Inviting a new person into your marriage is going to cause some parent arguments. Second to none (okay, maybe one) is having a child. Having children changes the dynamic of your relationship forever.
Where there was once you and your partner against the world, there is now this third, fourth, or fifth wheel. It’s not that you don’t love your children…
What Causes Parent Arguments
The danger is that you’ll love them so much that it causes parent arguments.
Very few things cause more arguments than kids. Kids are stress-inducing little creatures. Parent arguments are an everyday occurrence.
Whether it be arguments over screen time, discipline, or bedtimes, parenting disagreements are going to happen. The trick is to make sure that these parenting disagreements don’t turn into fights!
While none of us our perfect there are some tried and tested ways to deal with disagreements on parenting between you and your partner.
1: Find Common Ground
Remember that you’re in this together. Before you ever had kids hopefully you’ve talked about your parenting styles. Although studies have shown that many people do not discuss these styles before having children or at least don’t discuss the details.
Yet, it’s always best if parents are on the same page in terms of goals and outcomes for children. So if you didn’t talk then, you can certainly talk now.
Share your parenting styles and goals with one another. What types of discipline are appropriate? When are those rules enforced? How much responsibility does each member of the family hold? How does that responsibility change as the littles get bigger?
Finding this common ground is the root of handling any other parenting disagreements that will come along.
2: Explore The Root of Disagreements on Parenting
Why are there parenting disagreements in the first place? Often this comes from a place of shared love, but differing philosophies.
If you’ve found your common ground from the previous step, now you can build upon it by applying that common understanding to your parent arguments.
Has little Billy been naughty? How have you handled it in the past as individuals? But, more importantly, how will you handle it now as a team? Maybe this is a place where you would have argued before, but now it’s an opportunity to be on a team with your partner. How will you handle these types of situations together?
If your child has been around for a while now you have some ideas of the types of situations that cause parent fights in your household.
Go ahead and theorize together how each of you will support the other in the future. If you game out your plan you’ll be less likely to react at the moment from a place of emotion.
3: Think Long Term
Parenting is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Keep telling yourself this. That was true before 2020 made us all insanely busy and distracted. Once you have that kid in your life, they’re going to be there awhile. Hopefully, a long while. That means that you too have to be in it for the parenting long haul. It’s very difficult to complete a marathon by one’s self. You need a team. Fortunately, you’ve got one in your partner.
Build on those previous conversations with your partner. Where do you see your children in 5 years? 10? 20? When you’re gone? How do you both want to get your children to that place.
While these conversations can be another source for parenting disagreements it really helps to have a common long-term vision of the family’s outcome.
If you’re driving somewhere, don’t you want to have some idea of the destination?
4: Handle Those Inevitable Parent Arguments in a Responsible Way
No matter how tight knit a team is, there are going to be disagreements. That’s inevitable. So how does one go about handling those inevitable parent arguments?
First, never disagree in front of the children. You and your partner are first and foremost the team captains. The captains must agree for the sake of the team’s ability to succeed. So if you ever can’t avoid disagreements on parenting, it’s best to work out those issues in private.
Making this support a reality means that you have to support your partner’s play, even if it wouldn’t be the choice that you yourself would make. If your partner has engaged then that’s the call that is being made at this moment.
If you don’t support them, you’ll hurt their credibility as an authority figure and children can sense when they’re dividing and conquering. Better to decompress and debrief after the fact than to hurt your partner’s credibility as a parent.
The caveat to this is if you sense there is real abuse going on. In that case, you’re under an obligation to oppose what’s happening.
Second, do make that time to debrief the situation. Once the situation has been handled in the moment, it’s best to schedule a specific time right then and there that you can work through the particular issue at a later time when you’ve both calmed down.
In our very busy lives, it’s just too easy to lose sight of what’s important. Make the time for it. Schedule it right then. Another great plan is to have a standing parenting meeting separate from your other time with your partner.
5: Defer To Passion
Even if you’ve come to be on the same page on most things, we’re all human. Some issues matter more to one parent than another.
A great way to cool the parenting temperature in your relationship is to try and defer to the parent who has more passion for a particular point. Are parent arguments over issues you don’t care about the hills you want to die on?
Maybe you really want your child to have extracurricular activities whereas your partner is more ambivalent. Great! These are the parenting disagreements we can all live with.
It’s hard to argue from a place of ambivalence, so hopefully, they’ll allow you to take charge. Likewise, know where your partner has their passions and allow them to take charge in those areas. By doing so we play our maximum strengths as individuals for the greater good of the team.
Again, we’re all individuals no matter how closely aligned our team goals are. Use that!
6: Build Back Together
Even if you try, things may fall apart. You might find yourself in alliance with your child over your partner on occasion. If this happens view it as an opportunity to stop, and build back together.
For instance, say you have come to loggerheads on discipline — one of the more common disagreements on parenting. Now, instead of focusing on what’s best for your child, you’re in a series of parenting disagreements that harm not only the child but your partnership as well. What do you do in this situation? How do you get out of this rut?
Head back to step one. Look for that common ground that you have together. Returning to common ground is a quick way to diffuse a parent argument before it gets out of hand.
Remember, above all else, your partner’s choices come from a place of love. Even if you disagree with them. Sometimes that first step of common ground is just the love you all share.
Parenting is hard. It was hard before 2020 became a dumpster fire sliding through a global pandemic. The last piece of advice is this: It’s okay to talk to someone.
Sometimes partners just need to talk to a neutral third party. If you’re having trouble resolving your parenting disagreements, seek help. There are many resources out there from your primary care physician to more specialized classes.
So long as the goal remains the success of the family, you’ll work it out together.