Being a parent is by far the hardest job anyone can have. Raising tiny little humans can be by far the most frustrating, yet rewarding thing you will ever do. When those tiny little humans look to you for guidance, protection, love and information on a 24/hr basis, it can feel like you can never catch a break. But, what happens when you have married someone, or you have had a child with someone and they all of a sudden do not parent the way you do? What happens if their parenting style is actually the complete opposite of your parenting style? It can make a frustrating and emotionally draining process even worse.
In today’s post we are going to touch base on how to parent as a team, even if you do not see eye to eye on everything. I have a lot of friends who are just now starting their families, or are just now welcoming their second or third into their homes. As someone who has been a mommy for pretty much half my life, I am really lucky I can add in some tips, on how to co-parent with your spouse, and stay off SNAPPED.
Communication is key:
“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.”- Rollo May
I can not stress this one enough, and we are going to start with it. YOU HAVE TO COMMUNICATE PEOPLE! I can not tell you how many times I have sat with my friends and they are complaining about their husbands not doing anything, or not helping with the kids, or they didn’t do this, or they didn’t help with that. But, when you ask the same individual “Well did you let them know you needed help?” or “Did you ask?” their instant answer is “No, they should just know!” or “Well he could see I was angry, he should of helped” Ladies (and gentleman) unless you are a mind reader, the other person is not just going to “know” you need help. This is something you need to communicate with them. Now, with that being said it does not mean you bark orders at the individual. It does not mean you dehumanize them, or try to degrade them for not helping right away. It means that you need to open up on what you would like from them in a respectful manner.
“Honey (or sugar plum, or whatever cute nickname you call each other) Do you think tonight you could put the pajama’s on after bath, I would really appreciate a few minutes?”
“Sweetheart, thank you so much for everything you did today! I appreciate it all, do you think you could do one more thing for me?”
“Sugar Pie, I am going to go give the kids a bath, do you mind handling the dishes? Or would you like to do bath, while I do dishes?” (Give options, it always helps)
See, not to hard. Pretty doable right? Now this goes both ways. If he has had a really long day at work, and you have had a really long day at work, or at home or whatever your day may be, it is easy to blame the other individual for not stepping up their game even though they know you had a long day. We all do it. I do it. He does it. We all do it. But, if you are not open with communication on what you need from that person, you can not give them the death stare from around the corner. It is not fair to them.
With communication, you need to communicate on what kind of parent you want to be. This is SO important. That way the other individual is not thrown for a loop when you are Major Payne, and he comes out acting like Phil Dunphy. Because two very different parenting styles will work, as long as those parenting styles are discussed. In our home I tend to be more of the nurturer, the cuddler, the if I am hurt and I am crying I am going to my mom because she is going to kiss my ouchie, and tell me she loves me. My husband is more of the hard ass (pardon my language). If they run to him crying he is going to look at them like Chow from the Hangover like “But did you die?”. The kids know this. We know this. It is a mutual understanding in our house because it is a conversation my husband and I had.
I was very honest that I am strict, I have expectations of my kids, I expect them to meet those expectations (See my previous blog post about “Being the Mean Mom”) That I encourage chores, and life skills, and that respect is number one. I was also honest that I tend to let things slide, that I may baby the younger one a little bit, okay, I baby all of them a little bit, that they sleep in my bed some nights, and that I will forever kiss them and hug them even if they have outgrown it. He on the other hand, agrees with my first few, but not so much the babying, or the letting things slide. With these differences we communicate when he thinks I need to step it up a little more, and I communicate when I think he needs to step it down a little more. This is never done in front of the children, parenting is never discussed in front of the kids, period. The kids need to see you two as a team, and discussing things you do not like about the other person in the moment will only confuse them. We say “Hey! Do you mind coming into the room with me really quick? I have something I need to ask you.” and whatever we need the other person to adjust, is discussed. Now, my husband and I are also probably the two most stubborn individuals you will ever meet. So, hearing that the other person needs you to change something is not the easiest thing to swallow. But, in the long run, it is always appreciated that you know you can tell the person something.
So, during those 9 months of waiting for your little bundle of joy, or crotch midgets from hell as some people like to say, usually they have a two year old at this point, discuss these things together. Discuss what kind of mom or dad you want to be. Talk to each other about your expectations, talk to them about the things you will both need from each other. Lay down the laws you will not budge on, and listen to them. That way 4 years of sleepless nights later, you are not thrown for a loop.
I am not always good at communicating. It is not one of my biggest strengths. I can write like crazy, but throw me in a situation where I have to communicate my feelings and I shut down. So having a partner who is really good at communicating has really helped me step over this hurdle. Communicating can also be really hard sometimes. When you have to tell the person you love, that you do not like something about them at that particular moment can sometimes seem impossible. But, let me tell you, it is so worth it. We have grown so much as a couple the past few years, just by communicating, and it has made us not only better as a couple, but better partners, and parents.
