6 Ways to Be a Better Parent With Your Spouse
As a wife and a mother, I know that parents think about their children in different ways. Often it's the mother who worries. Who's going to put away his socks so we can find them tomorrow and he'll have socks to wear? Who's going to wipe his face and clip his fingernails so he doesn't look homeless? Who's going to pack the diaper bag so we have everything we need tomorrow?
Because moms worry, they tend to do a lot of these child-caring tasks, regardless of whether they work outside the home or not. However you divide the daily household and child-caring tasks is up to you. After all, every couple has different things that work for them.
Parenting: A Team Sport
But what about discipline? If you've had a toddler, you probably already noticed some differences in the way that you and your spouse parent and discipline your child. The key is allowing both parents to have an active part in the process, and making sure you're on the same page.
Each of us offers a unique perspective, which is a good thing. Experts even say that two different parenting styles aren't going to hurt your child's development. What can cause your child problems includes:
- Inconsistent punishments and discipline
- Talking negatively about the other parent around your child
- Failing to communicate with your spouse about what you both want to accomplish with your parenting
- Letting passive parenting result in harsher punishments
In part, these patterns can be avoided by taking an active stance on parenting, and doing it as a team with your spouse. If we let them, our husbands will take on a more active role as a parent and father, which can be a really big help to us, even if they aren't the parent that's most often at home.
Below are 6 ways to make parenting a team sport that both you and your spouse can be part of:
1. Discuss Expectations and Past Experience
For many, their parenting styles depend a lot on how they themselves were raised. If, from the very start, you and your spouse were brought up with completely different styles, that's good information to know. With this insight and awareness, you'll have much more understanding of what motivates your spouse when they do A, B, or C.
In turn, knowing how things were for your spouse will open up a dialogue about what you both want for your kids now and in the future. Would you do some things differently? What are the most important things you want to teach and instill in your children? Keep an open mind as you discuss these questions with your spouse.
2. Take Inventory Often
You might have a nice long talk with your spouse about what you both want, and create a set of rules and consequences to use in your daily parenting. But life has a way of being messy and presenting unexpected scenarios to us, so it's good to stop and assess how your new system is working every few weeks.
What one parent feels is working might be eating away at the other. Talk often about what you think will help your child succeed in the long run. If you have problems with the way your spouse is parenting, ask yourself why. When trying discuss issues you might have, listen and be patient. They might not like the way you do certain things, either. Remember, it's give and take.
3. Have Their Back
Some kids always find ways to pit their parents against each other. For example, your child might always go to the one parent he or she knows will say yes. This can become a wedge between you, but one way to avoid it is by setting a rule that both parents must say "yes" before the child can proceed.
As for situations where your spouse disciplines in a way that you don't agree, try to have their back. If you feel it's too lax or too strict, discuss your feelings with them at a later time, but not in front of your child. Unless you feel like your child is in actual harm's way, try to present a united front with your spouse.
4. Give It Time
Not every parenting decision has to be made right now, in the moment, immediately following an event. However, it is best to know what you're doing going in, which is why it's so helpful to discuss parenting goals and expectations with your spouse.
The point is that you shouldn't dole out punishments in anger, or just because you are reacting to a misbehaving child. Active, intentional parenting allows you to remain in control of your emotions and how you react to poor behaviors. If you feel like you and/or your spouse needs a "time out" before proceeding, sometimes that's more important than proceeding in anger.
5. Encourage Often
One thing's for sure: parenting is not for the faint-hearted. If you overhear or know of a conversation your spouse had with a child that was particularly difficult, be there to encourage them. If they're feeling defeated or bad about making your child upset, now is not the time for criticism, or to tell them how you would have done things differently.
Instead, give your spouse the benefit of the doubt--you might have not reacted as smoothly as you think if you were in their position. Encourage them, letting them know that you are on their side and know what they're going through. Emphasize that tomorrow is another day, and there will be plenty of opportunities to try again in the future.
6. Seek Outside Help
Sometimes the best way to unravel the knot of parenting is by consulting a professional. Parenting classes are often taught locally, usually at reasonable rates. If you're looking for a way to connect with your partner and find effective and positive ways to parent, a parenting class might be just the thing. There are even classes for new parents with a baby or a toddler at home, and it's never too late to start!