Can Marriage Survive Colliding Parenting Styles? (Hint, It’s A Yes IF Certain Things Happen)

No one ever said that parenting was going to be easy!  We all enter parenting with some fear and trepidation. If you are like me, you probably made a vow to yourself that you would never do some of the things your parents did or one parent did.  The interesting thing is that we usually fall into that mode without realizing it because we will parent, generally, the way we were parented. 

My thing was that I would never be a yeller like my dad.  However, I found myself yelling at my kids when things seemed to be totally out of control.  I know that was a difficult thing for my husband because he was not used to people yelling.  He had a hard time with me letting myself get to the point of becoming that yelling person!

 How do marriages survive when parenting styles collide?  I am here to tell you that marriages can and do survive even when your parenting styles may be somewhat different and begin to collide.  However, you have to do some intentional work to make it happen.

Do you talk to your kids or do you yell?  Do you spank or swat?  Do you time your kid out?  Do you enforce bedtime or are you more “loosey goosey” about it?  Maybe your spouse has a very different way of looking at parenting than you do and you find yourselves on a collision course when you try to parent. 

Here are 6 things you can do for your marriage to survive when your parenting styles collide.

  1. Share common goals and strategies.
  • You can’t assume that the other person is just going to do things your way or that your way is the best way. There needs to be open and honest communication between the two of you. 
  • Talk about the expectations you have of your spouse and of your kids, and of how you believe things in your home will run smoothly.  
  • Talk openly and honestly about your fears, too.  Maybe your fears are about yourself and how you might parent because of parenting you had or maybe those fears are related to things your spouse has told you about his/her upbringing.
  • Talk through what you may think is unrealistic in the expectations and talk about how you want to approach parenting together. 
  • Come up with goals for how you desire to discipline and the kinds of consequences that you believe would be appropriate. 
  • Strategize how you might handle certain situations that come up with your children.  Periodically review how things are going and discuss if you need to make some changes. 
  1. Learn how to stand back to back, united as parents. 
  • Your children will push the limits because that is what children do.  You as parents need to figure out how to be a united front so that your children don’t succeed when they attempt to pit one parent against the other. 
  • Work together as a team and recognize that you are on the same team.
  • Your ultimate goal for your children is that they become successful, happy, content adults.  They have a better chance of becoming successful adults if you are united as parents when it comes to discipline, consequences and setting appropriate boundaries for them. 
  • Perfect parents don’t exist. Parents do mess up sometimes. Be willing to admit when you have messed up and work toward doing better the next time. 
  • Help your spouse by having his/her back when you are dealing with issues in parenting.  Even if you, as spouses, don’t always agree, stand together. 
  1. Listen to each other and especially listen for what is most important to your spouse.
  • Sometimes, when you have had a bad day parenting, you may need to vent to your spouse.  You may need to talk through the things that have happened with the children throughout the day.  You need someone who will listen and be supportive and encouraging to you as opposed to someone who finds fault with your style of parenting.
  • Often people think or believe that they are super good listeners.  Usually, they are wrong in that belief.  Everyone can do a better job at listening to one another and paying attention to what is really going on, and listen for what is most important to the other person.
  • Once you have fully listened (which can’t be done if you’re distracted), then ask if there is something you can do to help or make it better.  Your spouse may just feel better having been able to talk about it and feeling she/he has been heard.  Or, the two of you may need to strategize how to handle the problems that have come up.
  • Communicating with one another on a regular basis is most important when it comes to how to parent the children. 
  1. Don’t run interference for the children.
  • It is not okay to jump into what the other parent is doing when disciplining unless that parent asks you to help. 
  • You must learn how not to interfere even if you think things should be handled in a different manner.  This teaches your children that you are not a united front.  They will figure out how to get what they want by going to the other parent if they are not satisfied with the answer from one. 
  • If you aren’t united, they will know which parent will respond to them the way they want!  The children aren’t little devils seeking to destroy.  They are doing what children do and attempting to get their own way or skirt around something they don’t want to do or don’t like.
  • If your children know that you are not working as a team but are at odds with one another in the realm of parenting, they may attempt to get you arguing with each other so they can go and do whatever they want. 
  • Arguing doesn’t solve the problem.  It allows it to continue. 
  1. Don’t correct one another in front of the children.
  • If you don’t agree with your spouse about how he/she is handling a situation with the children, discuss it when you are alone and not in the presence of the children.
  • If an issue is critical, you may need to excuse yourselves from the presence of your children and go to another part of the house to discuss the issue and come to some type of agreement about it. 
  • A helpful approach is looking at the actual situation and brainstorming ideas on how to manage it – whether that is setting limits or consequencing behavior, etc.
  • It is never a good idea to discuss the issues you might have with your spouse related to a child or the children in their presence.
  • Once you have time to discuss things together, the two of you can go to your child or children and talk about the issue and be united in your answers or in your consequences. 
  1. Be willing to seek help when you have tried all of the other steps and are still having great difficulty parenting together.  Help could come from researching an issue or reading good parenting books related to your issues or from a counselor who can help by giving you suggestions on how to move forward.  Whatever the help might be, make sure that it is not one sided but speaks to both of you.

Parenting is never easy.  There are always challenges to be faced.  Marriages don’t have to come apart because your parenting styles collide.  If you take the time to learn how to work together as members of the same team, it will strengthen your role as parents and it will strengthen your marriage relationship. 

You can have a healthy, successful marriage and a healthy, successful family life.  It won’t be without problems and challenges, but you will be much more prepared to rise to the occasion and work through those issues together.  

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