This one goes hand in hand with communication. You NEED to listen to your partner, even if what they are saying you do not want to hear. You or your partner can talk until they are blue in the face, but if you are not listening to them, or they are not listening to you, what is the point in it all.
I am very guilty of turning a deaf ear sometimes because I tend to be a little sensitive. If Dominic is coming to me, saying he does not agree with something I have done, or said regarding the kids, I tend to take it personal. So this is something I am really working on. Listening to his concerns, and then being respectful of those concerns, and trying to change my approach to those concerns are key in parenting as a team. That does not mean that you just go with whatever they are saying all the time. It means that you listen to what they need, and you try to adjust your own parenting to work together.
“Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners”- Laurence Stern
You need to respect your partner. No one is perfect. So you can not expect them to be perfect. So make sure that first off you respect them as an individual, and as a parent. Do not undermine them, ever. If they are trying to parent your child, and you go and do the opposite this will confuse your child in the long run. This is one thing I am very proud of in my relationship with Dominic. We always stick together. When you are outnumbered by crazy kids, you need to stick together, or they will chew you up and eat you alive.
I love the respect we have for each other in our relationship. It is one of our strong points. If you do not respect your partner, how are your children going to? We get compliments all the time on how respectful our kids are to others, and it starts with them seeing the respect we have for one another at home. With that, you need to respect your children too. They are growing into adults, and you need to show them the same respect, you expect them to have for you.
One thing with respect is that it is okay to be frustrated with them, but that does not mean you loose respect for them. Every one in the relationship is doing their best, and if it is not their best, you have every right to voice your frustrations, but never do it in an non respectful way. This goes with the undermining. Lets say that your child is throwing a tantrum, and your partner says “If you do not stop, we are going to take away TV time for the rest of the day” Now the behavior doesn’t stop, so your partner gets up and turns off the TV, and walks away. A hour or so goes by, your little demon child is annoying you, they wont stop talking, they wont stop saying they are bored, they keep asking questions, and in your mind you are wondering why, why has your partner has also punished you?! So you go and turn the TV on, in your mind, you just want some peace and quiet, so it is no big deal. This is a big no! Undermining a parenting decision just because you are frustrated is one of the biggest forms of disrespect in the parenting world. It will not only hurt your relationship with your partner, it will hurt the way your kids see you, and them. So keep it respectful. If a decision has been made, stick to it, and if your child is annoying you because daddy won’t let them watch TV, send said kid to daddy. It’s a win win.
I think this one is almost as important as communication. You need to encourage your partner. Your partner also needs to encourage you. Think of it as a sports team. I don’t know about you, but some of my favorite memories in life are from being on the cross country team in high school and listening to everyone cheer each other on. It was simple encouragement from others that helped you do your best. So if you are not encouraging your partner, how do you expect them to be the best parent they can be? Lift each other up! Give them compliments, cheer them on! I can not tell you how many times a day when Dom is interacting with the kids I say “You guys have the best daddy!” Or when Dom gets the baby to sleep at night for me to give me a break “Good Job Dad!” It is simple encouraging words that keeps the positive in our life. He does the same for me. If you are constantly telling your partner everything they are doing wrong, and never anything they are doing right, they are going to stop wanting to do things for you.
I had a friend one time complain to me about her husband because he refuses to help with housework. They are both working parents, and she was voicing her frustrations on never getting any help. She felt like she was pulling the weight of the entire house, and she was done. It is hard to hear that from people you love, so I asked the simple:
“Have you asked him to help?”
“YES!” Numerous times, and then he pouts and starts doing things, but he does them wrong!!! So I tell him, you aren’t loading this right, you didn’t clean that right, that is not how you do it!
“So, he is trying, but because he isn’t doing it the way you want, your reaction is to tell him everything he is doing is wrong? Well, no wonder he doesn’t jump in to help, there is no encouragement.”
The same goes for parenting. I am very guilty of loving things done my way. I tend to control how things are done with the baby, and how things are done in the house. But, one thing that I have learned in my years is that just because I do it one way, and they do it another way, does not make them wrong. Because in the end, it still gets done. I am very lucky that Dominic is a very hands on dad, and I am equally lucky that he loves being a dad. I know there are some dads out there who are not hands on, it is just who they are. But, if these things were not discussed in the beginning on expectations, then you can not be frustrated with them at the end of it. If you are not encouraging them when they are trying, then you can not get mad when they stop trying. If you are not listening to them when they are frustrated, you can not get upset when they stop listening to you. If you are not respectful of them, do not expect them to respect you back. It all goes hand in hand.
Remember, at the end of the day you two are in this together. So you need to stick together through it all as a team, or it is just going to get harder as they get older, and as you get older. Just love each other through the bad days, and celebrate together through the good! Remember, you made these little blessings together, so you need to parent together.
What are some ways you encourage your spouse? It is easy to focus on the negative, but let’s share some positives! Leave your responses in the comments!