Difference of opinion
I hear from a lot of parents who have very different ideas about parenting. They often say they try not to fight in front of the kids, but nevertheless it creates battles between them. Many of these differences come from different upbringings. Others can’t identify clearly why they disagree. Either way, it is important to find a way to work together even if you have different ideas.
When you talk about parenting, emotions can certainly run high. It’s difficult to get a child to follow basic rules when one parent gives consequences and the other undoes it or tells the children “it’s not a big deal”. And it is also very difficult to decide which parent is entirely correct. Yes, children need to be held accountable for their actions but focusing on every single behavior can be overwhelming and can even backfire. Kids start to tune parents out.
Not in front of the children
Trying not to argue or discuss your parenting differences in front of the children is important. You will not be able to teach your children to follow one set of rules when he/she sees those rules are up for debate within the family. Some kids will also learn to play one parent against the other. It’s important to present a united front. If you find it difficult to remain calm, you may want to say to your partner, “I would like to talk about this together before we give our decision”.
There’s always common ground
Once you are able to have a private discussion, it is tempting to get into an argument about why your way is better. This is understandable but unlikely to help solve the issue. Rather than argue about whose style is right and wrong, you might see if you can find a place of agreement. You may be surprised to find out that there is always common ground. It is better to focus on specific behaviors rather than broad concepts. For example, while you might argue about whether sharing is mandatory, both of you likely agree that the kids should not take or destroy other people’s things and if they borrow an item, they need to return it in good shape. That means the rule would be that no one destroys something that belongs to another, and if they do, they must be responsible for fixing or replacing it. Decide together what the consequence will be. And if one of you feels you cannot follow through with the consequences, maybe you will agree not to undo what the other parents enforces.
If you are constantly talking about broad issues, remember that your children’s brains function far more concretely than adult brains. So, while having family discussions about abstract terms like responsibility and integrity are important, those discussions rarely result in concrete changes in behavior. These discussions are important to model how to voice opinions in a respectful matter, but they don’t necessarily lead to changes in behavior. For that, you and your partner need to find that place of agreement and follow through with what you’ve planned.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
About Satinder Brar
Satinder Brar is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Milton, Ontario. She empowers her clients to improve their emotional well-being, enhance their ability to engage in healthy interpersonal relationships and provides them with the tools necessary to live their best lives.