Parenting is like an extreme sport. You can prepare for it, but there is no way of keeping score. Your ego might get bruised a bit, and it’s definitely tiring. Kids can and will test your patience on a daily basis. Some nights, you will go to sleep wondering if you have the strength to keep going- don’t worry. You do.
Some parents aren’t on the same page when it comes to certain aspects of parenting- discipline, screen time, diet (like drinking sodas, etc.), and other things. It’s imperative to discuss these things before kids are in the picture, but that doesn’t always happen.
Communication Is Key
As always, communication is essential in any relationship. There are many ways to raise a child, and everyone is different. This is awesome and what is great about the world we live in. However, different backgrounds and beliefs can lead to clashes. This is not a good thing. In an ideal situation, those would be discussed before or during pregnancy. If it isn’t, sometimes these things can be worked out as the child grows. Of course, there are a lot of books on parenting that can help you.
Talking things out is the first step to creating parenting harmony. Calm is the best way to go, in a neutral setting and preferably before an issue arises. This way, there are no accusations of one parent being a “bad” parent, yelling at the other, etc. Tips that can help are:
- Make a list of what needs to be discussed. This can help keep things on track and make sure nothing is forgotten.
- Take breaks if needed. Sometimes discussions can get heated unexpectedly, and a break can help.
- Try to respect your partner’s point of view.
- Try to have difficult discussions without your child around. When parents fight loudly and often, this can be emotionally damaging. (I have firsthand experience in this, and I refuse to argue with my husband in front of our kids.)
- If your partner doesn’t understand something you are talking about, explain it in a way that they can understand but not condescending. For example, our son is on medications for severe ADHD. My husband isn’t as well-versed in medications as I am, so I break things down for him a bit when we discuss his needs for medication adjustments. He understands and feels included, I get my point across, and our son stays well-medicated. Problem solved.
- Be willing to compromise. This can go a long way towards harmony in the home. If both parents compromise, everyone can learn a lesson.
When Parents Aren’t On The Same Page
It can be difficult to agree on things as parents, and it may take a lot of work. Some parents just don’t want to adjust their thinking to what is in front of them- that is a whole different issue that is not your fault. It also may require some serious thought on your behalf on whether you want to stay in the situation. This is a reality in some families, mainly families with special needs children. Having a child with special needs is a tough thing to face. Some parents stay in denial for a long period of time. This can also happen in families with LGBTQIA+ children and in other situations.
In families in which parents don’t agree on certain things, inconsistencies can pop up, which can be very confusing for children. For example, a boy who loves to wear makeup can wear it when he is around his mother because she is more accepting realizes that he can’t wear it around his less-accepting father. He ends up having to hide the makeup so that his father won’t be angry at him and is scared of his father not loving him anymore. This can lead to a lot more than just the perceived risk of losing his father’s love, of course, but a lack of communication can spark a more significant problem. If parents communicate, there can be more concrete rules and acceptance in the family.
In families with special needs children, this can take a bit of a different direction. If one parent is in denial and the other is very involved in the child’s treatment, resentment can build. Both parents can feel isolated and feel like the other just doesn’t understand them anymore. This is where a lot of marriages begin to fall apart. It can be hard to get the marriage back on track. It is essential that these parents remember to talk about how they feel, what needs to be done with their child and take time for them. There is still room in their marriage for talking about things that don’t have to do with their child, even though the child is important. It may also lead them back to open up more about the issues they are having in parenting.
Kids are smart- they know what buttons to push with each parent. For example, my husband is very laid back. The kids would almost have to burn the house down before he would get angry. It’s not that he doesn’t pay attention- he’s more likely to let things slide, but when he opens his mouth, they know he means what he says. I’m sure his height and large frame (he’s 5’11” and about 270 lbs) help. Me? I’m all of 5’2″, about 175 lbs with one vocal cord to work with, so the kids may take me slightly less seriously. I’m the pickier parent on a lot of things, and they know this.
More Talking, Fewer Problems
Family life is interesting enough- school, work, dinner, sports and more. Communication is vital to keep those things going- if there is a missing link in how to raise kids, things can fall apart pretty fast. The above tips can help start the discussion on what may need to be changed in your home and move forward. If you cannot resolve the issues on your own, please consult a family therapist or someone else you trust.