What to Do When Parents Disagree on Parenting

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It’s a scene most parents face at some point: You disagree with your partner on how to parent the kids. The truth is that we all bring different personalities to the table, and many parents fall into patterns based on how their own parents interacted with them when they were children. One more factor at play: Kids keep us guessing. Even if you think you covered every possible parenting scenario over the years, kids love to throw curveballs.

I’ve worked with a lot of parents over the years, and one thing that I see often is that it’s very hard to be on the same page every single day. That’s okay. Sometimes one parent needs to step in and take the lead on something or try to a different tactic to reach a child. It happens more often than you might think.

So those different parenting styles that might cause arguments at times can actually be beneficial, as long as both parents agree to support one another.

Try this:

Weekly check in

I often recommend scheduling a specific time each week to sit down together and talk about what’s working and what’s not. Share your perspectives. Honest communication is the most essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to parenting as a team.

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Use this time to connect as a couple (or as co-parents) and discuss how the family is doing as a whole. Ideally, you want to create a judgment-free zone where you can each share positives, negatives, and parenting wish-lists without arguing.

Avoid the blame game

Empathizing with kids when they’re upset is important. It helps them feel heard and understood, even if the circumstances don’t change. Throwing your spouse (or co-parent) under the bus while empathizing, on the other hand, is damaging.

Casting blame only increases the stress and tension for your child. Your child loves both of you, even if he doesn’t get his way. When parents blame each other, kids feel stressed and anxious. They feel the weight of the family discord and take on the negative feelings.

You can empathize and problem-solve with your child without blaming anyone. Talk about how the situation feels and what you can do as a family to avoid (or better cope with) a similar situation in the future.

Find the middle ground

Even if you feel like you disagree on all things parenting, chances are you probably agree on a few things. Identify the areas of parenting in which you do agree in an effort to build a positive foundation.

Sometimes this is as easy as getting back to basics. Do you agree on things like bedtimes, healthy eating, and exercise? Write that down! When you start from a middle ground, you can build from there.

One simple question

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When it comes to solving daily dilemmas in the home, focus on this one question: “What do we want our child to learn?” Some parents throw out long lists of consequences when kids don’t follow rules. Others look the other way as long as humanly possible. Neither of these strategies really work. To help your child succeed, you have to focus on what you want your child to learn.

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Getting on the same page isn’t always easy. But parenting together makes for healthier, less stressed children and a happier home.

Do you ever disagree with your co-parent?

What do you think?

What to Do When Parents Disagree on Parenting

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about helping parents enjoy the ride, she provides parent education and simple strategies to take t ... More

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