It’s often the little things that get on your nerves. You try to get the kids up the stairs so they can get into their pajamas and into bed, then your other half says, “Give them five more minutes.”
If you close the void, your kids will dive to the sofa and your night will drag on for about an extra 10 or 20 minutes while you have to start bedtime over.
Or you come in to hear your partner argue with your 10 year old about whether to just sit and do his homework without fiddling, fooling around, or dreaming. You think there is no need to fight, and you know that this would bring all of this anger only to yourself. But it sucks.
When you decide to get married or have a long-term relationship, you usually have a very deep understanding of the other person. You feel like you know them. Or at least you feel like you know them until you have children with them. Then you discover values, beliefs, and approaches to parenting that you never knew the other person had.
I am regularly asked how to solve the problem of parents having different approaches to raising their children. Conflicting parenting styles can be the source of great disharmony, frustration, and excitement between parents, and this inevitably affects children as well.
When asked, I always gave the same advice. The more consistent you can be, the easier it is for your kids and the easier it is for you.
Finding our own internal consistency in our responses to our children can be hard enough. Your mood, energy level, frustration, or stress can make you snappy when you intend to be calm, or you can escalate an argument when you know you really need to just walk away.
But at least when it comes to striving for internal consistency, all you have to do is grapple with your own answers.
It’s much more difficult to get your partner on the same page that you have real and lasting consistency in your shared approaches to parenting. I remember my father explaining that he just left the big parenting decisions to my mother. He thought that was her area of expertise and mostly just went along with her decision.
Perhaps that made for a peaceful home as I don’t remember too many arguments between my parents and less about us and what we were doing.
After 25 years of my own marriage, I still have a disagreement with my wife about how we raise the children (although two of the three are adults and do not live at home).
I never see this as a sign of failure, as I think our disagreements are just a point of tension that creates the fact that one or the other or both of us realign our views to the point where we have a common ground or common denominator find a uniform answer.
It is this discussion and the willingness to be open to the possibility of change that is at the heart of successful co-parenting.
Neither of us, myself included, can claim we have the “right” approach to education. Certainly I have some expertise, but it is surpassed and sometimes surpassed by that of my wife. So I have to listen.
Sometimes I have to persevere and convince, sometimes I have to try another path or compromise. And all of this has to happen in private, away from the children.
Despite all efforts to communicate effectively about what we all think is the best way to approach a situation, we still have moments of misunderstanding and stalemate.
However, we work very hard to reconcile our core values of what it means to be parents and how we would like our children to experience their childhood in our home.
If you find that you are resentful or undermined by your partner’s way of dealing with the children, then maybe it is time to have a real, in-depth conversation about yourself. to lead What are your common goals in raising children?
Start with the big picture. What are your hopes and wishes for the children and how do you intend to achieve them?
Let this starting point be the establishment of your shared values about what parenting means and what you think children need from parents.
When you can agree on this it becomes much easier to find the parenting techniques to achieve it. Yes, it will help if both of you take the same approach, but shared values are far more important.
As children keep growing and developing, your parents need to change to adapt to their circumstances and needs.
Infants and adolescents cannot be treated equally. However, at all stages of your parenting career, things like mutual respect, allowing children to make mistakes, kindness and warmth in your responses, and a willingness to understand their feelings will always be important.
When you arrange things like this with your partner, everything becomes easier.