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July 4, 2014
by Casey Truffo, LMFT

When Parents Disagree

July 4, 2014 04:55 by Casey Truffo, LMFT  [About the Author]

Disagreements are Inevitable 

Raising a child can be enough of a head scratcher at times, even when you and your spouse agree on a consequence for bad behavior or allowing privileges. But every parent is his or her own person, and they bring a unique set of opinions and experiences to the task.

Disagreeing about parenting approaches is inevitable when you have kids. It will most likely happen time and time again.  The conflict may be over something as simple as allowing dessert close to bedtime, should they be allowed to sleep over at a friends or as daunting as addressing risky behaviors among teens like drug and alcohol use.

Regardless of the size of the dilemma, parents can move past conflict and towards compromise with the right frame of mind and, most importantly, keeping a dialogue. Here are a few tips for addressing disagreement.

1.   Listen to your partner.

In any argument, it is all too easy to get caught up in winning or being right. Reminding yourself that your spouse (or your ex) loves the child as well and wants nothing but the best for them can help you gain perspective and hear what they have to say. Maybe they had an experience with their own parents as a child or with your own children that informs their thinking and their opinion. Listening to and learning from each other in the decision-making process can ensure you decide what is best for your child’s health and wellbeing.

2.   Pay attention to your emotions.

Intense disagreement about parenting usually arises not because of the situation at hand, but because of our emotional reactivity in the moment. When you disagree with your partner, take a moment to step back and play detective with your emotions. Did you have a stressful day at home or work? Perhaps the situation is triggering anger, sadness, or fear about another past event? Perhaps you are angry about your child being home late because you recall a time you stayed out late and made a poor decision? Being able to trace your emotions back to their source can help you separate your best thinking from your automatic reactions. It can also help you be more empathetic towards your partner and less likely to initiate a fight about the decision.

3.   Know the limits of your responsibility.

Parenting is a huge responsibility, and parents can have fears that they will impact a child’s entire life if they make the wrong decision. The reality is that part of parenting is learning what you can and can’t control about your child’s choices and interactions with the world. Much of the emotional intensity that exists in disagreements about parenting can stem from this fear that you can’t always protect your child from the world. Determining what is your responsibility and what is not can help you both feel more comfortable with sending your son or daughter out into the world to make good choices and reach his or her goals.   Additionally, as parents you may both want to step back and let the child make their own decision even though you both may have concern on the outcome. This is only, of course, when the decision will not cause danger or negative consequences to your child or anyone else.   It can be a great learning experience for them and influence their decision to follow your guidance on future and more serious situations.

4.   Choose your battles.

Not everyone parenting decision will be your ideal one. Compromises will be made, and sometimes your partner will have to decide as well. Just like you have to decide when to address your kid’s behavior and when to let it slide, you have to do the same with parenting decisions. Deciding what is worth a serious conversation and what is okay to let your partner decide can help you both trust the other person to make good choices when you are not around. Trusting your spouse to do what is best for your child will help everyone feel less stressed and make your child feel even more cared for and loved.

Little decisions add up to big differences in the world of a child. The more you can be honest and open with your partner in the day-to-day decisions, the more likely you will be prepared to take the best course of action together in times of crisis or transition.

Need some help learning how to reach compromises about parenting? Sometimes having a third party present can keep conversations calmer and help everyone feel heard.  If you are considering couples counseling, let the counselors at the Relationship Center of Orange County help you.  Call us today at 949-430-7389 or book your appointment via our online calendar.

About the Author

OC Relationship Center OC Relationship Center, LMFT

We started OC Relationship Center because we believe that relationships are the place where everyone should feel the safest and experience the most joy. And that is what our entire mission is based upon. That relationship may be with someone you love, live with, work with or even yourself. Our caring, professional and licensed clinicians want to help you with the skills to get what you want in your relationships - whether you are single, dating, living together, married, divorced or widowed.

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