“I adore my husband, but I hate parenting with him. I feel like I can handle the kids alone, but he comes in and mixes it all up." Seriously, when parents contact me, conflict with one's spouse about how he or she parents is always some part of what is keeping their household from being as fully calm and harmonious as they want it to be. That means that one of my biggest roles as a parenting coach is to help parents get on the same page.
4 STEPS TO BEING A UNTIED PARENTING TEAM
1. Learn a basic understanding of the parenting styles
All parents differ as categorized by being high or low on warmth and connection on one axis and being high or low on expectations on the other axis.
The first step to getting on the same page is for parents to identify where they are on the parenting styles graph. Most parents do actually fall in the optimal zone of being authoritative parents, but need to recognize that they might lean more towards authoritarian or more towards permissive and that their leanings might make them feel diametrically opposed to their spouse when it comes to parenting. In general, although it feels counterintuitive, if parents are feeling judged or judgmental, it is actually beneficial move towards one's partner's style somewhat.
2. Accept that kids actually benefit from slightly different styles
Accept that not only can kids handle some variation in their parents’ approach but that kids actually benefit from slightly different styles. Instead of judging one’s spouse for his/her more playful way of interacting and fearing that the kids will never learn to take anything seriously, watch and learn! Does one spouse get more cooperation once the kids have played a little? Instead of spoiling the kids because one spouse’s limits are too set in stone, the other spouse will benefit from trying out what it feels like to have some clear limits. Parents need a deep bag of tricks in order to meet the needs of their different kids’ personalities and ages and stages. Instead of getting entrenched, wise parents get curious about their spouse’s approach.
3. Identify, articulate and prioritize values.
Often when a parent understands the value behind his/her partner’s actions, he/she is able to see that they actually share similar values and that it is just their style that is different. Every value played out has an advantage and a disadvantage. When parents understand that, they are often more willing to support a partner’s values because they see the benefit it provides their kids. Plus, when the other party feels that his own value is being honored, it helps him take a more balanced approach. For example, let’s say Partner A has a value of kindness. When Partner B acknowledges the benefit of an emphasis on kindness, that opens up space for Partner A to see where too much of an emphasis on kindness can a) make a child feel he is only being loved if he is kind and can b) set him up for disappointment when he discovers that the rest of the world does not necessarily have that focus. The conversation about the complexities of fostering a particular value will help each parent be more thoughtful in its implementation.
4. Practice concrete communication skills.
Too often partners feel they do not have to take care with each other and therefore communicate more thoughtlessly than they would with colleagues or friends. The expectation that our romantic partner will just know what is in our heart and excuse our surface behavior gets in the way of our happiness. Learning concrete skills like active listening and always assuming the best motivation of their partner’s actions helps parenting partners to find win win solutions. Many people have learned communication skills in business settings but do not think to use them at home. That is too bad because clear, non-inflammatory communication allows each person to be his best and to move couples towards win-win solutions. Modeling effective communication for your kids is key to their social-emotional development and that means that learning to talk constructively with your spouse will give you even more bang for the buck.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Through gaining a more realistic understanding of different parenting styles (and seeing the strengths of each style), focusing on common values, and communicating with each other with more respect and care, parenting partners work towards being a united parenting team.
How about you?
If you feel out of sync with your spouse on a daily or weekly basis, that conflict is keeping your family from being as truly nurturing and constructive as it can be--and even those petty irritations with your spouse are probably sucking the joy out of day-to-day family life. Why would you go one more day without working to make the atmosphere in your home more positive?
I can help with that.
Pro-active parents start with my Harmony at Home Family Assessment and Follow up Session. The 50+ questions about your current parenting become the focus of a conversation with me where we will both celebrate your successes and look at what is especially challenging right now. Sign up HERE to get your assessment today and then we will find a date for the follow up session where I will give you the new research on the unique challenges parents are facing today.