You know the old saying “united we stand—divided we fall”? It’s never truer than in the realm of parenting. Parents who don’t agree about the fundamental values they want to impart to their kids and how best to achieve that are destined to have conflict. That’s detrimental to your kids and to your marriage.
So how can you get on the same page in this department?
1. Outline the “biggies.”
Sit down with your husband and write down (yes, actually write them down) the major values or truths you want to teach your children. It might be the fundamental values of hard work, truthfulness and kindness. When you outline the non-negotiable values, it gives you a foundation to refer back to when trying to agree on whether a particular parenting decision effectively teaches or undermines one of your “biggies.”
2. Sit down regularly to talk through the current challenges.
You must have a regular opportunity to discuss the most pressing parenting issues facing your family outside the prying ears of the children. Once a month, take a walk with your husband just to have a parental “debriefing.” This is your opportunity to, for example, share that you think one child might be struggling in the area of honesty, and brainstorm together the best way to create more accountability. Sharing this type of information with one another is essential to your effectiveness as a team.
3. Even if you disagree, present a united front.
First, never argue about discipline in front of the kids. Suppose your teen thinks she ready to date, and you think she’s right. But dad isn’t comfortable with that yet, and your official joint parenting decision is to wait a bit longer. It’s unproductive to go back to your daughter and say, “I agree, but Daddy’s the bad guy.” It undermines his authority, and encourages your child to keep pushing against her father’s judgment. Even when you have doubts, your child and your marriage will be better off if you present a consistent message to the kids.
4. Leave your personal baggage at the door.
Parenting discussions are not the place to work out your personal marital conflicts. Using issues with the children to manipulate or “get your way” is unwise, and almost never serves the best interests of the kids. Especially when you disagree, avoid confrontational language and lots of “you” statements. Stay objective and focused on what’s best for the kids, and what best accomplishes those “biggies” you outlined in #1. This can be even more challenging for divorced parents, but taking the high road for the kids’ sake is always the right choice.
5. Give him some credit.
Your husband might not do everything exactly as you would do it as a parent, but that doesn’t automatically make it the wrong way. Sometimes there are two perfectly viable roads to the same destination, and if your husband appeared to be smart and loving when you married him (remember that guy?) he probably still is. Give him a little credit and let his methods see the light of day. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results!