Kids notice. They remember when mom says one thing and dad says another. They remember if mom says, “Oh just don’t tell dad.” They realize if their parents are not united in rules and decision making for the family.
This causes tension and friction in your partnership and creates anxiety for your child because of the lack of consistency. On the flip side, as a child, seeing your parents unified creates a sense of peace and confidence. It also creates peace and confidence in your own relationship. You know you both have each others' back and will support each other no matter what.
So how can two people who were raised in different homes with different ideas on how to run things raise children as a team? Communication, communication, communication. You are not a mind reader and neither is your partner. This is what that communication can look like in different stages of parenting.
Newborn / Infant Stage
Both you and your partner are going to feel overwhelmed, but mama, that does not mean it is time to be a martyr. Moms often take on this stage without asking for help from their spouse because they are breastfeeding or their partner is going back to work so they don’t want to “burden” them.
Dads can get up. Dads can change diapers. Dads can bottle feed. Dads can lay babies down for bed. Dads can lay babies down for naps. Dads can make bottles. Dads can massage mom’s feet. Dads can make dinner. Dads can clean toilets. Dads can parent older children by themselves. Dads can do laundry. It may not be how you would do it or "perfect," but they'll never get up to par if you don't let them take the reins sometimes.
Communicate where you need help and let them help instead of letting resentment build up that they can’t or won’t do anything. Remember you are a team, so start off as one. If they refuse to help, therapy is awesome. No, like seriously it is--and it is nothing to be ashamed of.
At this stage what you are going to allow and not allow your child to do starts to come into play. Kids may start to challenge you or develop sassy pushback to requests. Will you allow screen time and how much? Will you allow candy and how much? When is bedtime and what does that look like? Do you do time-out and what does that look like? Conversations and arguments on these things should not take place in front of your child. Remember, your kids need to see you as a united front. If you are fighting in front of your child about whether or not your they can have more gummy worms, your toddler has probably already eaten all the gummy worms.
These may seem like little things now, but they will turn into bigger issues like deciding on a curfew time and at what age your child can start dating? If your child is conditioned to know that the rules are not consistent, they may stop asking for permission later on. And trust me--they are already getting conditioned. Once my toddler could talk and run back and forth in between my husband and I, she was already playing the "mom said no so now I'm asking dad" game. We knew we had to curb that expectation, so now even though she's only two, she knows that if mom said no, it mean no, and vice versa.
Child / Tween Stage
This is when your child starts to get more busy with activities. Make sure that each partner knows the schedule. Decide who is taking which kid where. And communicate about when you both need to be somewhere. Discuss the schedule weekly or even nightly if needed. Be patient with your spouse when honest mistakes are made, and allow them to be patient with you when you inevitably make mistakes as well. When I was a kid, schedules were messed up and I wasn’t picked up from school a couple of times, and guess what, I lived.
Be forgiving of each other, but also communicate when something is truly off kilter or bothering you. Your spouse may not even realize what they are doing is an issue unless you bring it up. Better to bring it up calmly now than to let it build up and turn into a huge blow up later on. Make sure not to bad-mouth your partner in front of your child if your partner makes a mistake or has their own work schedule change. If they can’t make it to a recital or if they take your kids to class at the wrong time, let them know such is life and daddy’s love for them isn’t reflected in how many recitals they make it to or how punctual they are. Let them know the same goes for you because you aren't super woman either.
Oh teenagers. I don’t have one, but I was one (and my dad never lets me forget it), and I teach/have taught hundreds of them. Not all teenagers are the same apathetic-angsty-hormonal punks you see in the movies. Some are really awesome and love their parents. I mean, they may be unicorns, but they do exist. Even the unicorns know how to play the game. They know if one parent is more lenient. They know how to manipulate apps and mommy group chats you have to track their whereabouts. They’re sneaky. You may not be able to change their sneakiness, but you can make sure that they know what the rules are and that mom and dad both feel strongly about them. That way when their sneakiness is eluded at some point in time they can be scared of consequences from both parents.
Teenage rules may make a bigger impact on your child than whether they can watch Paw Patrol for 30 minutes or 45 minutes. If one of you feels super strongly about a decision and the other is more "eh I don’t care," go with the parent that has strong feelings. Let your rules as a team be known and back each other up always on them. Let your child know that you support each other and they can’t play you against the other. If one parent said no it means no, and you aren’t going to go and try and change their mind. Let them have both parents running through their minds before they do something stupid.
Above all else, make sure your child knows how cherished and loved they are. Let them see that you and your partner love each other. Let your home be a safe haven for your child. Your child may not think you understand them, and maybe you don’t, but make sure they know you love them through it all.
For more parenting tips go to babycubby.com.