Disagreements in parenting can be very difficult to navigate. It is one of the common complaints I hear from couples that I work with. One pulls in one direction, your partner pulls the other direction, and your kiddo gets conflicting messages. Which inevitably leads to your child acting out. And that brings up more conflict between you and your partner. And round and round you go. Well, here are some things you can do to bridge that gap.
Know Where Your Style Comes from
Your personal history will influence your parenting style. That is why so many people are very rigid about their parenting style. Your view of your family and yourself influences your Parenting. It is important to be able to talk vulnerably with your partner about where your parenting philosophy comes from and how you formulated it.
You could parent the way that you do because you love how you were raised. It is important to be able to talk about why you view these things as having a positive influence on you, and be able to find different ways to get to those positive results together. Your style might also be a rejection of the way you were raised. Same thing, you want to be able to talk about how hurtful the ways you were parented were. That way, you can together find other ways to avoid that same kind of hurt for your children.
Avoid the Good Cop/Bad Cop Dynamic
Falling into a pattern in which one parent is always soft and the other is strict is another pitfall for couples. This point is always about balance between discipline and nurturing. The discipline part comes more easily to your partner and nurturing comes more easily to you. So, your child starts to develop this idea that one of you is the “nice one” and the other the “mean one.” This leads to resentment toward both your partner and your child!
The obvious answer is for both of you to work on the one you are weaker at. And this does need to happen. However, discipline should not occur outside of nurturing. Your child needs to have a sense that they are loved unconditionally, regardless of if they broke a rule and are now being punished. Which brings me to my final point…
Keep Your Eyes on Your Goal
Dr. John Gottman talks about the importance of Positive Parenting and the role of the parent as the emotion coach. I would highly recommend this short article, as it provides a very practical example. Emotionally Focused Therapists like myself talk about the importance of Attunement, Responsiveness, and Engagement to emotion.
When kids grow up with validating, responsive parents they are better able to regulate their emotions and form positive relationships. If you know that this is the end goal, then you can work out the details with your partner. How would an emotionally in touch parent navigate this particular situation?
If you are looking for parenting help, give us at The Marriage & Family Clinic a call.
About the Author
Ryan Hicks is a licensed therapist and marriage counselor at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, Colorado. He specializes in working with couples in high conflict and working with couples in the LGBTQ community. When he’s not working with couples, you’ll find him rock climbing or taking in the great outdoors of Colorado.