We’ve all been there, we try communicating with, or disciplining our kids using a style that we have adopted … and out of nowhere, the spouse bursts onto the scene with a different view.
Frustrating isn’t it? If you have a different parenting style than your spouse, it can cause a rift in your marriage. But even worse is when the difference is voiced openly, right in front of the kids.
So, I found this article on Yahoo! written by Liza Finlay. Finlay is a journalist, psychologist and former managing editor of Flare magazine. She also contributes articles to several publications including Flare, Globe & Mail and Today’s Parent.
When you and your spouse have different approaches to parenting it can feel like the Great Wall of China has arisen between you. Child discipline can be divisive. And arguments over child-rearing can make the most even-tempered adult seem childlike. We quibble and quarrel with our mates like school-aged siblings.
Why? Because we care. Because it’s important. Because it matters more than pretty much anything — to both parents.
Sure, this is a hot-button issue, but you can turn down the heat by remembering that your spouse is in complete agreement about the importance of parenting and parenting right. You two may disagree about what that looks like, but appreciating that you share the best of intentions will bring the feud’s fever pitch back to the normal range. See, you’ve already found some common ground!
Chris Thompson’s thoughts: I really like the overall message here. I learned from Dr. Mike Mandel that whenever a couple has an argument over a detail, they need to climb up one level to discover what it is they agree on. By going higher up (becoming more broad rather than specific), you can realize that you both want to raise a well behaved child, or a child who enjoys reading, or eating a good diet, or whatever. Then you can climb back down to wherever it was that you were disagreeing and find a solution that you both can accept, to achieve the common goal.
Let’s see how this thinking lines up with Finlay’s helpful tips:
- Get on the same page. Stop the power struggle and settle this on neutral ground. This isn’t a game of Tug of War so drop the rope and let an expert weigh in. Start from scratch and consider building solid strategies by taking a parenting course — together.
- Limit disagreements by carving out turf. If laundry is your chore, it’s up to you to decide how to handle the clothes strewn across the kids’ floors. If hockey practice is his drill, he can dictate the terms of the 5 a.m. drill. And remember, you didn’t marry your mirror image. Play to strengths. If he’s better with tantrums and you’re better with picky eating, divide and conquer.
- Agree to disagree. Unless his parenting practices cause bodily harm, battling over discrepant approaches is not worth the strain it puts on the marriage. Learn to let it go. Remember, the relationship your spouse engenders with the kids is not your affair and you can’t control it. So unless his or her parenting practices are truly threatening your child’s development, leave it alone. It’s their business, so let them work it out.
- Form a united front. Even if his authoritarianism, or her permissiveness, makes your skin crawl, keep the conversation calmly to yourselves. Allowing the kids to sense your disquiet only compounds the problem. And besides, compromise requires cool heads and calm.
Having different parenting styles can be quite difficult, but look at the bright side: both you and your spouse are interested in your child’s discipline. You might want to adopt Finlay’s view when she wrote that it might be better if you and your spouse have a designated turf. Or you might want to adopt the approach I described earlier with respect to “climbing up a level” to see where you both agree.
You know where you’re going to work best. And remember the most important rule: never tell your spouse what to do in front of your child.
Enjoy your children,
For further reading, you might want to check out The Healthy Alternative to These Poisons in Your Fridge and Why Parents Shouldn’t Spank Their Children.