I remember my first hygiene job out of school, the doctor I worked for was lecturing me about something and he said, “You can either make me look good or you make me look bad (to the patient). Your job is to make me look good!” I always thought back to that in several different situations in my life, but mostly in parenting. Part of our job as a spouse is to make our partner look good in the eyes of our children; but how many times do we undermine or question our spouse’s authority as a parent? You know the saying, “A house divided cannot stand.” I think that really holds true in parenting. Parents (and grandparents, if they watch the grandchildren on a consistent basis) are the authority on rules and disciple and when they are not on the same page it not only causes doubt of authority but it’s also confusing for the child/children. How can children be expected to follow rules or respect what their parent says if one parent is constantly overruling or undermining the other? Here are some strategies to stay united instead of becoming divided when dealing with your children.
1. Create a game plan. Discuss issues before hand as much as possible to come up with common ground and rules of how you expect to handle things and issues. My son’s Godfather says it all the time “You can never over-communicate!” It’s so true! If there are certain rules, chores, duties, and/or expectaions you have of your child, discuss it with your spouse and what you expect the consequences to be if the expectaions are not met. Come up with agreed upon plans prior to presenting them to your child. Failure to plan is a plan to fail.
2. Don’t let em see you sweat… or fight. My parents weren’t the best example of this but, fortunately, I learned this from living with my oldest sister in the summers. I’ll never forget I walked into the upstairs play room and my two nephews were staring out the window. Naturally, I went over to see what they were staring at and it was my sister and my brother-in-law sitting in the car in their driveway down stairs. You could see them talking and their hands moving but they were just sitting there in the car with no intent to drive anywhere. I said “What are they doing?” One of my nephews said, “They’re fighting. They always go sit in the car to fight.” How brilliant! I’m sure they didn’t think their kids were watching them but, still, what a great way to ensure little ears aren’t hearing your arguments! My parents had dirty fights in front of us and I remeber being so scared and insecure. Do you want your kids to remember being scared because you faught in front of them or do you want them to feel secure that you kept disagreements between the two of you where they belong.
3. Be a united front. You are a team, you’re on the same side! You are both trying your best and have the best intentions of raising kind, compitant, and respectful human beings. That, obviously, doesn’t mean your always going to agree on how to go about doing that but you can be supportive even when you don’t agree. Don’t undermine or overrule or correct your spouse when they are disciplining your child (I mean within reason… If they are beating your child or being unreasonable or cruel then, of course, step in). You’re not always going to agree, but for the sake of staying united, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and support your spouse even when you feel they’re doing it wrong. Trust me, there have been plenty of times where I felt like my husband was being too strict or was not being strict enough but I did not step in with my own opinions I stood by what he said in front of our son and waited until we were alone to share my personal opinion of how I felt it should’ve been handled. Once it’s said by one parent in front of the child it should be supported by the other parent (again, within reason). And that is why #1 (creating a game plan together) is so important. The only thing being unsupportive of your partner’s statements will do is cause a lack of repect in the future and confusion. Children need leadership, guidance and rules and when the ones they think are the authority are constantly arguing or one is always correcting the other they will spot a weakness and try to take advantage of it in the future.
4. Make your spouse look good! Kids only know what they have, so sometimes you have to remind them how good they have it. Be your partner’s advocate. Children already are going to be exposed to enough to make them want to rebel so why not try to combat the opposing forces. I tell my son all the time just how good he has it. “Wow! Do you know how much GiGi loves you!? She loves you Sooo much! I wish I had a GiGi like yours!”, “Oh my gosh, you are so lucky to have such a cool daddy that plays with you all the time! You know not everybody gets to have an awesome daddy like you do!!” Enrich your child’s appreciation for their family and you’ll also nourish their sense of gratitude and positivity!
I hope some of these concepts help. I’m certainly not a parenting expert but I do know we all feel like we’re totally messing our kids up most of the time. The bottom line is just to remember the goal is not to fight your spouse, it’s to fight the problem WITH your spouse. Remember, they are your ally not your enemy. So get on the same side and make each other look good!