It’s tough at the best of times to parent. It’s even tougher when there’s more than one of you.
Remember before you had kids? You had it all planned out in your head, and you knew exactly what kind of parent you were going to be, and how you were going to do that.
And then, there were two. Two of you, and that meant you weren’t alone in your parenting decisions, styles, or ideas. As a parent, you instantly become one half of the team. Difficult for some, especially if you’re a take-charge kind of person, but if you’re going to parent successfully, it has to be done as a partnership.
Like marriage, parenting is teamwork, and like any team, you need to get to know your opponent so they become not only your ally, but your confidant, support system, and partner. It may be difficult to take a step back as commander and settle into the role of member, but remember who you’re doing it for, and the motives behind it. As a parent, your role is to empower, lead by example, and show a united front, so that your kids grow into confident, self-assured team-players themselves. So what’s important here, and how do you do that?
1. You’re a Partnership. Be A Partnership.
Before any partnership can be successful, you have to understand them. Learn about your partner’s parenting styles. Everyone has different ideas and styles, and at the end of the day, each of you will have something constructive, important and valuable to contribute. Make sure that your styles compliment each other. If some don’t, that’s okay, but talk about when a parenting style is ok to institute, and when not. If you’re not sure, discuss it. When it comes to consequencing, (not punishing, there’s ever a lesson in that), ensure you’re both on the same page for that particular incident or issue. Let your partner know how you’ve handled things, what was said, and what, if any, were the consequences. The last thing you want is to confuse your child. There should be no “well Mommy said”, or “Daddy said”… Be consistent. Don’t belittle your kids either, while you’re having your discussion with them. Always be thinking how you can fill their empowerment cups.
2. Create a Plan-Of-Action.
Before any action plan can work, there must be open communication.You’ve got to share the reigns now. That was a hard one for me. Being able to have a conversation about your parenting styles is tantamount. Discuss the 5-W’s of how you’re going to parent; What, Where, When, Why, Who, and How. Don’t forget to tag-team the other person if you’re not able to keep your cool or if things begin to escalate in your little one. You can also disengage, take a few minutes for your own time-out, regroup, collect your wits, and come back. You’ll get more leverage out of of parenting this way, and you’ll also be teaching your child about emotional control and ownership of one’s emotions.
3. Agree to Disagree.
For some, this means taking that back seat and listening to what your partner has to say. Hear what they have to say, without being reactive. Nothing good ever came from impulse. Be considerate. Listen. Think, Consider. Acknowledge and validate.
You may not think at that moment, their ideas or how-to’s are amenable to you, so take it in, let it brew in your mind so you can respond in calm, and revisit. Let your partner know you respect their ideas, otherwise, you’ve lost even before things have begun. It’s great to be able to have a discussion about certain ideas, because often better ideas come to the surface. And, it’s another great bonding opportunity for you and your partner.
4. It’s all about the Compromise.
If you’ve agreed to disagree, in fact what you’ve inadvertently but constructively done, is create an open space for further discussion to compromise. Like marriage, it’s not about making concessions, succeeding everything, relenting, or just giving up. It’s about the journey. The compromise. Not only is this another great bonding opportunity for you and your partner, but you can actually work a lot out and learn about each other when you’ve learnt how to compromise, and have had an opportunity to see how it feels to be successful in that. It’s what I call the “experience of the experience.” If you haven’t felt how good something feels, you won’t necessarily remember it when you need to.
Don’t forget to let all your caregivers know how you parent, so there’s even more consistency for you and your child(ren).
In practice for over 12 years, Lauren Millman is a highly sought-after Toronto Marriage & Relationship Coach and Counsellor, Mental Health Practitioner and Parenting Specialist, and is a member of the Ontario Association for Family Mediation. Lauren is a regular guest contributor on TV’s Rogers Daytime! York Region, and The Mediation Station. She has also been a guest on SiriusXM Radio Canada. Lauren is an international best- selling author, writes regularly for several online publications including Brazenwoman, PinkandBlue North America, and SiriusXM Canada, and was recently featured in the Toronto Star. Lauren continuously gives back to the community. In 2014, Lauren was the Recipient of the International Women In Leadership Award.