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POLAR OPPOSITES: How to Handle Parenting Differences

QUESTION:

My husband and I are polar opposites when it comes to disciplining our kids. I do the heavy lifting on that front, so I think I should be able to determine the right way to do things without much criticism or intervention from him.  What do you think?

ANSWER:

Many couples fail to see eye-to-eye on raising their children.  In fact, it’s rare for me to speak to a couple who IS on the same page about their children completely.

That said, because child-rearing is done over so many years, is an integral part of your daily lives, and has such a major impact on your children, it’s a topic that deserves attention if things aren’t going smoothly.

You didn’t provide any examples so I’m not sure what you mean by “polar opposites” but here are:

3 things parents often disagree about:

It can be very problematic when one parent is lax with discipline and the other is (or perceived to be) strict.  As you can imagine, this doesn’t just create an issue between partners but can be very confusing and even distressing to children who don’t know what to expect from day to day or situation to situation.

Skilled parents have a general and mutual understanding of how they will respond to circumstances as they arise – – and their reaction is consistent.

Another area in which parents can differ greatly is the degree of responsibility children should have inside the home as they grow. Some parents feel “kids should be kids” and not be saddled with many tasks or chores in the childhood years, while others believe their primary goal as a parent is to prepare their children for adulthood by requiring them to become increasingly responsible at home.

Great parents agree on what chores their kids will be asked to do as they grow and then stick to this understanding so there’s no confusion or bickering.

 

If you’re not sure about what your parental priorities should be,
review the 10 Things You Are and Are Not Responsible for As a Parent.

 

A final subject parents sometimes argue about is how many activities and how much freedom children should have outside the home. While some parents wish to provide more nurturing or guidance and put family life first, other parents want to encourage their children to explore as many friendships, interests, and extracurriculars as possible with the goal of making their children “well-rounded.”

Capable parents create a healthy balance of “us” and “other” time for their children and make necessary changes to this balance as the family changes.

When you say you do most of the “heavy lifting” with the children, I can only assume you mean that you’re with them most of the time and so, naturally, have more of an influence on them and make unilateral decisions about them when your husband isn’t present.

While this is to be expected, it’s not fair to your husband or the children for you to make unilateral decisions he doesn’t support.  In fact, this approach will only drive a wedge between you and your husband, and perhaps even you and your children as they begin to understand that you’re not on the same page with their father.

[Blended families might be an exception to this, where there should be an agreement in place – preferably ahead of time – that the biological parent will take primary responsibility for their children and the step-parent should play more of a “supporting actor/actress” role.]

Have you considered the types of decisions you’re making without your husband?  If we’re talking about which sippy cup or game to take to the park, I hardly think that’s worth a comment.  But if you’re making more impactful decisions about your child’s health, friendships, or ongoing activities, it’s only fair to involve your spouse before making any commitments – – just as I’m sure you’d like him to do if the situation were reversed.

Don’t forget that decisions don’t have to be “yes or no”, “black or white” ones.  Couples who learn to compromise well and strive for win-win outcomes typically have great marriages!

 

If you’d like to learn more ways of compromising on parenting issues,
check out our blog on 5 Ways to Compromise in Your Marriage

 

Whatever you and your husband disagree on, both of you should have a role in determining what is best for your children (and their unique personalities and talents) when it comes to:

>  Their schooling and intellectual development;

>  Their recreational and social development;

>  Their religious training and spiritual development;

>  Their happiness and emotional development;

>  Your careers and work schedules; and

>  Your family commitments, such as those to church and community activities.

I would encourage you to sit down with your husband to discuss what you both feel is right for the children – – and to keep discussing it until you’re both clear and content with the outcome.  You’ll find that presenting a united front is not only great for them but will decrease your stress and enrich your marriage as well.

And, of course, if you find it difficult to arrive at such an agreement, we’re here to help.

 

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