Many marriage problems arise out the fact that spouses cannot agree on how to parent their kids. This constant tension resulting from disagreement starts to bleed into other areas of the relationship and sex life. Not figuring out how to create a joint parenting plan creates problems for couples.
Parents are always focused on what is good for their kids. However, what most parents don’t realize is, that what kids needs above all else are two parents that get along, support each other and work as team, especially when it comes to parenting. So many couples grossly underestimate how much children will change their marriage or the ability to talking about parenting style they don’t plan for it.
Couples spend very little time creating one unified parenting model that both of them will be happy with. They may only discuss them at a high level before they actually have to implement it. Then fast forward to when the children are turning two, three or into their adolescent and teen years and parents are fighting more and more about parenting styles.
Parents want what is best for their kids and nothing is more destructive to a family or marriage when a couple cannot agree on how to parent. We tend to parent the way our parents parented us and no one comes from the same family. So many couples have very heated discussion about “what is right” for their kids.
When parents cannot agree and they spend their time fighting and being mad at each, this takes away time and energy they could be putting into their children. All this fighting between parents is role modeling for their children how to solve differences. Distracted disagreeing parents mean more child misbehavior.
When parents really are not getting along they risk putting their child in the position to pick sides, which is very unhealthy. Or sometimes, children will play off the fact that their parents do not get along and go to the parent more likely to say “yes.” This splitting of parents creates problems between parenting and reducing the effectiveness of any parenting strategy.
What can you do?
If you and your spouse are not agreeing on how to parent, it is important to put things into perspective. One, you both want the best for the child and this means that you will both need to modify your parenting to create one version you both can do. This means thinking about what you really want and how flexibly you are willing to be to match your picture of parenting. Remember it is only a picture, it can be modified, altered to integrate your spouse’s picture.
Two, you absolutely CANNOT take your relationship for granted by putting your individual preferences ahead of the benefit of the marriage. When someone says “I don’t’ care I want my way and I’m going to insist, be stubborn and imply relationship harming tactics such as complaining, blaming and shaming” you are putting your needs and preferences ahead of the benefit of the relationship.
Marriages change our freedom and the truth is no one gets their way, you will get a variation of your way but it will look different because you and your spouse will need to blend your versions into 1 you can both agree to. By using the argument that it is good for the child is not acceptable because what children really need is two parents getting along and working as a team. If one person get their way in parenting and the other person is not happy but “giving in” this is a loss for the marriage and will slow erode the relationship.
It is important to remember there is no ONE right way. There are many different ways to parent and you both have good ideas and both may need to yield to your parent. The key is to merge the two styles, no one gets their way, but blending into one version you are both happy with creates a win win you both can stick to. This benefits your kids. So when discussing parenting, you must think about the bigger picture that what you really want and what your kids need is a happily married parents that can cooperate. This requires both adults to self-evaluate where they are willing to be flexible and creative. This is no time to be stubborn.
If you are really struggling, your mental health professional can help give you tools to talk about and create a unified parenting model you can both follow. The most important thing is for parents to cooperate, support each other and be a united front to their children. Get help early means less session and less risk that this can ruin other parents of your marriage.
Tammy Fontana, All in the Family Counselling, 90307239