting: How Men and Women Parent Differently – Why It Helps Your Kids and Can Strengthen Your Marriage

art-0613-partnership-parentingKyle Pruett, MD, and Marsha Kline Pruett, PhD, two of the world’s foremost parenting experts, begin their book Partnership Parenting with this dilemma:

In Hollywood, “happily ever after” typically means that the celluloid couple embrace in a passionate kiss after uttering their marriage vows. We don’t often see what happens once these couples have children. In fact, movies about family life are often light comedies about inexperienced parents, focusing on the good-hearted but bumbling father and the competent but overwhelmed, long-suffering mother. And yet in real life, if the goal is happily ever after, there is solid evidence that we should freeze this blissful picture before children are born. Long-term studies in the United States and other Western countries show that a couple’s happiness begins to slip away with the birth of their first child and continues downward through the child’s fourteenth year. Even though this steady decline doesn’t stop parents from reporting that having children is the best thing they have ever done and is one of life’s most rewarding experiences, for many couples, juggling the demands of marriage and family can also make them angry, resentful, annoyed and unhappy with their mates. Is it any wonder that the average marriage ends after eight years, which coincides with the early years of parenting? (Pruett & Pruett, pgs. 3 & 4.)

The authors address this central dilemma by weaving together evidence from research on outcomes for children, quotes from real mothers and fathers struggling with the daily challenges of parenthood, and concrete advice about parenting and marriage. The result is a compelling picture of why it ultimately benefits children when parents attend to their own relationship with each other and are intentional about how they co-parent.

The first half of the book focuses on helping parents to understand the different styles that men and women often bring to their role as parents and makes the point that parenting differences are strengths rather than deficiencies. The authors outline how relationships change after children are born, and discuss strategies for building a parenting partnership and managing conflict. In the chapter entitled “Valuing Your Spouse’s Contribution,” they provide lists of questions to help parents think about how they might be supporting or inhibiting their partner’s ability to parent.

With chapters entitled “Discipline,” “Care and Feeding,” “Co-Parenting and Sleeping Children,” and “Safety,” the second half of the book addresses common concerns and questions that parents have about raising children. Never proscriptive, the authors provide parents with information about child development and offer strategies and thought-provoking questions for parents to ask each other, such as: “When she’s {the baby} fussy and nothing is working, what do you think our bottom line should be, and what are you willing to let go?” and “Is it OK if I do it differently than you would, or are you going to get frustrated with me?”

It is these kinds of questions that make this book a “must have” gift for new (and not so new!) parents. The authors have gracefully threaded the needle by giving examples and strategies for parents who want immediate concrete help, while also providing a framework that encourages couples to take the time to find their own answers and unique path in the journey of co-parenthood. 

Reproduced with permission by Strategies, a network of three training, coaching and technical assistance centers funded by the California Department of Social Services, Office of Child Abuse Prevention. http://www.familyresourcecenters.net.

About Annette Marcus

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