As your child grows, it is likely that you and your partner will want to work as a team to most effectively guide your child to adulthood. You have the common goal of raising your child to be healthy, happy, and successful, and in order to support your child growing to their potential, working together is the best way to get there.
Working as a team doesn’t mean you will never disagree. At some point, all parents differ or argue about parenting issues. It’s not, however, whether you disagree, but how you handle the disagreements. When you can listen calmly to each other in order to see one another’s perspective, you can more easily come to a compromise or united front.
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.
- Before you sit down to talk through your issue, it is key to be calm and open to listening. Take some deep breaths together and reaffirm your common goal of supporting your child as they grow toward their independence.
- Talk about what values are important to each of you. What values do you share?
- When you have different values and strengths, you can support each other to grow that area of strength in your child. For example, if your partner values being active in the outdoors, and you would much rather be inside with a good book, you can still support both of those values together by each taking the lead in that area with your child.
- 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 support each other in keeping your values alive?
- Put aside time to come together to talk about general agreements about “daily” issues or routines – bedtime, meals, screen time, as well as major issues or persistent challenges.
- We all make mistakes. Be kind to your partner and to yourself when you inevitably make some mistakes with each other.
- In any relationship, with your partner and with your children, you will inevitably do or say something that you later regret; you create a rupture. Relationships become stronger when you can repair that rupture. Apologize and then resolve to handle it differently the next time.
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 screen 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 routines are important to your partner?
Appreciate each other’s viewpoints and needs. Be flexible and see where you both can compromise. When there doesn’t seem to be a compromise, is there a way for both of you to get your needs met around the issue?
Working Through the Hard Moments
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. At the very least, a few rules or guidelines that you can both get behind and follow through with is essential so your child will know that a “no”, or “not yet” from one parent will be the same for the other parent.
If your find yourself at a stalemate on an important issue, or if you seem to be always in conflict about parenting issues, you and your partner might may consider outside help:
- Consider seeing a counselor who specializes in supporting parents.
- Join a parenting group where you can talk with other parents and get support and information 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 they see 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 Grilley.