As we grow up, we automatically take up specific notions about what it looks like to raise a child.
We get these ideas from our own childhood, from our experiences with our parents and caregivers.
There’s no intellectual, one-size-fits-all solution for how to parent a child, and even if there was one, we wouldn’t likely agree with it. We have to first come to recognize that our idea of how to parent is already baked into us, long before we even think about having children ourselves.
It’s normal, especially in times of stress, to default to the unconscious, baked-in ways of relating that we learned from our parents. When parenting with another person, there will inevitably come times when we disagree with our partners about how best to handle a certain situation.
I want to help support all you parents out there in your effort to create a united front together as you do the most difficult thing on the planet.
Navigating a partnership with different parenting ideals
When two people are trying to find their way towards a common approach of some sort, there’s a lot that can go wrong.
There isn’t a need to be on the same page about absolutely everything; obviously this is impossible. I invite you to think about it more from the perspective that diversity in parenting styles can be beneficial. A child actually benefits from some degree of difference in how they are approached and related to throughout their formative years.
This is a kind of paradox, because while the above is true, it’s also important that the child experiences both parents as united, particularly around moments of behavioral correction.
Each parent needs to have the other’s back in moments of discipline, especially when it comes to obvious misbehavior, such as a child loudly banging a spoon on the table in a restaurant.
If one parent tries to tell a child not to do something, and the other parent steps in to say, essentially, “lay off them”, then that becomes very dysregulating for the child. They won’t understand the rules, or even that there are clear rules to follow, and as such they may end up feeling like they can push the boundaries, knowing and expecting that the parents won’t respond together to set a clear boundary around what’s allowed and what isn’t.
This leads to a principle that’s part of Stan Tatkin’s PACT approach, wherein all parents need to address the “third” in their relationship, being their child, together. They need to do whatever it takes to get to the point where they are in lockstep, hand in hand, as they approach their child.
This is not something that is theoretical or abstract; it’s actually very physical.
Finding a collaborative approach
So what does it take to get to this collaborative and united front?
Essentially, each partner needs to be willing to bend a bit, individually, in order to find the best way that they can parent together without either partner having to give up their most important parenting ideals. This process requires everything you can give, creatively and emotionally, to find the best collaborative approach to parenting.
One of the most important aspects of this idea is that you need to have these conversations privately, ahead of time, without your child seeing them.
Of course, this isn’t always possible; a new situation may suddenly come up which neither of you has spoken about or considered before. In these moments, the focus needs to be on providing clear, concise information to the child. Remember: if necessary, you can always come back to the child, after having discussed the issue together, in order to issue new rules or new discipline that may not have been your first instinct.
The important thing is, both parents appear on the same page as each other at all times.
Address issues early on in your parenthood journey
Differences in parenting styles can corrode a couple’s relationship over time. They are a breeding ground for resentment and anger towards each other, and a rift in parenting ideals, without being properly addressed, can cause huge problems not just between the two of you, but also in your relationship with your kids.
Your child inherently trusts you, as their parents, to be on the same page and to provide the best care possible, so you must provide that at all costs.
It’s one of the hardest things we do, but it is possible to find a way to address both parents’ needs such that you can raise children who feel truly supported, with clear boundaries and unconditional love.
If any of this resonates with you, or you need help finding a collaborative approach to your parenting style, book a free connect call with me here: https://ryanginn.com/contact/.
I’d also like to offer you another useful resource on this topic, Dr. Angelique Millette. She recently appeared on my podcast, On Relating, to talk about her top three takeaways from coaching hundreds of parents through the most difficult times over the last year. Check out the episode here.