This parenting business is hard enough, but parenting with a partner who has different views than your own can be even harder. Psychologist Karen Young shares five tips for parenting through your disagreements
Bridging the parenting differences
Yes, in a perfect world, you and your partner would have agreed on your parenting style before your kids came along.
But for many people, you thought love was enough. Plus, the excitement and anxiety of pregnancy and birth and all its practicalities were far too consuming.
So what can you do when you realise you’re knee-deep in this parenting thing with a partner who appears to parent in a way that feels really different to you?
Psychologist Karen Young from Hey Sigmund, says bridging the parenting differences comes down to nurturing your own relationship as a couple, first.
1. Put some love back into your connection as a couple
“Little things make a big difference when you’re parenting as a couple,” says Karen.
“Nurture your connection as much as you can, because your children will be the direct beneficiaries of the strength of your relationship.”
In a busy life, nurturing connection can be as simple as a regular coffee date, or spending a night talking, instead of retreating to your respective ideas of unwinding after the kids go to bed.
Just one a night a week can make a real difference to the conversation you have, but keep things casual; you don’t need to devote the entire time to airing your parenting woes, an open conversation will provide space to raise concerns.
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2. Agree on ground rules and consequences for breaking them
Conversation is key here, according to Karen. And the timing of that conversation even more vital.
“Wherever you can, create rules and consequences as a team. This isn’t easy, but it will make negotiating the trouble spots easier moving forward. This allows room for negotiation and understanding between the both of you before the emotion of a difficult situation makes it trickier.”
3. Be curious, not judgemental
Often our differences arise from a misunderstanding of the reasons behind them.
“You might not agree on how you go about things,” says Karen. “But it’s very possible that you’ll agree on the intention and reasons behind it. Then, validate that need or intention.”
“That doesn’t mean you necessarily agree with it, what it means is that you understand it’s important to your partner. This opens the way to finding a solution that works for both of you. Your partner is more likely to be open to what you need when he or she can see you giving a little.”
4. Acknowledge each other’s positives
Different to you doesn’t mean ‘worse’ than you, says Karen.
“You’ll both have things that work well some of the time, and things that don’t work so well other times. Acknowledge what each of you does well. This will put credit in the bank in terms of your emotional resources and connection with each other. The more you can look after each other outside of conflict, the easier it will be when conflict hits.”
5. Don’t give up
Despite how things may appear on the surface, very few couples always parent from the same page. But that doesn’t mean we need to discredit each other.
Open communication means providing a space where each person can raise concerns and voice opinions about the things are most important to them.
How do you manage points of difference with your partner when it comes to parenting?