Q: My husband and I have been married about 10 years. We are united on most issues – except we argue about discipline and “how to raise” our two kids, ages 6 and 4. The arguments are taking a toll on our marriage and family. I am at my wits end.
A: When your parenting style differs from that of your partner, it can be frustrating at best and destructive at worst. At the same time, it’s extremely commonplace. This is true for male and female partners, but shows up among same sex couples as well. That’s because many of the personality traits and personal beliefs that parenting calls on lie dormant until there’s an actual child to parent.
Parenting styles are mostly instinctual and unconscious, based on how we were raised, and what we observed in our family of origin. When parenting occurs in conflict, different approaches send mixed messages to the kids that ultimately undermine any form of parenting. Conflicting styles can then confuse kids as they wonder what the real “rules” are.
One key is that each parent needs to be okay with the role each takes on. If one is the primary disciplinarian, they need to be okay with that. And that each parent supports the other in his or her approach. When disagreements occur, STOP, agree to disagree and discuss after the kids are out of earshot. The most important function of co-parenting is forming a united front, and reinforcing to kids that even if two partners might react to a situation differently, they have each other’s backs. The message to the kids: Your parents are two distinct people, but as your parents we’re a single unit.
When two parents don’t agree on how to raise their children, it isn’t just difficult on the marriage, it’s challenging for the children.
Five keys to successful parenting:
1. Understand Your Style.
There are essentially three different styles of parenting. There is authoritarian, which entails strict rules and consequences. Authoritative parenting also has rules and consequences,
however, it’s more responsive to the particular child’s personality and needs. Permissive parents place few rules on their child and are quite lenient. Understanding where your style fits, and where your spouse’s style fits, is the beginning.
Sit down and talk about what you each view your role as a parent to be. What are your goals? How do you define a successful parent? family? child?
3. Create a Plan.
Consider creating what you might call a parenting mission statement. This outlines the various areas that are important to you and your family, and what priorities you want to emphasize.
4. Support Team Parenting.
Agree on how you’re going to approach parenting together. Small issues can be handled in the moment. However, larger discipline problems may be handled together after you’ve had a chance to discuss the situation.
5. Allow Room for Mistakes.
Neither of you is perfect and will make mistakes. Blame, anger, and conflict don’t help either of you, nor your children.
Lisa Webb is at the Body & Mind Consulting Associates Group: www.bodymindtn.com Her latest book: “Boardroom to Bedroom, Using your Executive Success for your Marriage” is available at www.amazon.com