Experts tell us we should have a united front when disciplining our children, but that’s not quite as easy as it sounds. Too often a fight between children ends up turning into a fight between parents. Although an all-out shouting match will not teach children the lessons you’re preaching, it’s actually beneficial for them to witness you and your spouse discuss and debate in a healthy manner.
When you disagree about discipline techniques, it’s important that each of you has an opportunity to fully express your opinion. Respectfully hearing one another out will result in a well thought out solution. It’s important to create basic ground rules so you’ll be on the same page when issues arise in the future.
Next time your children break a rule you have no established protocol for, practice these three techniques to keep peace and harmony in your home (and your marriage).
Listen to One Another in Front of the Kids
This can be difficult when you’re 100% convinced that your viewpoint is the correct one. However, it’s critical your children witness you listening respectfully without interrupting or expressing disagreement during your spouse’s turn. Channel your high school debate club, giving each “team” a few minutes to touch on key arguments for their position.
Doing this will allow your children to become critical thinkers. They will learn that people can have completely opposing opinions yet still get along.
Compromise When You Can’t Agree
There are those occasions when hearing each other’s argument does no good. Overcome this stalemate with a solution that appeases you both in some way. Here are some ideas for meeting in the middle:
-Take turns being the primary decision maker
If you find one spouse is more lax than the other on issues such as diet or bedtime, let them rule the roost on the weekends. The stricter, more regimented parent can oversee during the weekdays. This is generally conducive for children because they work well with routines and need to have clear expectations. They will have their freedom on the weekends, but will come to understand what behavior is acceptable on school nights.
-Let the parent with the strongest opinion on the situation have control
We’re more passionate about some issues than others. Perhaps you feel a strict bedtime every night is critical to your child’s development, but aren’t as picky about their snacking habits. If it’s an issue your spouse feels very strongly about and you’re on the fence, let him take over. Decide which battles are worth it.
-Let the parent who responds to the situation first take the lead
When your two children get into a fight which results in battle wounds, let the first responder have the first say. They may have caught last-minute details the other parent missed, giving them more authority to decide the proper course of action.
Make sure that each of you has an equal opportunity to be head of command. If one parent is constantly dominating, it’s not good for you or your children.
Realize When to Back Off
When you let an argument about discipline get out of hand in front of your child, he or she may blame themselves for your disagreement. When you notice your voices start to rise, it may be wise to agree to finish the conversation in private. Come up with a signal to secretly alert one another that the issue should be worked out behind closed doors. It can be a key phrase, or even just a look.
Keep a good gage of when you’re about to lose your cool. If you’re getting close, walk away for a bit – Take a stroll around the block, a drive, or even just go into a different room for a few minutes. Once you’ve removed yourself from the situation and can see things a bit clearer, talking it through will be more effective.
Experiment with these methods and find a technique that’s a good fit for you and your spouse. It will differ depending on your personalities and family upbringing. You don’t always have to see eye to eye to find a happy equilibrium.