How you discipline your child is a very personal issue. Even when you and your spouse agree on big picture things like the importance of reasonable limits, school should come first, and your commitment to raising a kind and caring child, it’s easy to disagree on how those big picture ideas will be handled day to day. Those disagreements can leave parents feeling like they’re alone in their parenting journey and at odds with the very person who’s supposed to be their biggest supporter. Here are some ideas that will help you and your spouse work together even when you don’t always agree.
Try to understand the other person’s perspective. When it comes to children, it’s easy to get caught up in the trap that your way is the right way. As a parent you have so much of yourself invested in doing it right that it’s hard to see that someone else may have a different yet valid way of approaching discipline issues. However it’s essential that you try and see things from your spouse’s viewpoint. How are his ideas different than yours? How did he come to think like he does? What influences led him to his current set of beliefs? When you try and understand your spouse’s perspective rather than just rail against it, you’ll be able to find effective ways to work together.
Keep it about your child. Don’t let the disagreements between you and your spouse keep you from remembering who’s most important in the equation: your child. If you get caught up in trying to prove you’re right or trying to prove your spouse it wrong, you can easily lose sight of doing what’s best for your child. When you keep your big picture goals in mind, it’s much easier to find a common parenting path that you’re both comfortable with.
Remember there isn’t just one right way. When it comes to kids, there’s no such thing as one right way. An approach may work for one child but not for another or for one situation but not for another. By embracing your spouse’s different approach, you’re adding to your parenting toolkit. Your child will encounter lots of different kinds of people as he grows up. He may have a teacher that’s like you and a coach that’s like your spouse. By experiencing different styles and viewpoints at home, he’ll be better prepared to effectively deal with a variety of styles and attitudes in life.
Talk about your differences when you’re calm. Often differences between you and your spouse become apparent when you’re in the middle of dealing with a discipline issue. Your partner surprises you by doing or saying something that you don’t agree with. Rather than react in the moment, take a step back and let the situation play out. There’s always the opportunity to talk with your child later on and correct course if needed. At a time when you’re both calm, talk to your spouse about your feelings. Avoid name calling, implying that his ideas and beliefs are less valid or valuable than yours, or making him feel guilty for not handling the situation properly. Instead have an open and honest conversation about what’s important to you. Explain why you disagree with his approach and then try and step into his shoes and see things from his side. Your spouse may not be strongly attached to handling a situation one way or the other. He may have simply been doing what he learned to do from his parents.
Come up with an approach that works for both of you. Compromise is an important skill to teach your child and an important one to have as a parent. It’s inevitable that over the years, you and your spouse will be faced with many discipline challenges that you don’t agree on. To be able to provide a united front to your child, you have to find a way to come together. Finding an approach that honors each of your beliefs and yet still provides that united front can be a challenge. But it can be done. The key is respectful dialogue, a commitment to doing what’s best for your child and some creative problem solving skills.
Be supportive of your spouse’s right to parent. Even if you don’t agree with your partner’s approach, it’s important that you respect and support her right to parent in the way she feels is best. That doesn’t mean you have to do it her way. It simply means that you should genuinely value her contribution, her effort and her ideas.
By working together, parents can find a parenting path that works for the whole family.