Parenting is definitely not for the faint of heart. Just when you think you know what you are doing, your child throws you for a loop. Hiding homework. Trying to get out of chores. Getting out all the paints and… you get the idea. What makes things harder is when you and your spouse don’t agree on how to handle things.
One parent may be more lenient, and the other harsher. Who is right? Well, that’s the hard part. There is no parenting handbook, no definite rules for every child in every situation. What works for one family may not work for another. And so, you may feel like you are constantly going back to the drawing board.
If you disagree about parenting, here are five ways to resolve the conflict.
Hold Regular Parenting Meetings
You can’t come together unless you know what the other is thinking. So set aside a time each week to talk specifically about your kids and any issues they are having. Review the past week—the good and the bad—and then focus on the week ahead. What issues could come up? How will you both handle it? The more you can talk about things beforehand, the more prepared you will be. This can help alleviate conflict before it starts. During the week, it might be helpful to write down your impressions about your kids so that this meeting with your spouse is more effective. After a while, you will start to see trends emerge.
Talk About the Past
Our own upbringings have a profound effect on how we view parenting. If your parents were strict, you may also have the same view and take the strict approach with your own kids; or you may do the opposite and be extra lenient. You could also be resentful of those who are strict. That’s the funny thing—there are many outcomes, and we may not realize it until we talk about it. It’s important to talk about what your parents did in different situations, so you will both better understand where you are coming from. Then you may start to notice different patterns with your own parenting. Overall, it’s ideal to take the best parts of what your parents did and build upon it. If your parenting styles are extremely different and you just can’t come to terms with it, then it might be helpful to talk to a therapist. Find one who is experienced in dealing with family issues like yours.
Have a Code Word
Pick a word—I know one couple who uses “tomato”—and set it as your code word. It’s just a word you both agree on to slip into a parenting situation as a signal to “scale it back.” For example, if your child has done something wrong, and one parent starts to fly off the handle, the other can say the code word to remind the parent to calm down a bit. It can help diffuse an escalating situation quickly and calmly. It can also remind you that you two are a team, and you don’t have to go at it alone.
Take Disagreements to Another Room
When you’re in the moment dealing with a parenting issue and you disagree how to handle it—stop for a moment and take the discussion to another room. Calmly tell your child that mom and dad are going to talk about things and come back. Even just pausing is helpful so you can breathe and take a step back to think about things. Then, in another room, you are more ready to discuss the situation without your child present. This will help you two to focus on being united by talking things out, rather than just acting in the heat of the moment.
Consult the Experts
If you disagree about parenting, then look outside the both of you! It can be very valuable to gather parenting info from those who have gone before and also those who study human nature. So if you are stumped by a particular issue with your children, or your child is displaying a pattern of behavior you just can’t wrap your mind around, you can do two things: call your mom or other trusted parent who has been there before, and read parenting books written by experts in the field. While your situation may be vastly different from others’ experiences, learning from others is still very valuable. You may find some perspective or tips that may help. Above all, you may find hope that everything will turn out just fine. Just make sure to talk to others and read books together, so you are both learning side by side.
Parenting is hard. Sometimes, you and your spouse are on opposite sides of the fence. Try not to let it get to you—many couples disagree about how to parent their children. The important thing is not to let your difference of opinions get you down. Work together and remember the ultimate goal—to help your child learn and grow.
Sylvia Smith is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organizations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships.
Her mission is to provide inspiration, support, and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is a featured writer for Marriage.com, a reliable resource to support healthy, happy marriages. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Google+ and Pinterest.