How to handle differences in parenting philosophies is one of the most requested topics I’ve received and with good reason. Even if you’ve discussed how you’ll raise your child until you are blue in the face, somehow when you are there, staring at the little miracle in your hands, things change. Maybe you realize you are a more uptight mom than you imagined or maybe you are much more relaxed than you thought you’d be. While I believe it’s crucial to discuss the kind of parent you want to be before a child arrives, the rubber really meets the road when you’re suddenly in the thick of it.
I know this because David and I have worked our way through differences in parenting philosophies over the past 6 years ourselves. I remember being told by mothering veterans when Hailey was born that if I wanted David to change her diaper, I’d better stop critiquing his method- a tough thing for a new, slightly overwhelmed mom to do, but important nonetheless. That incident, among others, sharpened our communication skills and moved us both closer to being the mom and dad we want to be. There are a few advice tidbits that have helped us overcome those differences in parenting opinion obstacles.
Be respectful to each other; parenting is a learning process. We were all raised differently. Even if you discussed it beforehand, when a child arrives it’s common to default back to what we saw when we were growing up. It doesn’t mean we are stuck emulating it forever, but know that it takes a little time for each of us to become comfortable in our new roles and to be clear on what kind of parent we want to be.
Discuss the issue when it’s not happening. Bite your tongue and let the scenario at hand play out. Then, later, in private, discuss the incident. Beyond handling single issues, it’s also important to find a time to go over specific aspects of parenting: discipline, like decision making, nurturing, show of love and affection, discipline, participation in extra curricular activities, etc. Let each partner explain their perspective and desired approach. Talk through and resolve any areas of conflict, and together create a game plan so when that specific situation arises, you both know how it will be handled.
Whoever gives the consequence is the one that sees it through. This one is important because it means it is less likely for one parent to become the disciplinarian (the bad guy) while the other one may be seen as the more fun, or nice guy, parent. Parents should present a united front and both parties need to be on board with the consequence that was given, but the follow-through should usually come from the parent that gave the punishment.
Switch your thinking and consider how it is advantageous that your partner has a different view point. I coddle; David pushes. I can get emotionally worked up; David is as steady as they come. We bring different strengths to parenting and together they create the balanced approach we both strive for.
Be a united front to the kids. It’s important to me that David and I are a single parenting unit. Even if we might initially react differently to a situation, the kids know we support each other and are a team, which doesn’t allow them to play us against each other.
Know that how you parent together will constantly change as children reach new ages and stages. Be flexible. New challenges (tantrums, backtalk, lying, etc) arise all the time, so just know that the “how do we want to parent this situation” talks will be ongoing.
Understand you will both make mistakes. There have been times I’ve handled a situation and almost immediately think to myself “I’m not proud of how I handled that.” For example, yelling. I really don’t like yelling, but it has happened. David? He will never yell. It just isn’t in him. I’m grateful he hasn’t made me feel guilty for those moments that I’ve lost my cool and I keep that in mind if he handles a situation in a way I wouldn’t choose to do myself. We’re all going to slip up, but we don’t need to be reminded of it everyday.
These have helped us create a pretty solid parenting plan in our house. While we aren’t perfect parents, we are intentional with the methods we choose to implement and ensure that we are both on the same page. Now if someone could just help me figure out how to tackle Kaitlyn’s ability to lie straight-faced, that’d be great! 😉
Tell me about parenting in your house-
what are your struggles?