Jenny Hale: Parenting Harmony
Parenting with a degree of harmony!
One of the important things they forgot to tell you when you had children was that although you and your partner will probably love your children dearly, but you won’t necessarily have the same ‘togetherness’ about how they should be raised and disciplined. You will also both bring a good default system into your parenting together. That means you will tend to become the parent you had growing up even when you don’t want to be! That is why many parents are aghast at the fact that they say things to their children – with the same tone of voice, that were said to them!
However, when parents get on the same page, talk about things and work together, it has some enormous benefits for children and for the atmosphere in your home. But...... this just happens to be one of the more ‘uniquely’ challenging aspects of being a parent – and that is learning to give and take, negotiate and compromise, plan and prepare – for the sake of your children. And some research out there says it helps children feel secure if you and your partner are loving and close.
There are a number of valuable foundations to have in place when it comes to parenting together. They happen to be;
Look at some of the big goals you are aiming for
It is worth standing back and discussing the goals you have for your kids. You might be surprised just how different your focus is. Narrow it down to a few important ones that you can both agree on.
Maybe your family goals would sound like this ‘ The important things in our family are; being kind, taking risks, looking after others as well as yourself and working hard.’
When you both agree on where you are heading, you can stay strong for the things that matter and bend a little for the qualities that are less important.
Keep it respectful – no matter what your differences
No matter what – it is important to treat your other half respectfully. If you show a lack of tolerance or respect towards the other parent, it will create more tension and eventually undermine your parenting strength. When you roll your eyes and sigh loudly because the other parent is struggling or doing something you don’t agree with – both parents will suffer. Your other half will lose trust in you and your children will either learn to have a degree of contempt for you or the mocked parent.
Show a bit of support and honour for the other parent
We all have strengths and qualities we share with our families. In our busy lives, make sure you acknowledge the things the other parent is doing for and with your children. Thank them and get your kids to thank them too!
“Hey kids, have you thanked your Dad for taking you to the park to ride your bikes? Okay, off you go then.”
“That was a lovely meal thanks – what a lot of trouble you went to.”
Stand together – even physically can help
Most children at a very young age work out who is the soft touch and who says No more often. Be ready to flush out the times your child has already got an answer from one parent and is now looking for a break in the result.
Simply and without accusation, walk to the other parent and check if they have already given a decision. And whether you agree with it or not, it is nearly always better to support it rather than undermine it.
If you have more information that could help the parent make a more informed decision, have a system where you can quietly update each other without the children feeling like they have the power to rock you.
Before stepping in – ask how you can help rather than assume they are drowning
It is easy to over ride the other parent with your superior knowledge and wisdom. Maybe you are fresher and calmer and have not been with the children all day. Or maybe, you are not aware of the children’s needs and the careful balance that their mother is working on. It can really help if you pause before butting in and ask a question or two.
“Is there anything I can help with?” is much more useful than “What the heck is going on here?”
“Which you like a break for a bit?” is much more welcome than “There you go again – always saying one thing and doing another.”
Try not to get set in defined roles like Dad the disciplinarian (bad cop) and Mum the softie (good cop)
Most of us want to be really liked by our kids – maybe even some of us would admit to wanting to be the ‘favourite’ parent if we were really honest. Just be aware that there can be a strong pull to be your child’s buddy or even a temptation to form an alliance with your child over the parent.
Yes, parent to your strengths – if you have patience for teaching them something – great, if you are great at dropping things and having fun –do it often. But don’t isolate yourself from the other parent. Both of you need to discipline the children. Don’t sit back and always have the same parent put the children to bed. Both parents need to join in on the fun spontaneously too.