“United we stand and divided we fall”, or so the adage goes. It is true in politics and in life. And when it comes to your children and how to discipline them this saying is 100% true.
We’ve all been there, you think you should discipline your child a certain way and your spouse wants to handle it differently. You each become stuck in your position, unwilling to concede, and that’s when the fighting starts.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect 100% agreement all the time. You are different people who will approach parenting differently, depending upon the situation and some disagreement is expected and normal. However, if you can’t agree on the fundamental values you use to raise and discipline your children, then you are bound for conflict and confused kids.
So how do you get on the same page? Here are a few suggestions to help you parent together and to stop fighting over the kids:
1. Outline Your Core Values
I am asking you to complete an exercise with your spouse or for those of you co-parenting, sit down with your parenting partner and write down the major values and lessons you want to teach your children. This can be fundamental (core) values like honesty, persistence, hard work, kindness, compassion etc.
And it can also be the “non-negotiable values”. (A non-negotiable value is something that is a “given,” something that is always true in your house. Some examples include “no hitting” or “seat belts on before the car moves” or “call home if you’re going to be late, etc.”) When you outline the non-negotiable values, it creates a “bottom line” that you can refer to when trying to agree on whether a particular parenting decision effectively teaches or undermines one of your core values.
2. Sit Down Regularly to Discuss Parenting Challenges
To parent as a team, you have to set aside time, regularly, to talk about the most pressing parenting issues you are facing when the kids are not around. In our house, we usually speak about the kids and whatever is going on with them after they’ve gone to bed and before we get into a movie or T.V. show.
This carved out time is your opportunity to honestly share your individual perspectives what you think your child(ren) might be struggling with, or a situation at school, etc; it is also a chance to brainstorm together “best” ways to address the problem in a neutral, non-stressful environment. Sharing openly with one another and hearing each other out is essential to your effectiveness as a team.
3. No Matter What, Present a United Front
I cannot stress this point enough…Never argue about discipline (or anything else) in front of the kids. Here’s an example of why you have to be careful about arguing in front of the kids and/or keeping the decision making process to yourself: Let’s say your daughter thinks she’s ready to date and you agree, but dad isn’t comfortable with that yet, and your official parenting decision is to wait a bit longer.
You won’t win any brownie points playing favorites at the expense of your spouse’s position on an issue.
It’s destructive and divisive to go back to your daughter and say, “I agree with you, but Daddy isn’t ready for you to date.” Actions like this undermine his authority, and encourage your child to continue pushing against her father’s judgment, and falsely sets you up as her “friend/ally”.
While you are raising them, your children are not your friends, you are their parent. Period. You won’t win any brownie points playing favorites at the expense of your spouse’s position on an issue. When in doubt, remember your child and your marriage will be better off if you present a consistent message to the kids.
4. Give Each Other Credit
Your spouse might not do everything exactly the way you do as a parent, but that doesn’t automatically make their way the wrong way. Sometimes there are two perfectly reasonable options to arrive at a decision. Give each other a little credit and let both viewpoints be fully considered. If you can do that, I am certain you will both be pleased with the results!
Parenting is not easy, in fact it is the most challenging and important job you will ever undertake, which is all the more reason to do it together. Support one another and your child will be better for it, knowing they have two loving and understanding parents, who will always be there for them no matter what.