Have you ever experienced a major showdown with your spouse over how to discipline the kids??? Maybe you've experienced some pretty hefty disagreements over the different parenting styles you want to implement? Don't feel bad... most parents go through this when their first child is born, but just because it's normal doesn't mean it shouldn't get addressed!
Parental Consistency is an incredibly important component to a happy and healthy home. So how do you manage this? Today on the blog, I want to tackle how to handle when your co-parent doesn't agree with your parenting choices.
Let's look at your options:
Get an Objective Opinion
Most folks I work with come to me for parenting help. One of the things I tackle is helping parents come to an agreement on how to handle difficult parenting tasks, like consequences for behaviors. An objective opinion can be really helpful! Don’t be afraid to seek out a Family Therapist or a Parenting Coach. These people can really help you guys see eye-to-eye and bring in a fresh view on a tired issue.
Come Up with a Compromise
It’s ok if you mix and match a couple of different parenting techniques and styles! If you really like Positive Parenting approaches, but your partner just can’t buy into them, spend some time getting to know what approaches he would like to use/try. If we want our partners to be open to our parenting methods, we have to be equally open to theirs. Try picking your top 3 or 4 parenting techniques that you don’t want to give up, such as “I don’t want to use Time Outs,” or “No yelling at the kids,” etc. Let him know that these are non-negotiable items for you, and allow your co-parent to do the same. What is a non-negotiable item for him? Compare your answers. Hopefully, your non-negotiable items will be compatible. If not, this should lead to some meaningful discussions about your items. After that, be willing to try some new techniques! If you’re willing to try new things, he might be willing to too!
Pick a Boss
Sometimes, no matter how much you try, you’re left in a situation where your partner won’t budge. His non-negotiable items are items you just can’t agree with. Perhaps you’ve asked about going to family therapy and he just about lost his mind at the mention of it. At this point, you’re stuck. The time has come to pick a boss. In therapy, I’ve had families where one parent refuses to come in and be a part of treatment. This is not ideal, and as a therapist, it says a lot to me about the underlying family issues that might be going on. When this happens, I present the family with an ultimatum: both parents participate OR the parent who doesn’t want to participate turns over decision making to the parent coming to the family sessions.
Surprisingly, when presented with this ultimatum, the non-participating parent has always been willing to hand over responsibility to the other parent. Unfortunately, this is not the solution I like to see, but for the sake of the kids having consistency in their parents, it can be helpful. If you find yourself in this situation, pick a boss. Whether it is you or your spouse, decide who will take on the responsibility of disciplining the kids and how that discipline will be implemented. Both parents can make household rules, but the boss is the enforcer.
It should be noted that, although one parent will play the role of "boss," the other parent must play the role of "supporter." This means, that the "supporting parent" is going to back up the boss and not undermine his/her parenting. If there are disagreements, this must occur behind closed doors without the kids as an audience! Having arguments in front of your kiddos is never a good idea. Not only is it not emotionally healthy for them, but it allows for your kids to engage in a tactic known as "splitting" or "triangulation." This is a complex topic, but to be put simply, it's when kids will go to one parent over another, or they pit their parents against each other in order to get something they want in return. Many will call it "manipulation."
I hope this was helpful to you as you try to manage this very sticky situation. Trust me, even if you have to relinquish some power over to your spouse, having two parents on the same page and presenting as a united front will do wonders for your kids, especially if you have stubborn or oppositional children.
If you enjoyed this article or feel like you would like some more help with this tricky topic, feel free to join me on a Facebook @kcdreisbach where you can engage with me and other parents. You can also check out all of my Pinterest boards (www.pinterest.com/kcdreisbach) where I do the research on all your favorite parenting topics and pin the stuff that I completely support as an expert on Family Relationships and Parenting. Finally, you can subscribe here to my website, and receive a FREE copy of my new book, Eliminating Temper Tantrums: 4 Keys to Mastering Your Child's Anger Outbursts, as a gift for reading! I think you're gonna love it!