Of course you and your partner were raised differently. You may never get on the same page, but what if thinking you should be is the problem?
Typically, when conflict between co-parents sets in, it is when challenging behaviours surface in the kids. The most common scenario is that the parent who is the primary caregiver (usually mom) gets the worst behaviour: whining, defiance, clinginess, and whatever else kids throw our way. When this starts, the other parent notices that they don’t experience the same kind of behaviour. Then, this parent decides there need to be more limits and sees the other parent as wishy-washy.
And so it starts.
One parent becomes a little more rigid and the other parent, a little more protective. Break this pattern as soon as you can. The kids feel the tension, and the tension is what you should be concerned with. Sometimes, kids can feel responsible for the conflict and try hard to please you. Good, you might think. Nope, it isn’t. When this happens, children put their very important needs aside. It also undermines the authority that you both have; after all, kids need to see you being in the same chapter.
Approach parent education together, no matter what course you take or book you read, do it together. It doesn’t work when one parent grows, and the other stays stuck. Partners don’t make great parent educators; it just isn’t sexy.
What to Do
Step One: Agree to be open rather than defensive and discuss the following points. Remember, you both love your kids.
Step Two: Think of five limits that you both agree should have top priority. Go beyond the obvious and discuss those things that make you bicker. Bedtime routine? Screen time? Mealtime expectations? This agreement is to get in the same chapter. The strict parent should take the lead on this to get some reassurance and to ultimately relax.
Step Three: Agree on an approach. A harsh approach is more likely to pull you apart. How does a loving follow through approach look? What are the don’ts? What are the do’s? Stick to Step two and three for one month. Items that aren’t on the list are not up for discussion. These are same page items. Leave your partner alone and mind your own business.
Step Four: After one month, review how things are going. Does your relationship feel closer? Are the challenges decreasing? What works? What doesn’t? Revise. Repeat for another month.
To see a video clip on this subject, go to Life Seminars Parenting Courses Facebook page.
LIFE Seminars has two books available, Sidestepping the Power Struggle and The Parent Child Connection. See lifeseminars.com.