While rocking your newborn to sleep and gazing lovingly into her eyes, you’re likely not thinking about what you’ll do when she is 3-years old and throwing peas at you during mealtime. Even less likely is that you are considering how your partner would handle the situation. But as baby grows, you and your partner will need to work as a team to most effectively guide your child to adulthood. After all, you both have the common goal of raising your child to be healthy, happy, and successful.
Working as a team doesn’t mean you will never disagree! At some point, all parents differ or argue at about parenting issues. You are individual people with different ideas, skills, values, histories, and personalities. You are also both coping with the stress of parenting.
It’s not, however, whether you disagree, but how you handle the disagreements. Even if you and the person you parent with have different parenting styles, you can still parent together effectively. In fact, evidence suggests that children benefit from having parents who compliment each other with different focuses and skills. Maybe one parent is creative and artistic, while the other parent is the rough-and-tumble playing parent. Both styles encourage your children to become well rounded and willing to try new things.
Communication is key
Parenting together requires effective communication.
- Make sure you both understand each other’s basic ideas or values about parenting.
- Know and respect each other’s specific family and cultural history. What methods, values, or traditions do you want to keep? What would you like to do differently? How will you resolve those differences together?
- Put aside time to come to general agreements about “daily” issues or routines – bedtime, meals, screen time, as well as major issues or persistent challenges.
- Talk about parenting issues, especially major ones, when you are both calm, fed and well-rested. Don’t try to address a major topic when you are in the heat of an argument or when you’re struggling with your child over a specific challenge. Set the issue aside until you can talk with a clear head.
- If you feel uncomfortable with how your partner has dealt with a particular situation, back them up in the moment, and don’t blame them or give them harsh criticism. Be constructive, provide feedback and tell them how you feel.
- We all make mistakes. Be kind to your partner and to yourself when you inevitably make some mistakes with each other.
Stretch your thinking
Parenting requires being flexible, both in your expectations of parenthood as well as how you parent. Consider what is important to you and your idea of parenting. For example:
- Is learning to always say please and thank you important to your values?
- Is restricting TV time something you feel is an absolute?
- Is making a mess part of being creative?
Which things would you prefer to happen, but are willing to negotiate about? Can you be accommodating about your child’s bedtime if certain bedtime rituals are important to your partner?
Appreciate each other’s viewpoints and needs. Be flexible and see where you both can compromise.
When you can’t make the team work
Sometimes you and your partner may have challenges in your relationship that are interfering with your ability to parent together. It can be easy to ignore your relationship when parenting seems to take all your focus, but addressing relationship challenges is essential in the long term. Working through your challenges will help you be able to work better as a team. Your role as a parent changes your couple relationship, and most parents agree that spending time nurturing yourselves as a couple is an essential component of successful parenting. Remember, you need to fill your cup emotionally both as individuals and as a couple in order to give your children what they need.
It can be hard to come to parenting agreements if you and your partner have rigid parenting roles – such as one person who is always the “fun” parent and the other the “strict” parent. Try for flexibility.
Sometimes you and your partner might come to an impasse and are not be able to work out agreements. You may need outside help.
- Consider seeing a counselor.
- Join a parenting group where you can talk with other parents and have some guidance from professional Parenting Educators on issues of discipline and more, as well as positive ways to communicate with your parenting partner.
At the end of the day
It’s important, especially for younger children, to see that their parents are united and working as a team. Stability and consistency make children feel safe and confident.
Your child will benefit if she or he sees you as a team working together and you will create a more harmonious home.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com). Parenting Now! is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now! please visit their website (https://parentingnow.org/) or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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