8 Dos and Don’ts for Better Parenting with Your Partner
Posted 4/28/2016 by UHBlog
Parenting is, at alternating times, a joyful, frustrating and stressful experience. If you and your partner aren't on the same page when it comes to raising your children, it can make the whole experience feel that much more exhausting and isolating.
“Couples who disagree about parenting and can’t resolve their differences may have significant stress in their life,” says child psychologist Karen Tien, PhD. “They also might have kids who are struggling emotionally or behaviorally because of those parenting conflicts.”
But with a little bit of humor, compassion, planning and communication, there are ways to get over these co-parenting strains and create a more peaceful partnership and home.
Dr. Tien offers these eight co-parenting dos and don’ts:
- Do anticipate the common issues that will come up during different developmental phases – In infancy, you should be communicating about expectations around behaviors, such as feeding and sleep, Dr. Tien says. During the teenage years, it’s helpful to have prepared ahead of time and established agreements on issues such as screen time, dating, curfews and chores.
“Couples still will need to talk about new issues as they arise,” she says. But having conversations early on can help you understand your partner’s positions – and avoid fights later on.
- Do present a united front in front of your kids – “Generally, arguments are better in private,” says Dr. Tien. “Arguing with your partner about a decision he or she made in front of your children undermines his or her authority with your kids.” In healthy families, both parents need to be respected.
- Do keep your word – According to Dr. Tien, when parents are consistent with rules and expectations, kids are less likely to approach the other partner when they don’t like a decision that was made by one parent. If your child knows that one parent has a weaker resolve, she may keep going to that parent, potentially driving a wedge between you and your partner.
- Do keep a kindly attitude toward your partner – Most parents want the best for their kids.
“When you don’t agree with a decision your partner made, it can be helpful to remember that you're both on the same team and working toward the same goal of raising a happy and healthy child,” she says.
Parenting is a long journey, and supporting a few minor decisions that you don’t agree with – in other words, picking your battles – is good for your partnership and won't cause irrevocable harm to your child.
- Don’t bad mouth your partner to your child – “When a parent gets angry about a decision that his or her partner made and unloads that on the child, that parent is putting unnecessary stress on the child,” Dr. Tien says. Children shouldn’t be expected to play the role of mediator or referee. It puts them in an uncomfortable position where they feel they have to choose one parent to side with.
- Don’t feel like you have to make snap, in-the-moment decisions – Just because your child wants an immediate answer to a request doesn’t mean you have to give it to him or her.
“If your child comes to you and says ‘I want my own iPad,’ it’s okay to say, ‘I understand that but need to talk it over with Dad before making a decision,’” she says. Postponing a decision also gives both of you time to consider all sides of a request.
- Don’t assume your way is the only right way of doing things – It’s natural to think that because you were raised a certain way – and turned out okay – that that’s the best way to parent your own child. Remember: You and your partner come to the parenting experience with varying backgrounds and perspectives, both of which may have advantages.
“Oftentimes your partner has something to say that you might not have thought about,” Dr. Tien says.
- Don’t be afraid to seek outside help or counsel – Parenting isn’t easy. It can be helpful to have an outside person to support and guide you through stressful situations.
“A child clinical psychologist or another qualified professional with parenting expertise can help parents learn about the pros and cons of different parenting styles and help them see how their discipline styles are working or not working with their kids,” she says.
Karen Tien, PhD is a child psychologist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Tien or any other University Hospitals doctor online.