Family Matters: Do as I say, but not as I do

Conflict resolution expert Shimrit Nothman talks about important lessons in parenting skills.

June 26, 2013 17:00
4 minute read.

Tamar writes: “My husband and I have been having a lot of arguments lately. Most of them are related to his performance as a dad. He shouts at the kids a lot, gets into pointless arguments with them, and many times it feels like he would rather spend his free time on his iPhone rather than playing with them. I tried teaching him better communication skills or telling him what he can do differently, but he doesn’t seem to listen to anything I say. I feel helpless when I see how he treats the children. I’m afraid they’re not going to have a good relationship with their father in the future. How can I get him to see that?

When a couple gets married they often have a clear vision of how their life as a family is going to look like; they imagine a happy family running on the beach and playing ball together, or perhaps sitting around the dinner table sharing exciting stories and experiences. In realty, though, those picture-perfect moments only happen on occasion and everyday life has many challenges on offer.

Tamar and her husband are experiencing some of these challenges. And the question is: How would they be able to join forces in this great battle of parenting?

We are all different

Your dad might have been very strict with you, but your partner’s dad was very lenient on boundaries. Your mom was very warm and affectionate; while your partner’s mom may hardly ever have told him she loves him. Whether or not you agree with the way you were brought up, you carry your parents’ parenting style with you and so does your partner.

It’s clear to you that when a baby is crying you have to sprint and pick him up straight away, but your partner believes that crying hasn’t killed any baby… yet. You want your kids to live on a strictly vegetarian diet, but your partner believes that with no meat for dinner there is no reason to live really.

We’re often surprised to hear our partner’s take on parenting, thinking to ourselves- “wow, he/she really doesn’t understand how to handle the kids.”

The truth is, there are probably a few different "right" ways to raise our children, and almost no matter which one we choose, our children will still be telling their psychologist in 20 years how we’re to blame for anything that went wrong in their lives.

So, perhaps the first advice I have for you is to accept that different parents have different parenting styles. Some may not appear to be as good as ours, but they might be almost as good, or perhaps even better. Unless it’s a matter of “clear and present danger,” it may be appropriate to accept aspects of your husband’s parenting style.

Would you like to switch roles with him?

Put yourself in his shoes for a minute. How would you feel if your partner continuously judged and criticized your every move? Probably, not so good. I’m guessing you were not born a perfect parent, but countless hours spent with your children, making every mistake in the book with them made you the great mom that you are today.

Perhaps instead of giving advice to your partner, you can try a different approach. Get him to spend more time watching you interact with the kids. By doing so you’re showing him that things can be done in a different way, which may be more effective. If he sees that your way of doing things will get better results, there is a bigger chance he’ll do the same.

You can also get him to spend more time with other fathers, whose parenting style you’ll be glad your husband copies.

You can’t force your husband to change his parenting style, but you can introduce him to other styles and pray he picks something up.

Parents don’t have to agree on every little thing. They should know, though, that children learn by example. If the children see their parents are supportive of one another and don’t criticize or yell at each other frequently, they will learn a valuable lesson in effective parenting. In time, they will be able to utilize it with their own children. Hopefully, their future partner’s parents have taken the same advice. 

This column is brought to you as general information only and should not be a replacement for professional advice.

Shimrit Nothman has a Masters degree in Conflict Resolution and believes that like charity, conflict resolution begins at home. She recently published her first children's book teaching conflict resolution in the family.

If you have any questions for Shimrit, please use the comments section below or email her at

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