You don’t like the kids watching TV on school nights; your guy lets them turn on the Disney Channel after dinner. You think his punishments are too harsh; he thinks you’re too easy. If you two don’t see eye to eye when it comes to parenting style, you’re not alone! Here are some expert parenting tips to help bring your parenting team together.
“Most couples have different philosophies about childrearing based on how they were raised,” says Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. “Almost inevitably, one parent is more lenient than the other about everything from allowance and curfews to electronics, homework, behavior and chores.” These differences in parenting style can lead to arguing -- and worse. “Fighting creates tension in a marriage, which often leads to a persistent anger that erodes intimacy,” says Fran Walfish, Psy.D, author of The Self-Aware Parent.
Different parenting styles also affects the children. When kids know that Mom and Dad don’t agree on parenting issues, they may try to manipulate them in order to get their way -- which only makes things worse and leads to problems later on. As Dr. Walfish notes, “If kids are allowed to overpower their parents, they may develop an attitude of entitlement that will not serve them well in school, work or life.”
Here are four parenting tips to help you move from parenting adversaries to parenting partners:
Get a reality check.
Have an honest talk with your husband or partner about how your disagreements affect your family. First, accept that you won’t agree on everything and try to understand where your partner is coming from. Then pledge to stop fighting about parenting in front of your kids. “Children respect parents who offer a mutually aligned message,” Dr. Walfish says. “Not only do they lose respect for parents who openly diminish and blame each other, but fighting opens the door for them to try to pit one parent against the other.”
Find one thing you agree about -- whether it’s a 9:00 bedtime or a homework-before-electronics policy -- and enforce that rule over a set period of time. By being consistent, you’re likely to get the behavior you want from your child, which will make it easier to come together on stickier issues now and in the future, according to Dr. Borba.
Tell your kids that you’re presenting a united front -- and then put it into practice. “It’s helpful to post a list of house rules on the refrigerator. When your child tries to wear you down, point to the list and say, ‘Mom and Dad agree that you cannot watch movies on a school night’ or ‘We agree that you must write thank-you notes for gifts,’” Dr. Borba advises. Or come up with sayings that are easy to remember -- “We eat our dinner before dessert” -- and cheerfully repeat them to reinforce the message. At first, expect some big-time resistance from your kids -- and lots of “but whys?” Keep your explanation simple and speak in one voice: “This is what Mom and Dad think is best.” Period.
Reach out for assistance.If the two of you can’t come to terms, consider a parenting skills class or consult an objective third party, such as a counselor, pediatrician or clergyman. Parenting challenges don’t get any easier as the years go on, so the sooner you make parenting a team sport, the better it will