For all the (often, exasperated) talk about how "parents these days" are raising "kids these days" to be spoiled, unruly brats, many parents of our generation are actually succeeding at what researchers have found is the most effective parenting style: authoritative parenting. Authoritative parenting combines the warmth and support permissive parents show, with the structure and consistency that authoritarian parents provide, without the downsides of either of those styles. In my own experience, it's not only a better way to raise kids, there are ways authoritative parenting actually helped my relationship with my partner.
None of our relationships exist in a vacuum, because none of us have spare selves to devote to each of the significant people in our lives. I don't have an extra self to give to my husband once I'm done with our kids during the day, and another self to share with my friends and colleagues, or another self to spend time with my sister and my extended family. I'm just one, whole me, so the things I do with my kids affect how much energy I have to spend with the other people in my life, and vice versa. Same goes for the skills I learn to handle my responsibilities to all the various people in my life.
While the activities we do are different (because obviously), the basic relationship skills — listening, empathizing, etc. — transfer across all of my relationships. Authoritative parenting has actually made me a better partner to my husband, because:
It Helped Me Put Boundaries On My “Mama Time...”
Finding the happy medium between being permissive and indulging my kids’ every want (and running myself ragged in the process) or being authoritarian and dealing with needless power struggles and constantly upset kids, means having more time to myself.
...And Try To Make More Time For My Partner
Having more time for myself makes it easier to find energy and time to devote to my partner. That is energizing for me, which makes me a better mom. It's a virtuous cycle.
It Reminds Me How To Lovingly Set Limits More Generally…
A lot of the principles behind authoritative parenting apply to all relationships. Healthy relationships aren't about controlling other people or one person demanding blind obedience from the other, they're about respecting each other and each person setting the limits they need to stay safe and happy.
Authoritative parenting helps me remember that there are ways to be there for my family while still getting my needs met. That's helpful across the board, with our kids and with my partner.
...And Reminded Me About The Importance Of Exerting “Power With” Not “Power Over”
Fulfilling relationships aren't about one person dominating the other (without consent, anyway). If it's possible to figure out how to work with my toddler to keep him safe and get both of our needs met, it's definitely possible to do so with a grown person who’s capable of higher reasoning.
It Has Helped Me Get Way Better At Finding Win-Win Solutions
When you won't order your kids around and expect total compliance, you have to get really good at seeing every situation from their perspective as well as yours, and figuring out how to make things work for them and for you. That's a really helpful skill in romantic relationships, too.
It Has Helped Us Both Confront Stuff From Our Own Upbringing…
Neither of us grew up with parents whose parenting philosophies totally matched our own. As a result, we are constantly coming up against hard stuff from our own childhoods that affects our current relationship, and our whole family.
However, because we know we don't want to just default to what we used to do, or let old stuff affect our present, we talk through it. That's helped us heal and brought us closer.
...And Become A Stronger Parenting Team
Being better parents together, and being able to trust each other with the most important job we’ll ever do, isn't just a good thing for our kids. It's really attractive, too.
Our Home Is Less Tense, Which Makes Things Happier For All Of Us
Family life can be tough at times, no matter what parenting style or anything else we choose. We all have a lot of competing demands on our time and energy, and that gets to be draining. But overall, the fact that we're not fostering extra conflict by being harsh on our kids makes parenting more satisfying and less stressful, which frees up more energy and affection for each other.