Partnering with Your Spouse in Parenting

Who would’ve thought that even a child as young as toddler age can automatically sense when he can pit one parent against another? You’ve seen it in action: the child goes to one parent, asking for candy. When that parent says no, he goes to the other, hoping to get a yes. Once that happens, he now has an action plan for everything he wants to do that one parent prohibits!

It’s hard to imagine that our angel-looking toddler or preschooler can be capable of such under-handed schemes. But it’s human nature: whenever we can’t get what we want, we automatically try to find ways around it. This can cause challenges for parents, who may not be aware that they are getting tied around their little one’s little finger.

And it’s not just something as simple as the child getting away with it. It can cause even more serious problems, such as when the husband and wife end up fighting because of the child!

For Daniel and myself, we decided early on that we would always stay in conversation with each other about major issues in our parenting. We also agreed that, whenever we disciplined our kids, as much as possible, both of us would be present, so that our kids would know that we are in complete agreement with each other.

It's important that you and your spouse sit down and agree on what values you want to uphold as a family, which will then result in rules that you both also agree on.
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4 Helpful Steps for Parenting as a Team

In this post, we hope to share practical tips to help you and your spouse work together—instead of against each other—as you parent your children:

1. Agree beforehand on family values and household rules.

When children know that daddy allows some things that mummy doesn’t, their response is inevitable: they will keep going to daddy for permission. That’s why it’s important that you and your spouse sit down and agree on what values you want to uphold as a family, which will then result in rules that you both also agree on.

For example, you might have different preferences when it comes to nutrition: if one of you wants zero sweets for the kids, but the other doesn’t think it’s a problem, you need to talk about why you feel that way, and come to an agreement as to what you will allow in your house. It may be a compromise somewhere in the middle, but it has to be something you are both clear on.

2. Discipline together.

We don’t do the good cop-bad cop thing in our family. Instead, whenever a child needs correction, we both do the disciplining. That means that, if Daniel was the one who caught the child in the wrong action, he might be the one to make the explicit correction, but I would be standing right there as he does it.

Sometimes this may not be possible, such as when one of us is traveling, but as much as possible, we make it a point to be together whenever we discipline our kids.

There may be times when I would observe and feel that he’s a bit too harsh; I restrain myself and don’t comment on it in front of the kids. Later, when it’s just the two of us, we might be able to discuss it and make action plans for the future.

3. Stay in constant dialogue about parenting dynamics.

Your children are constantly growing, and that means things will also be constantly changing. While your family values will likely remain constant, sometimes, you may have to adjust some of your rules or expectations. You can keep abreast of these changes by regularly discussing things like this with your spouse.

4. Be explicit about your united front to your kids.

When kids think they can manipulate you, they will most likely use that power as much as possible. One way of keeping this from happening is not just to be in agreement within yourselves, but also to present this united front to your kids.

For example, when one of our kids tries to wheedle me into agreeing to something that Daniel said no to, I might say, “You know, Daddy and I are on the same side. I agree completely with what he says, so there’s no use trying to persuade me to let you do this.” Or, if our youngest, Jed, prefers to kiss and hug only me and not Daniel, I would say, “Mummy loves Daddy, too, and when you kiss and hug Daddy, it makes Mummy happy.”

Expressing this united front helps our children come to terms with the fact that mummy and daddy are in this together. And you know what? It also gives them the sense of security that all kids badly need.

Parenting Together

Parenting is not an easy responsibility, but it doesn’t need to be made more complicated by disagreements and misunderstandings between husband and wife on behalf of the kids.

We can avoid this by making sure we parent as partners. This means we are conscious that we are on each other’s side, and we stay in constant communication. That way, we can even give our children the stability they need by assuring them that we are always for each other, and not against each other!

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