The intention of this exercise is to foster an open dialog surrounding the different parenting philosophies and different desires/dreams that each individual has for their children. As a person gains a greater insight into their partner’s philosophies along with a greater understanding or the emotional significance of those philosophies, they become better able to meet their partner’s parental and spousal, and individual needs.
For every question the follow up question is… why is this important to you?
What are the most important things that a child needs to grow up healthy and happy? (Ex. a strong family, unconditional love, discipline, proper nutrition).
What are the most important qualities or characteristics that your desire to see from your child? (Ex. well educated, athletic, respectful, creative, confident, empathetic etc).
What parenting methods did your parents use that are really important to you… what parenting tactics or family rules/rituals do you want to use with your own children? Family dinner, movie night, family activities, no yelling, high academic expectations, good manners, respect for adults etc.)
What parenting methods did your parents use that you found hurtful or ineffective… what parenting tactics or family rules/rituals do you want to avoid with your own children? (Ex. No curfew, too much adult alcohol consumption, unpredictable environment, too much sarcasm, emotionally cold, to quick to spank, lack of parental attention, too high/low of expectations etc.)
How were emotions expressed in your family while you were growing up? What were the unwritten rules surrounding expressing a feeling and/or a need? (Ex. were children allowed to cry, could children ask clarifying questions, did you hug hello, was there lots of laughter etc.)
What are your greatest parenting skills… what are you already good at? (Ex. playing with the child, setting clear boundaries, always meeting the child’s eating and diaper changing needs, ability to understand my child’s non-verbal language, ability to provide a safe and predictable environment.)
What are your partner’s greatest parenting skills… what is he/she already good at?
What do you struggle with in relation to parenting? Which of your parenting skills could use some improvement? (Ex. structure, consistency, loving attention, being playful, being open-minded.)
If I were to ask you to comment about your partner’s parenting troubles, what behaviors do you sometimes use that have created unsuccessful interactions in the past? (I use overgeneralizations, I can be passive aggressive, while they are talking I am thinking up my response/retort, I can be unclear or unspecific, I can bully people with my tone and/or body language, I don’t pay attention etc.)
In relation to communication I have a tendency to either (pick one or more): prove I’m right, counter critique, be ambiguous, say one thing when I feel another, act contemptuous, over-generalize, get defensive, get aggressive, use tangents and distractions or withdraw.
What are the environmental factors which are creating the most difficulty for you in relation to raising a child? (Ex. no extended family support, financial hardship, proximity of support, over-involvement of a friend or family member, difficult weather, partner’s work hours, your work hours, lack of adult activities, poor daycare or school systems etc).
How will you and your spouse know if you are exhausted, overly stressed and in need of a some recovery time? (Ex. headaches, stomach pain, ruminating thoughts, increased emotional reactivity, increased withdrawing behaviors, increases abrasiveness, excessive TV watching etc)
What helps most when you are feeling burnt out? (Ex. exercise, sleep, time with friends or family, a date night, a movie, gardening, time alone, meditation, visiting a religious establishment etc.)
How are you at asking for support? How are you at receiving support? How are you at receiving unsolicited support?
What can your partner do to support you when you are feeling overwhelmed, overworked and or overly stressed? ( watch the kids, take the kids to a family members house, create an activity for the kids, do important household tasks, give loving attention, be emotionally available, empathetically listen, cuddle, make the space for individual time, etc.)
Is your current situation manageable for you as an individual? What do you need to maintain a satisfactory level of mental, emotional, and physical wellness? (Ex. less time at work, more childcare, more adult activities, more help with housework, help with finances, more physical or emotional intimacy from my partner, to feel safe, to feel noticed and important, to feel in control, more time to rest, time to exercise, time to engage in a hobby etc.)
What are your partner’s greatest strengths in relation to meeting your needs in your adult relationship? Ex. good listener, romantic, does thoughtful things for me, knows me very well, healthy sexuality, good provider, accepting of who I am etc).
What did you partner do in the past or what could your partner learn to do that would really help your relationship with him/her? Ex. better listener, more random acts of kindness, more understanding, more open-minded, more romance, showing me that I am important etc.)
What would you like to see from your co-parenting dynamic that will enable you both to co-parent more effectively? (Ex. structure, more open-mindedness, more acceptance of our differences, more time at home, less alcohol intake, less time in front of the TV, more healthy choices, to not spoil the children with candy and toys etc.)
In order for there to be more collaboration and synergy between you and your partner what changes do you need to make? (Ex. I need to deal with my own childhood issues, I need help with my anger, I need to be less stubborn, I need to express what I really feel, I need to become more assertive, I need to become a better listener, I need to relinquish some control, I need to become more accepting of certain things etc.)
Finally (if you feel as though you are in a state of self-awareness and compassion so as to be constructive) what changes could your partner make in relation to parenting that would be most helpful to you? (Ex. structure, consistency, loving attention, being playful, being open-minded, less/more discipline, enforce time-outs etc.)
What specific parenting roles would you like to see your partner engage in with greater frequency? (Ex. disciplinarian, nurturer, activity provider, basic needs person, diaper changer etc.)
Is there anything else?
Was this questionnaire helpful? What other questions do you think are important to encourage an open dialog between two parents?