In an ideal world, you and your partner would agree on all aspects of parenting. However, we live in reality. Sometimes you two will disagree — strongly. When that happens, you must still be a unified front.
Don’t worry, though. Not all is lost! Different parenting styles can be positive if you and your partner work together. Sometimes, differing methods are complementary. It’s always good to have a second pair of eyes on a situation. No parent is perfect, and even parents who disagree about things can provide consistency for their children.
You’re a Team
Remember: You and your partner are a team. There’s a reason (actually, probably hundreds of reasons) you decided to start a life together. All of them still exist once you have children. If you begin to feel more like adversaries than teammates, it might be wise to spend some one-on-one time together so you can reconnect as lovebirds instead of devolving into mere co-parents.
Discuss hypothetical parenting scenarios with your partner before they come up. Though it’s true you’ll never be able to address every possibility, you can talk over a lot of them. Decide how to handle situations ahead of time.
Trust Your Partner
You trusted your partner enough to have a child with them, so why stop now? Before jumping in to correct your partner or show them the right way to do something, wait to see how their efforts work out. In most areas of parenting, there’s more than one good way to handle things.
Work Things Out Privately
Though it might be tempting to call your partner out the moment they do something you object to, hold back. Unless it’s something urgent, like, “Don’t let Timmy get on that bike without a helmet!” it’s best to delay any criticism or disagreement.
Pull your partner aside to talk later. If you don’t like the idea of waiting to talk about issues, you and your partner can come up with a signal. When you want to discuss something in private immediately, you can use the sign to alert your partner. For instance, maybe tugging your earlobe could mean, “I have something to say, so please follow me to the other room.”
Even the best of children quickly learn how to triangulate their parents if given half a chance. Triangulation is when somebody pits two other people against each other for personal benefit. If you criticize your partner in front of your little one, your child will learn to use that against both of you.
Enforce for Your Partner
Enforce your partner’s rules — at least temporarily. If you genuinely can’t accept your partner’s parenting choice, discuss it privately. After talking, you and your partner might reverse the discipline together.
Unless that happens, though, it’s a good idea to go along with your partner’s decisions. Don’t undo discipline or go back on a rule without consulting your partner first.
It’s fair to expect your partner to do the same for you. It prevents a good-cop-bad-cop dynamic.
Speak Positively About Your Partner
Say good things about your partner in front of your child. In addition to being a nice thing to do, this will show your child that parents are teammates who respect each other.
Don’t badmouth your partner when he or she isn’t around. If your child complains about the other parent, don’t turn it into a complaint-fest where you and your kid become your partner’s opposing team.
Polish Up Your Communication Skills
Communicating through disagreements can be challenging. It’s so tempting to tell someone they’re wrong, you’re right, and that’s that. Yet, as you may have noticed, that seldom works. Even yelling and flinging insults can feel satisfying if you’re confident you’re in the right. However, that’s another tactic with guaranteed bad results.
Listen to your partner, and consider his or her point of view. Before dismissing something out of hand, consider whether your other half might have a point. Also, think about whether the issue is even important to you. Sometimes, one person cares a lot more about how to do something. If you don’t have strong feelings on a topic, let your partner decide what to do.
When your disagreement is strong, though — when you can’t just let it go — that’s the most critical time for communication. State your feelings and thoughts without making accusations or placing blame. When your partner speaks, listen to understand, not just to counter their points.
If you feel your partner isn’t listening to you, both of you might benefit from reading up on good communication skills.
Many children will tell each parent different stories. If your little one makes a claim that just doesn’t sound right, ask for your partner’s version of the story. For instance, a kid might say, “Daddy let me stay up all night long,” when what really happened was that Daddy let them stay up an extra half hour.
In the end, most parenting tactics can work out okay. If your child is fed and loved, you’re doing pretty well. However, there are a few things all parents should avoid.
You might think this goes without saying, but make sure you and your partner understand the definitions of child abuse and neglect. If one of you is unclear on the matter, it might be a good idea to take parenting classes together. Parenting classes can help anyone understand how to care for children while respecting little ones’ needs.
Parenting together when you and your partner have different styles is tough, but it’s doable. Remember to act as a team instead of treating each other as adversaries. Teammates don’t always have to agree, but they do need to have each other’s backs. If you both keep that in mind, you’ll do a fantastic job.