Parenting on the Same Page

Written by: Todd Cartmell, Psy.D

“She’s too soft on them.”

“He never follows through with consequences.”

“I try to talk with them but he just shouts, which only makes things worse.”

Parenting can be a challenge.  Husbands and wives bring different parenting ideas and styles with them into their marriages that don’t always match.  We all want the same thing, but we have different ideas about how to make it happen.

That’s when parenting issues become marriage issues.

Parents can find themselves on different pages when it comes to how they respond to their kids.  Sometimes, they talk through their differences and come to a middle ground.  Other times, these conversations feel like criticisms and don’t end well.  Parenting becomes a touchy subject that is easier not to talk about.  This results in confusion for your kids, inconsistency in your parenting styles, and frustration in your marriage.

Not good.

The good news is that there is a way to get you and your spouse parenting on the same page again.  Or maybe for the first time.  Give these ideas a try:

Be matter-of-fact about it. 

You love your spouse and aren’t trying to attack or blame.  You just want to talk about an issue that is important for your marriage and family.  So, just bring it up.  “I love you and I know that we both love our kids.  But I want us to be more on the same page in the way that we parent them.  Can we talk about that?”

Focus on your main goals. 

DON’T start by talking about what your spouse does wrong.  DO start by focusing on parenting goals that you both agree with.  You both want your kids to learn important lessons, like being respectful, working hard, and being considerate of others.  Ask your spouse how he/she thinks the kids are doing in these areas?  What can you both do to help them learn these lessons more effectively?  What seems to be working?  What is clearly not working?

Start with yourself. 

Point out an area that you struggle with or need some ideas about how to handle.  Ask your spouse if he/she has any ideas or feedback for you and then be open to thinking about their response.  If you have any concerns about your spouse’s parenting choices (e.g., yelling too much), ask if you can offer an observation and then state it simply, along with the negative result that you think it creates and a suggestion to try.  For example, “I have noticed that when either of us start yelling at Sammy, he doesn’t seem to listen to a thing we say and just yells back.  Maybe there is a better way for us to approach it, like talking about it in a family meeting.”

Get some outside input. 

Suggest that you and your spouse read a parenting book together and get their ideas about what kind of book would be helpful.  You can also suggest that you both consult, even once, with a child therapist/psychologist who can offer some helpful insights about the topics you need help with.  If your spouse is not interested, you can do each of these steps on your own and share the new ideas you have learned.

There are ways to get parenting on the same page.  They may take sensitivity and persistence, but they’ll be worth it to your family in the long run.