He Said, She Said
Parenting expert, Alyson Schafer, discusses how to handle it when partners end up arguing about everything from extracurriculars to discipline.
- thinking it’s going to be utopia instead of hard work.
Most people think that having children will strengthen the marriage. That it will just flow from love and come naturally and be beautiful, but they’re wrong. Research shows our happiness decreases when we have children. It’s like working on a large project; frustration, discipline, values all come into play when you’re tired and exhausted.
If the couple has troubles the strain of parenting can make those cracks more visible and the divide worsen. Parents often seek counselling to discuss different parenting styles and in fact- it’s not family counselling they need but marriage counselling.
Instead you could read a book, take a course together or go to counselling together. Parenting classes are very normalizing because you meet other parents facing the same challenges. Learn better communication skills, how to better divide the labour, how to get your needs met in the marriage and how to share power or make decisions.
What do you do if the other parent is compensating for your parenting style?
There are three styles of parenting
Autocratic: firm, not so warm and friendly
Democratic: both firm and friendly
Permissive: friendly, but not good at being firm
If your partner is very firm and you are very lenient, the tendencies will be to compensate. The firm parent feels they have to be extra firm to make up for the softer. The tolerant parent pities the child for having to be scolded and treated roughly by the other parent so they become increasingly soft and lenient. Thus we drive our parenting into the extreme range of two faulty styles.
Instead: Don't compensate or apologize for the other parent.
What do you do if the other parent is undermining you?
Also, knows as sticking your nose where it doesn't belong. If your child complains that the other parent took away their iPad because they misbehaved, then that’s a situation between the child and that parent.
Here is an example of undermining or triangulation: you say "That is non-sense. Here is your computer. Don't listen to your dad, he is off his rocker. He hasn't read one parenting book I put under his nose, I will handle this.”
What happens when parents disagree on parenting styles and they divorce?
Whoever starts the discipline finishes the discipline
Agree to disagree
Present a united front to the children. Have your disagreement and parenting discussion in private, not in front of the children. Have a code word, signal or simply say "Let’s talk about this later". One incident of "bad parenting" is not as harmful to your children as you fighting in front of them.
In separated house holds the rules at one house don’t need to be the same at the other: "at my house bedtime is 8 pm. It doesn't matter what bedtime is at daddy's house. This is our rule while you are here."
Do not communicate with your partner through the children. When children become pawns in adult fights it’s the children who are hurt the most.
Put the children first: They adjust to divorce if the parents remain civil and friendly.
Courts and mediators will only look at significant differences. For example, if you want to join a religious cult, refuse medical treatment, or there are instances of abuse and/or neglect. However, if you think the children should go to private school instead of public, are exposing them to junk food or if you smoke, then those aren’t going to be significant enough to involve the courts.
Hire a mediator: talk through a lawyer if things are too hard to handle.
Long term, your children will come to see the situation more realistically. Have social supports for yourself and watch your stress levels.