It's not surprising that many families -- mine included -- wrestle with tension due to different parenting styles. After all, many factors (e.g., personality, culture, education, how we were raised) contribute to our unique perspectives, and it's unrealistic to expect that couples will agree on every parenting decision, whether it's related to sleep training, discipline, nutrition, or something else.
However, while these differences are common, it's important to work on finding a happy (or mostly happy) medium. Because frequent and heated conflict is tough on the couple and the kids (they tune into everything those kids!). Here are 8 tips for how parents can work on diffusing parenting style tension:
1. Remember you're on the same team. Take a step back and remind yourselves that you're both ultimately working towards a common goal. You both want the best for your kids and it's OK (actually, it's totally normal) to have different opinions on how to get to the end goal. There's no "winner" or keeping score here.
2. View differences as strengths. Kids can benefit from exposure to a range of caregiver styles. If you and your partner represent extreme ends of the parenting spectrum, you can help balance each other out and land somewhere in the middle.
3. Listen and show respect. Although you might not always agree, hear each other out and let your partner know that you respect his/her opinions, even if you don't agree.
4. Think big picture values. It's easy to get caught up in different approaches to the nitty gritty details, even though the big picture values are the same. Together, focus on identifying the most important values that you want your child to learn (e.g., approaches to food, money, peer relationships); you'll likely find that the actual execution of how to help your kid get from point A to B will be much simpler once you realize you share the same big picture values.
5. Choose your battles. What's most important to you? Perhaps it's more important to you that your child always wear his mouth guard at soccer than that he eats all of his veggies at dinner. Determine what issues matter the most to you and be willing to bend and defer to your partner's judgment on some of the other, less important (to you) stuff.
6. Consult experts. If you're disagreeing mightily and can't find a way to resolve the situation, consult experts, whether it's a pediatrician, therapist, or some other professional outside source.
7. Raise the white flag. When things are getting heated, sometimes it can help to call a truce, acknowledge how hard the argument is, and shelve the conversation until everyone is more calm. Being emotionally transparent about being tired and frustrated (i.e., that you don't actually want this type of communication to be the norm) can help diffuse tension on both sides.
8. Lighten up. No one likes to be criticized constantly -- compliment your partner for parenting moments that help your kids get to those aforementioned big picture values. Know that it's normal for parents to disagree on approach and collectively have a laugh at your differences.
Are there other approaches you have found helpful in diffusing parenting style tension? We'd love to hear them in the comments below!
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