Kids are high stakes. Once we become parents, and often before we welcome the little one earth-side, we plan to give our children the absolute best start to live a life of joy, peace, and prosperity. With only very rare exceptions, parents want to give their kids the absolute best start in life.
So, why then do married couples argue so much about their children?
It can be complicated, we are complex social beings, of course, but usually, it’s relatively simple. You and your spouse both have the same goal (health, happiness & success for your child) but different ideas on achieving it.
Because the stakes are so high and our emotional involvement so deep, differing perspectives related to parenting can sometimes feel threatening. This is why, when managing parenting topics, it is essential to approach them with extra sensitivity to acknowledge the highly personal nature of our differing opinions.
How to Have Productive Discussions About Parenting When You Disagree
- First and foremost, this conversation needs to be private. Children, especially younger children, will not be able to separate themselves from the topic of the argument. They may feel responsible for their parent’s disagreement, creating a sense of shame. While I wholeheartedly agree that it is essential for children to witness healthy “rupture and repair” in a relationship, arguments that involve them typically are not appropriate.
- Remember the bigger picture. You and your spouse have the same goal – giving your children the best. Keep this in mind, and you’ll have a great foundation to work from.
- Listen to your partner – genuinely try to understand where they are coming from. We all bring our own experiences, biases, and beliefs to the parenting table. Not to mention, being a parent often triggers memories, unpleasant included, from when we were a child. If your spouse communicates experiences with you, practice active listening and compassion.
- Share your perspective. Why do you feel the way you do? Why is your strategy the best one? If you don’t know why – that’s okay – just say it. Often we feel one way but cannot explain it until we start talking it out.
- Return to your goal and create an action plan with your spouse. When making decisions, it’s always best to strive for collaboration and consensus. In some occasions, compromise is the best solution, and that’s okay too. However, if either of you is immovable from your perspective, return to step 3.
- If you find yourself getting continuously stuck in extreme or polarized positions, consider if your differences are perhaps a manifestation of some other issue in your marriage – like poor trust or communication.
- Get help – parenting can be hard, especially if you’re having other relationship challenges with your spouse.
Statistically, children who grow up in happy, healthy, 2-parent households feel more supported and have better lifelong outcomes than their peers. There are substantial caveats here, especially in terms of abusive households, but in general, this statistic holds true.
A professional relationship coach can assist you in navigating your parenting and relationship challenges so that you and your spouse have all the tools and knowledge you need to help give your children the best possible start.
While no one wishes to argue, the fact that you and your spouse do about your children shows how much you both love and care for them. Use this opportunity constructively, and you’ll find that your arguments about parenting will fade away. Instead, disagreements will be an exercise in uniting your collective front and acting with understanding and cohesion. Your kids will thank you. Maybe not today, but when they’re adults themselves, I promise they will appreciate it.