It’s common for couples to disagree over raising the kids. However, these disagreements aren’t necessarily bad. In fact, disagreements about parenting issues can show that you are both involved. What makes the difference in whether or not these disagreements are productive, depends on how you settle them.
Arguing about parenting issues isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it can be a sign that both parents are working together as a team on parenting issues. If you and your spouse are working together to make decisions on how to raise the children, it is inevitable that you’ll disagree at times. The discussions you have when you disagree can be very helpful in addressing important issues.
Danger of Not Working Together
Sometimes when a couple doesn’t ever disagree on parenting issues, it can be a sign that one parent tends to be the “boss.” When this happens, one parent tends to set the rules and enforce the consequences while leaving the other parent out of making important decisions.
Sometimes it is the parent who spends the most time with the children who becomes the “boss.” Step-parents also sometimes falling into this trap. It can make it so that the other parent is treated more like a child rather than an equal partner.
It can be unhealthy for kids when they see that both parents are not equally involved. It can cause anxiety for some kids and hostility for others. It can be damaging to the parent-child relationship as well.
When couples don’t work together to address important parenting issues, it can leave the parent who does the disciplining feeling more like a single parent. It can leave the other parent feeling like they are treated more like a child rather than a partner. Having a happy and healthy marriage becomes impossible if the couple isn’t working together on such an important part of their marriage.
How to Respectfully Disagree About Parenting Issues
One of the first rules to remember when you disagree with your spouse on discipline issues is to avoid arguing in front of the children. If the kids know you disagree, they will use it to their advantage very quickly! Therefore, it’s important to have discussions about parenting issues when the children aren’t present.
When you disagree with your spouse’s parenting decisions, it is important to point out your concerns. Point out what impact you think it will have on the child. For example, “I think if she doesn’t get a time out every time she hits her sister, she will keep doing it,” or “I’m afraid if you buy her a toy every time she cries at the store, we’re just teaching her crying gets what she wants.”
Try to find some common ground. Most couples want the same things for their kids; they just have different ideas of how to get there. For example, one parent may think a teenager learns responsibility by having a set time each night that he has to do his homework. The other parent may think the best way to learn responsibility is by experiencing natural consequences, such as getting a bad grade when he doesn’t do his homework. Both parents want their child to learn how to be responsible and together, they can find a strategy to help the child learn in a way that they both can agree on.
When to Seek Parenting Help
It is important to seek outside help when your disagreements over parenting impact your marriage. It’s also important to recognize the impact your disagreements have on the children. When parents can’t agree on rules and consequences, it can create a lot of anxiety, resentment and hostility within children.
If one of you seems to be the “boss” of the kids it can also signal the need for some outside help. Sometimes people parent as if they were a single parent, which isn’t healthy for a marriage. If one parent is disengaged it can also signal the need for professional intervention.
Getting Marriage Counseling to Help with Parenting
Marriage counselors can help you address parenting issues. When a couple disagrees about parenting styles and discipline techniques, sometimes short-term counseling can help clarify values, identify concerns, and develop teamwork.
Sometimes parenting disagreements can signal deeper underlying issues as well. For example, control issues are sometimes played out in parenting. At other times, a spouse who wants to be liked by the children may struggle to set limits. Marriage counseling can also help identify and address these and other underlying issues.