How to Parent Effectively When You Disagree With Your Spouse
Parents don't agree all the time and that's okay. What is important is coming to an agreement on how to proceed when parenting children.
Remember those vows you uttered on your wedding day, that you would, henceforth, be as one with your spouse? It covers parenting, too.
Apparently, the good-cop-bad-cop routine only works in a police interrogation room. At home, it’s vital that parents back each other up, whether or not you agree with what the other is saying. Otherwise, you’ll not only risk your relationship with your spouse, you’ll also damage how your child processes disputes.
“’Good cop, bad cop’ parenting is hard on both parents and kids. Either you or your partner always ends up being the ‘tough’ parent, and that can hurt your relationship,” writes teacher and early intervention specialist Amanda Morin. “It can also send your child conflicting signals about important issues.”
Regardless of differing opinions, the key is to present a united front. Unfortunately, “conflict is inevitable in relationships,” writes social psychologist Amie M. Gordon, PhD. “Every couple has at least one recurring conflict.”
This is an expected outcome. After all, the union of parents is basically a relationship between two people who, most probably, grew up in different environments with diverse influences.
How, then, can Team Parent consistently remain solid when you don’t agree with each other all the time?
Focus on your child
In disciplining a child, one universal tenet reigns above all the rest: your focus as parents must always be on your offspring.
This accomplishes at least two things. First, it automatically diminishes any issues that may be between the two of you in favor of concerns about your child. Second, you can be sure that some kind of resolution to your child’s behavior can come about. After all, the problematic actions are front and center.
The next time your child misbehaves, you and your spouse must focus on, first, the reason behind the behavior; second, what you both want your child to learn from the experience; and, third, the one way you can make this lesson stick. Leave your issues with your spouse at the door.
Set some non-negotiable ground rules
You believe children shouldn’t be forced to eat anything, and your spouse is a proud member of the Clean Plate Club. It seems there’s little to be done to resolve this difference in opinion. The important thing is to find a few other ground rules that both of you agree on and can enforce consistently.
Educational consultant Akhila Das Blah mentions some of the house rules she and her husband put in place. Perhaps you can base your own non-negotiables on these: first, your child should not harm themselves; second, your child should not harm others; and third, your child should not damage property.
These three rules cover a wide range of childhood activities; for instance, eating junk food and running with scissors, hitting people and pets, banging the refrigerator door and mishandling books. Agreeing on these rules can considerably minimize the parenting arguments in your home, helping you face your children with just one message.
Respect each other’s differing opinions
Understand and accept that the two of you were raised by your own parents or guardians with their own sets of values. There will be times when you and your spouse will see things differently because of your upbringing, and that’s okay. You just have to make an effort to see where each other is coming from.
Relationship therapist Anita A. Chlipala, LMFT, suggests you explore your spouse’s point of view by asking the following questions:
● What does your position mean to you?
● What values or experiences make you think this way?
● What do you want or need?
By asking these questions, you are showing your spouse that you are open to dialogue. This keeps both of you from feeling defensive about your opinions. You can just simply agree to disagree since you know the reason behind your spouse’s perspective
Never undermine each other in front of your child
Parenting is not a competition, especially within your family. You and your spouse are not running for Favorite Parent in your household. Undermining “mommy” or “daddy” when your child is listening and watching has no positive effect.
If you do that, explains an article on PsychCentral, “you may find that your child doesn’t take either one of you seriously when you set boundaries, make rules, or issue consequences.”
At some point, your child, so used to hearing you two discredit each other, will pick up the reins and begin playing you off each other. For example, when you give your child gummy bears before dinner—something your spouse forbids—and then tell your child, “Don’t tell Mommy/Daddy, okay?” you are, in effect, teaching your child it’s okay to manipulate people. The next time they want something, they’ll think the dishonest, manipulative route is the way to go.
With commitment, effort, discipline, and respect, you and your differently opinioned spouse can hurdle anything. This includes working out your issues with each other. What your child needs is a parental unit, after all. Soon, you will find that you and your spouse will also thrive when you stand as partners at home.
• Sage Journals, The Relationship Between Conflict Topics and Romantic Relationship Dynamics, March 2021
• Psychology Today, What Do Couples Fight About?, June 2021
• The Indian Express, Parenthesis: Here are 3 Non-Negotiable Rules of Parenting, August 2019
• PsychCentral, Small Ways You May Be Undermining Each Other as Parents, July 2020
• VeryWellMind, Coping with Political Differences in Your Romantic Relationship, September 2021
About The Writer
Cecile is a freelance writer and editor who's been working professionally in the publishing industry for more than two decades.
When she’s not busy raising and homeschooling two kids, she writes (and edits) lifestyle stories, profiles of celebrities and politicians, and travel pieces. She’s served as contributor and editor for a wide range of outlets, including Edamama; SciDev.Net; GetCraft; Manila Bulletin; Panorama; FHM Philippines; Seventeen Magazine; ABS-CBN Foundation’s Green Initiative; and Everything Alternative Australia.
Cecile graduated with a degree in AB Interdisciplinary Studies from Ateneo de Manila University, with tracks in Communication Arts, Languages, and Theater. When she’s not mothering, writing, or homeschooling, Cecile likes to upcycle old furniture and grow vegetables.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.