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How do we manage our different parenting styles with our newborn?


Advice Q & A with Melissa Hughes

Perinatal Psychotherapist

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The Q

Since the birth of my daughter 10 months ago, my husband and I have been fighting non-stop. We argue over everything, but especially around how we care for our daughter. Our parenting styles are very different, and we don’t seem to agree on how to look after her. It’s really starting to get me down. What should I do?

The A

What a difficult time for you. My clinical experience has shown that with couples it is rarely ever the presenting problem that is the actual problem. After a few weeks of therapy, issues are usually uncovered that stretch much further back than the baby.

With regard to one parent undermining another, one thing I like to remind people of is that there is no right way. There will always be a way that your child prefers, but even that may not be the optimal solution.

For example, Johnny will definitely be quiet and well behaved at the shops if I give him a lollipop at the beginning of the shopping trip. Right way? Who knows. Path of least resistance? Possibly. In the end, no one has the solution, but bumping heads on issues about what is best for the child is a common occurrence.

Often when new mothers are sleep deprived, even gentle suggestions may come across as criticisms. Further, many new fathers can find the addition of a new child into the family an incredibly stressful time – these days men’s roles are as confusing as women’s.

I imagine both of you are tired, irritable, and doing your absolute best. This does not excuse certain behaviours, but may go a small way to inject some hope into the situation.

I would strongly suggest that you and your partner speak with a professional in order to work towards a mutual understanding, and a new communication dynamic now that your daughter has arrived.


Advice Q & A with Melissa Hughes. Ask Melissa a question.

Melissa is the Director of Baby and Beyond Parental Counselling. She specialises in prenatal and postnatal counselling: covering issues such as transition to parenting, successfully managing maternity leave, support through postnatal anxiety/depression, antenatal anxiety/depression and relationship issues. Melissa has lectured at Universities across Sydney and contributed as an expert in parenting and relationship articles as well as writing for magazines. Her work in group therapy for postnatal depression was recognised by the Centre for Leadership for Women in 2009 and she continues to facilitate groups on a weekly basis.


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