Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Complementary Roles

John Gray’s book entitled, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, uses an analogy that men and women are so different they could be from different planets. Men draw their sense of identity from their exploits and are preoccupied with the “things” that can help them express power by creating results and achieving their goals. Women on the other hand value love, communication, beauty, and relationships. Their sense of self is defined through their feelings and the quality of their relationships.
Gray talks about a common communication problem between men and women. When a woman wants to share her feelings and vent about a stressful day, she lets out her emotions by talking about her problems. The man will often react by becoming Mr. Fix-it. His suggestions are not welcomed because she wants to be heard not told what to do. On the other hand, when a man receives unsolicited advice from his wife, especially at a time when he may be struggling to complete a task, he will often perceive the advice as being critical.[i]
Despite the fact that there are incredible differences between men and women, those very differences make parenting more effective when a mother and a father work together. Mothers’ and fathers’ roles complement each other in parenting. When parents agree on the method and way they are going to parent their children, there will be cohesion and harmony in the family. That doesn’t mean that there will not be problems and conflict to deal with, but it does mean that they will deal with it in a responsive way and not a reactive way.
Their unique differences give each one certain advantages and gifts the other does not have or at least does not have in the same capacity. Most women are gifted with more relational connection, and that seems to be instinctual. This asset allows them to have quicker insight into their children’s emotional lives. Most men project more physical strength than women simply because they are bigger and stronger, and that strength helps them give direction to their children.
God made a mother in such a way that she forms a special secure attachment with her child. It is as if she were primed to care for this child and give the child exactly what he or she needs.[ii] That attachment promotes feelings of self-worth, exploration, and positive interactions with other people.[iii] The father helps form the identity of the children by providing protection and warmth.
Parenting in harmony means compensating for each other’s weaknesses. For example, when children have a depressed mother, they are at greater risk of internalizing and externalizing the behavior.  The risk is greatly reduced, however, when the father, who is not depressed, serves in a supportive role doing what the mother does not do for the child. The mother, for example, may have a greater impact on the child’s academic competence, but the father may impact the child’s social competence.  The mother may bring out the child’s originality better, but the father’s interaction may have a greater impact on teaching the child emotional regulation.[iv] Mothers are the best at nurturing, but fathers are often the best at teaching skills and helping the child master a task. Mothers help the child understand their emotions, while fathers help them learn how to control them.[v]
When parents understand their core values and they are consistent in daily interactions, then those values will be integrated in the child’s life. When parents take ownership for their own life and show the child what they believe, it makes sense to him or her.[vi] The real integration of core values depends on the quality of the relationship between the youth and the parents. A warm, connected parent is associated with fewer problem behaviors in adolescence. Adolescents who receive more parental warmth tend to engage less in antisocial behavior and engage in more positive behavior.  When adolescents feel valued, accepted and loved, they are more inclined to internalize parental values and accept parents’ rules and attitudes.[vii]

[i] Gray, John (2009-10-13). Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: Practical Guide for Improving Communication (Kindle Locations 412-438). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
[ii] Baumrind, D. (1980). New directions in socialization research. American Psychologist, 35, 636-
[iii] Martin, A., Ryan, R., & Gunn, J. (2010). When father’s supportiveness matters most:
Maternal and paternal parenting and children’s school readiness. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(2), 145-155. doi:10.1037/a0018073
[iv] Martin, A., Ryan, R., & Gunn, J. (2010). When father’s supportiveness matters most:
Maternal and paternal parenting and children’s school readiness. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(2), 145-155. doi:10.1037/a0018073
[v] Bayan, D., Baruah, J., & Holland, G. (2013). Parents’ roles in guiding children’s educational,
religious, and other trajectories. Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology, 3(1), 244-252. doi:10.5539/jedp.v3n1p244
[vi] Sweeney, P., & Fry, L. (2012) Character development through spiritual leadership. Consulting
Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 64(2), 89-107. doi:10.1037/a0028966
[vii] Wang, M., Dishion, T., Stormshak, E., & Willett, J. (2011). Trajectories of family management
practices and early adolescent behavioral outcomes. Developmental Psychology, 47(5), 1324-1341. doi:10.1037/a0024026

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