What do parents fight more about than sex or money? Ask any parent: It's how to raise their children. The dilemma is that while both parents love their children, while they may even have agreed before hand how to raise their children, while they may have read every parenting book ever published since 1950, nobody really knows what kind of parent they're going to be until they are actually confronted with a smiling, gurgling baby. Or a thirteen year old daughter who is demanding a $1700 Burberry purse. Or a fifteen year old son who at 2 a.m. is standing intoxicated at the front door. With a policeman.
Then all agreements are off the table. The couple suddenly sees each other as they really are:
The father is no longer the gentle caring new age male she fell in love with, but a caveman who believes his kids are sucking him dry and would toss them to the wolves at the first opportunity.
And the mother is no longer the sexy thing he married, but a delusional, gullible, mother hen who believes her poor 18 year baby can do wrong, even if he's in handcuffs.
Not surprisingly, disagreements about how to raise kids is one of the leading causes of stress in a marriage and leads to a number of divorces. But it doesn't have to be.
Here are five things moms need to understand about dads.
1. Dads show affection differently than moms. A woman will hug, cuddle, and just watch her baby sleep. Then dad will walk in, hang the baby by her ankles, tickle her, toss in the air all the while the baby is screaming with delight. Mom of course is groping for a bottle of Xanax in the house. But all this is dad loving on his baby.
2. Dads have this genetic thing about providing for their family. They worry all the time about money. So while you think he's being stupid by freaking by the cost of diapers or formula and later, college and cars, what's really happening is he's worried sick about providing.
3. Dads want their children, especially their sons, to grow up. It's a mom's tendency to hand out money and comfort to children like it's candy, where as a dad will demand their children go to work. Like he did. When he was ten.
4. Dad's say "no" more often. "No" to new clothes, "no" to a new BMW, "no" to sending a teen to summer in Europe, "no" to sleeping in on a school day. Sometimes, it's the only word they'll say to a thirteen year old for six months.
5. Dads aren't as worried about the kids as moms are. He won't understand why you're up at 2 am worried by the fact your son has no date for the prom. Getting into a fight over the fact he's not worried enough is pointless. Dad's simply believe things will work out without a parent's help. Moms know better.
Now here five things dads need to know about moms
1. Moms don't care what the cost is to feed, clothe, transport, educate and tutor their children. They hand out money to teenagers like its tissue paper. They are wired to give their kids everything they want and need, and to suggest they are spending too much on the children is a sure fire way for hell to rain down on a husband.
2. Moms think about their children's happiness all the time. If you are laying on the sidewalk unconscious and bleeding from a piano falling on you, they'll still be more worried about their daughter not making the school's drill team. It's easier for moms to stop breathing than it is to stop worrying about their kids.
3. Moms feel sorry for their kids. They are convinced their children are working too hard in school, that teachers don't understand them, that they risk social harm because they don't have an iPhone and they cannot possibly get a part time job as that would mean life would totally un-fun and so you, dad, need to raise their allowance.
4. Moms don't believe in discipline. That's why their greatest threat to their kids is "I'm going to tell your father," and often her kids can talk her out of telling dad anything, She will be upset when you lay down the law because you clearly have no understanding how wonderful your child is, despite the fact she was caught cheating by three teachers.
5. Moms say "yes" to everything. This is why kids will always ask their mothers instead of their fathers for money, for a gold card, for a $1000 new purse, for a later curfew. The only time a mom will say "no" is when her husband begs her to quit saying "yes."
This yin and yang of parenthood is really the best reason I can think of for couples to stay married. Children don't need to hear "yes" all the time.
And being told "no" twenty-five times a day can lead a child to develop some serious anger issues. Children need the fun play of dad as well as the nurturing of a mom. They need the discipline of a dad as well as the un-judgmental support of mom.
The fact is, while tension between mom and dad is inevitable, it's worked for thousands and thousands of years. Both parents just need to realize a healthy child needs what both parents are genetically equipped to give: love in their own way.
Harry H Harrison Jr. is a NYTIMES best selling parenting author with over 3.5 million books in print. He has been interviewed on over 25 television programs, and featured in over 75 local and national radio stations including NPR. His books are available in over thirty-five countries throughout Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Norway, South America, China, Saudi Arabia and in the Far East. For more information visit www.fearlessparenting.com.