FAMILY LIFE VALUES "Mom vs. Dad" (Continued) order to stay healthy and alert at school. "It isn't a question of who's rigid and who ' s lenient, " says Rosen, "but rather how well you talk to one another about what will best serve your kids. "
Your family history shapes your outlook
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When it comes to the big issues, like values, parents usually agree in principle but often disagree, vehemently, in practice. For instance, Phyllis Schieber, of Mount Vernon , New York, and her husband, Howard, both want to raise responsible children. But Howard tends to be indulgent, while he sees Phyllis as unnecessarily punitive. "His idea of discipline is to get mad and yell, " she says. ''I'll do things like make our son Isaac, who's 13 , return his own library books, and if they're overdue, pay the fine himself. His father just reaches into his pocket and says , 'I've got it.' " Recently, says Phyllis, her son wanted a new Nintendo game cartridge. She told him to use his birthday money to buy it . But her husband saw it on sale at Caldor's and ended up buying him two games. Phyllis insisted on making their son pay them back for the first game because, she says , "that's what we agreed on. Howard accepted it because I told him we had to be consistent and follow through. He relentedbut not willingly. " This situation is complicated, says Barbara Fields, a New York City 150
psychotherapist, because it's really about the parents' own family histories, "the ghosts in the nursery. Parents need to look at what has shaped and molded them, or they'll undermine each other for reasons that have very little to do with their child," she says. "In this case, the couple needs to understand why they feel so differently about the money issue." "I would try to get these parents to check with each other before deciding whether or not to make their child pay, " adds Dr. Taffel. "There are many ways to reach the goal of teaching a child responsibility. What's important is that the parents come up with something that makes them both feel comfortable. "
schoolwork. "Rick feels that sports are a close second to school, while I see them as way down the list," says Deborah. For years, the couple were at odds over whether to let the kids attend practices or watch televised sports when they hadn 't finished their homework. And Rick often wanted to take the kids to games on school nights. Deborah says that to try to reach a compromise , she and her husband found something they could agree onthe larger goal of their children's education. So they were able to see eye to eye on the concept of "work before play." They came up with a rule: If one of their sons has a night baseball practice, he has to get all his work done ahead of time. It's Kids can accept up to the boys to figure out how-whether they differences Always trying to main- stay in at lunch to do tain a united front is a homework or start on a little unrealistic, say ex- longer assignment earliperts. "As two separate er in the week. Although to Debopeople , you 'll always have a different take on rah, missing school is things, " Dr. Balter says. practically a mortal sin "Children can accept ("The nuns drilled into these differences as us that the only excuses long as they see that were illness or death," their parents can appre- she recalls), she's learnciate and listen to each ing to accept the role other. " One reason that of sports in her family's some parents haven 't life. Last year, she allearned better problem- lowed the boys to go to solving skills is that a Knicks-Bulls game their own parents al- even though their homeways disagreed behind work wasn ' t done. closed doors. If you let "How often do you get your kids see you dis- to see Michael Jordan agree but treat each play live? " she says , other respectfully, adding, "In 18 years of they' ll learn to solve marriage, I've learned to be adaptable. " conflicts. Becoming frozen in For example , Deborah and Rick Ross , of a rigid disciplinary style Scarsdale, New York, means you're notreparents of two sons , sponding to what your ages 10 and 13 , have child needs at that particdeep-seated differences, ular moment. Problems when it comes to the, can arise when one parvalue of sports versus ent tries to turn a diffi-