What Do You Do When You Disagree With Your Partner?
What do you do when you and your partner don’t agree on a parenting decisions?
So you’ve had ‘the’ conversation about having children; you both want them; you’re going to be the strict one, you decide, and he’s going to be the lenient, indulgent one. You’ve agreed on their religion, or lack of, and that they’ll attend a co-ed school. They will be well behaved, well-adjusted kids. By the end of the conversation, you’re both content in the knowledge that you will co-parent beautifully, that you’re a parenting match made in heaven.
Then the baby comes.
As much as you both might agree on what you consider to be the bigger issues in life - morals, ethics, social issues - when it comes to the nitty gritty, many parents are in for a shock. You don’t believe he should be allowed to ‘cry it out’, your partner thinks you’re spoiling him. You think she should climb trees, get dirty, take risks, he feels that you’re being careless. In an ideal world, you’ll both agree to disagree and find a middle ground, but sometimes, oftentimes, that doesn’t happen.
Gillian Buckley, psychotherapist with Mind and Body Works agrees that it’s often the things we take for granted that cause the most problems. “Topics such as diet, sleep and discipline are often assumed until faced with parenthood. How we have been brought up ourselves gives us our personal sense of ‘normal’. This greatly influences our parenting styles. When the parenting styles differ, disagreements can arise.”
So, according to Gillian, the main issues that couples go head-to-head on include: the use of devices and screen time, the types of food, and the amounts of food children eat, and how children are spoken to. “Discipline is a big one and comes up in almost every relationship - some of these things come to light as the baby develops into childhood.”
Consciously or subconsciously, we all have markers for what we feel will give our children the lives we think they need. That could be success - financial, career or relationship. For others, confidence and being able to stand up for themselves come first, and for others, it’s simply about enjoying life with no pressure. Oftentimes, it’s not until we have children that we’re faced with these underlying beliefs in what we feel life should be. More often than not, that’s due to the conditioning we received in our own childhood, or while growing up. So it’s no wonder that, faced with these revelations for the first time in both of your lives, while also being tasked with raising a child and all the mayhem that brings in the early days, that things can get heated.
“Both parents often feel they have the best intentions for their child at heart,” says Gillian, adding that when these differences occur, one partner can feel defensive if the other challenges their parenting decisions. “This can be a real pressure point, as both individuals are seeing things from their personal experience of childhood and communication can break down between the couple.”
Our expectations can also play a role, says Gillian. “For example; after having the kids all day, it’s not uncommon for a mother to expect her partner to take over minding the children as soon as he’s in the door from work. After a busy day, he might need some downtime also.”
With both partners feeling that they’re in the right, and with both possibly lacking the resources of clear thinking due to exhaustion and a lack of time for each other, it can be a recipe for disaster. The key to creating a united front to raise happy, well-adjusted children, suggests Gillian, is communication.
“Talk about your childhoods. Identify what you liked, what you didn’t and what you would like for your child. Conscious parenting is about becoming mindful of your behavior and seeing your child as the unique individual that they are. Children feel most comfortable when both parents are united. It is important to respect each other and the parenting decisions you have made together.”
While it’s easy to get caught up in your role as a parent, it’s also important to nurture your own relationship, to support each other, so that your partnership is strengthened, suggests Gillian. With a stronger relationship, as a couple, you’re more likely to weather the stormy periods that occur in most parents’ relationships.
Have you and your partner had disagreements over parenting decisions? How did you overcome them? Let us know in the comments section.