This article was originally published in FYI Magazine, the fastest growing home and lifestyle magazine for Jewish women.
Does this sound familiar?
Your child disobeys in some way or asks for something they knew they aren’t allowed to have. So you correct them or refuse them.
And then your husband or wife comes along and reverses it! Sometimes unknowingly, but not always.
It can be infuriating. You feel like you’re being undermined. Like the kids are playing you off of each other (and they will!). Like you have no say.
This is bound to happen from time to time. But if parents constantly disagree and overrule each other, no one wins.
Parents need to present a unified front. They need to be on the same page. They need to agree in public and disagree in private.
Why? One reason I just touched on – because it causes a lot of stress, anger, and hurt feelings when your co-parent essentially ignores your authority with your children. And I use that word deliberately – co-parent – because being on the same page is important whether you are married to your child’s other parent or divorced.
In fact, divorced parents may need to work even harder to stay on the same page to avoid blow-ups that can alienate you from each other and your children.
But it’s not just about getting along with your co-parent. If you are not able to present a unified front about what’s acceptable and allowed, it negatively impacts your children’s upbringing and behavior. They become confused about what the rules really are. They live without real, clear boundaries.
When kids grow up in this kind of atmosphere, it tends to lead to rebelliousness. They know the rules aren’t “real,” so why should they follow one and not another? Rebellious kids tend to act out in school. They may be more likely to break the law. They may be more likely to experiment with drugs and other things that just aren’t safe.
So invest the time and effort to get on the same page about parenting. Here are a few tips for managing disagreements.
- Always provide back-up. You won’t agree with every disciplinary decision your co-parent makes. But, unless you are concerned about abuse or neglect, you should back them up in the moment. Remember, if you don’t, it undermines both of your authority. Your child will recognize that there is a way around parenting decisions.Instead wait until your children are out of earshot. Then share your opinion on how it could be handled differently.
- Discuss your goals. Don’t just share the rules and limitations you believe should be enforced. Explain why you think they are important.What are you trying to teach? Help your child overcome? How are you trying to make managing the household easier?Understanding the reasons cannot only bring your spouse onboard with your thinking, but he or she can also help brainstorm more ways to reach that goal.
- Really listen to one another. Remember, your ultimate goal isn’t winning the argument. It’s doing what’s best for your children.So stop. Take a deep breath. And focus on what your co-parent has to say. Even if you don’t agree with every detail, there’s often something you can learn from their perspective.
Getting and staying on the same page isn’t easy. But for the sake of your kids, it is vital that you work hard to do it. Sit down and talk through the rules you want to implement, the beliefs each of you have, and compromise on disagreements that arise. If you are struggling, consider seeking the help of a coach or mediator.
Remember, it doesn’t matter how you stay on the same page – it just matters that you work together to make it happen. Your kids are worth it.
Rooting for you!