There we were standing at the top of the steps in yet another standoff.
He thought we should handle a challenging child issue with more traditional authoritarian ways.
And I thought we should take a more positive parenting approach.
Since I am often the only parent in our house, I usually get my way. There’s usually no one here to argue with my choices.
However, on weekends and vacations and evenings, I’m not in charge like I am the rest of the time.
This is the ultimate co-parenting dilemma.
Since I work with moms around the world on creating a peaceful home by starting with themselves, I am often asked: How do I get my partner on the same page with me in how to parent our children?
And for a long time I didn’t have the answer because I was struggling with this myself enough to not really know if I had any real answers.
Earlier this year, though, my husband and I had a conversation that changed everything. We were tired of being in a standoff every several months over a choice the other parent had made.
We discovered the single best tip we can offer to any couple interested in parenting as a team.
And it doesn’t mean that one wins or loses.
It means the children win in the end — and our marriage is stronger.
Why is Parenting as a Team so hard?
In my own research working with hundreds of moms over the last four years, I’ve found that the biggest source of angst in a marriage with children is on trying to parent the exact same way – or arguing over each other’s parenting styles.
The reasons vary, of course, but ultimately it seems to fall back to this: One of the parents wants to be peaceful and calm and supportive — a more modern way of parenting positively — and the other defaults back to the way they were raised and the way they *think* they should be parenting in a more traditional, authoritarian manner.
When one parent is moving forward with positive parenting — and research shows this method of parenting is the best way to raise happy, resilient children — it’s hard to convince a more authoritarian parenting partner to parent in a softer way. It doesn’t feel right to them.
It takes some coaxing, in other words.
However, the truth is that we don’t have to parent the same exact way. We can honor each other’s differences and come to some sort of compromise.
Finding balance in each other’s styles is the best way to find common ground.
Why should we be on the same page, though?
When parents work together we can officially call ourselves coparents.
“Coparenting refers to how parents work together in their roles as caregivers. Effective coparenting requires cooperation, supportiveness, and mutual involvement. Coparenting leads to increased warmth in their relationships with their children. When mothers and fathers support and encourage each other, they are more likely to engage in the sensitive parenting necessary for their children’s optimal brain development,” according to research from the Urban Child Institute.
The bottom line is that children will thrive in a family where their parents are parenting as a team and providing consistency and routine. They need to know they are safe. And when they do not feel that way they act out and misbehave, creating a vicious cycle of anger and frustration in the family.
Parenting on the same page leaves no questions. No doubts. No room for subjective interpretation.
And even when kids do not agree with the outcome, they cannot argue with the fact that both parents are on the same team without bitterness or resentment.
Parenting as a team is a tool that can make our marriages healthier and our children happier.
How can we start parenting as a team right now?
That day at the top of the steps taught my husband and I something: that we can’t both be right at the same time.
Both of us are at fault at doing things very differently than the other, depending on our moods and energy levels. Both of us are at fault for wanting to be right. Both of us are at fault for over-reacting.
And in those dramatic flare ups, we do and say things that we often later regret and all signs of parenting as a team fall to the wayside.
The children are the ones we hurt the most by not being consistent and parenting as a team.
One day, when I was in a particularly peaceful mood — after disagreeing with him over how to handle a situation — I took a really deep breath and didn’t say a word.
And later, after the children were asleep, I offered an idea — a suggestion that I thought might help us move forward.
Before either of us take a drastic approach in our parenting, we’ll consult one another and have a chat about it FIRST. Once we talk about it, we’ll then talk to the child about the issue at hand.
No more hasty parenting decisions. No more second-guessing each other’s work. No more right and wrong way.
It’s now (mostly) our decision, our work and our way.
3 Tips for Parenting as a Team
With any new habit, it takes time to master parenting as a team if you haven’t been doing it well — or at all.
I’ve learned a few lessons along the way — a little late, but at least I’ve learned them.
- Support each other no matter what. Once a decision is made, the children need to know you have your partner’s back.
- Problem-solving can wait until there’s time to truly discuss a situation. Set up a chat session for 10 minutes to discuss a situation after the children are in bed. This gives you time to really think about how to handle problems more calmly. This teaches your children a really valuable life skill as well.
- Build your partner up. Talk about his/her really good qualities in front of your children. This reminds your children that you see each other’s strengths. This is important for those moments when you do argue — say, about who’s going to unload the dishwasher.
Parenting as a team is a really great goal to have in a marriage. Creating a peaceful family takes work and it can only be done when everyone is willing to work together for the greater good.
Even when you really, really think you are the one who is right.