Question: My husband and I are rarely on the same page in our parenting. This is especially obvious and frustrating in our approach to discipline. Any suggestions for how we can come together and be a united front?
Answer: Our differences can make our relationships so enriching and valuable. It’s important to see the differences not as liabilities but as sources of potential growth and wisdom for the family. I would start by asking yourself, “What are my husband’s strengths, and what unique skills or perspectives does he bring to our family?” And I would suggest he also ponder those questions in regards to you.
Once you start from a place of appreciation for each other, you can dig into deeper questions about your parenting purpose.
What are your shared dreams for the family? How do you want your kids to see you? What are you both doing daily to live that dream? These are big questions and ones we don’t always spend enough time reflecting on. But they are so important to consider if we are to become conscious parents and strong leaders for our children.
You mention discipline as a source of strain and disagreement. This is often the case in families, as one parent tends to be more “soft” and the other “too firm.” Consistency in setting limits and following through on consequences is important for children. They need structure and do better when clear, reasonable expectations are set for them. The trouble is, most parents have quite unrealistic expectations for children’s behavior. Furthermore, most parents become so agitated or frustrated when kids don’t quickly follow their expectations that the consequences they hand down for disobedience are either too punitive or too extreme to actually be enforced, such as declaring “No TV for a week!” after your child has failed to turn off the show after being told to repeatedly.
So the key is to have reasonable expectations. You can do that by educating yourself on child development at each age and stage. It also helps to understand that children of all ages are meant to challenge limits. It is their way of finding out about the world. Just as it is the parent’s job to set limits, it is the child’s job to push back. The amount of push back is largely determined by the child’s temperament, factors such as being hungry or tired, and the strength of their connection to us. A connected kid is a more cooperative kid. It always pays to invest time and energy into relationship building.
Perhaps you and your family can sit down and make two lists: one of family rules/expectations and another I’ll call Family Ties.
First the rules: Keep this list short and age appropriate. If your kids are in school, they probably have classroom rules and can share those ideas with you. Create this list together and only put down the items that feel most necessary for family cohesion and safety. The second list will focus on ways to keep the family connected. It might include items like “be kind,” “tell a funny joke,” “give a hug,” or “read together.” Post both lists in a visible location and refer back to them often when you see a family member going off track.
Hopefully this will generate some new ideas for you and your husband, as well as provide a daily reminder of your shared family values.
Julia Cadieux, a PCI Certified Parent Coach and Capital District mom, helps other parents look within for the answers they seek and believes there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to child-rearing. Send you questions and comments to [email protected]