What To Do When You Disagree On How To Parent Your Children

Psychologist and Author Dr. Kalanit Ben-Ari shares five tips on how to work on balancing your disagreements when it comes to your kids.

people balancing scales

by Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari |
Updated on

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Do you ever have moments when you think that your partner isn’t being strict enough on the children? Maybe they don’t see a problem with putting the children to bed at 8pm, but you prefer 7pm. Perhaps you’re more liberal with screen time but your partner wants to impose clear boundaries. These types of disagreements can easily lead to conflict between the two of you.

This tension, of different parenting styles, is a common issue amongst families. But it’s important to know that the conflict isn’t really about the topic being discussed (bed time, screen use), but the underlying feelings. These feelings might be loneliness, feeling unsupported or misunderstood, or frustration, to mention few possibilities.

Having parents who work collaboratively is crucial for those who want to raise confident, healthy, balanced and happy children. Here are five things you can do to help you become more aligned:

1. Be one in front of the kids

Firstly, if you disagree with some of your partner’s decisions, save it for a private conversation. In front of the children, it is best to be seen supporting each other. This will free the children from manipulative situations, and prevent them feeling at fault for any conflict. It also strengthens both of your authority with them.

2. Change your belief system

Often we are stuck in the belief system that we are right, and so we must tell our partner why they are wrong. But parenting isn’t this black and white and often neither of you are wrong. Some also feel a sense of competition with the other parent.

Rather than be intimidated by the differences, see it as a strength! Each one of you brings different qualities and strengths which means your children, if you know how to work and celebrate these differences, will benefits from all of them. They can take each of your strengths and grow to be more balanced as a result.

Your partner is your best teacher in showing you where you need to grow. Simply asking them ”What can I do so you will feel supported and heard?” will show you where you need to grow.

Parenting is challenging enough as it is, your partner needs an advocator not a blamer.

3. Move forward

The more you pull your energy in one direction, the harder your partner will pull in the other. You need to start by finding the common ground. What do you agree on?

It is easier to have a conversation about parenting issues when you start with your shared beliefs and motives. These could be “we both want to raise healthy and happy children”, “we both want our children to live in a harmonious home” or “we both want our children to have a good and positive relationship with both of us” - the list will be long! The more you find a common ground the easier it will be to discuss differences. Move away from shaming and blaming your partner, to talk about how you feel and what could be the way forward. Once you let your common ground lead, you will find a way.

4. Learn something new

Understanding your partner’s perspective will help you empathise with their point of view. I suggest having a conversation about the ways you were each raised. Your history plays a crucial part in the parent you will become. How did your parents manage differences? How did you feel observing them? What was upsetting for your partner as a child? And which parental model do you want to pass on to your children? Shedding light on those areas will deepen your understanding and empathy for your partner, and this is better place from which to make decisions.

5. Balance the power

If you feel your partner holds the ‘power’ regarding decisions about the children, it might be a reflection of an unbalanced power elsewhere (money, sex, in-laws). Start a conversation about these power dynamics and shift to make mindful decisions together. To do that you need to trust that your partner wants the best for the children, as do you. It is not personal. It’s just that their parenting methods may be different to yours.

Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari is a parental advisor, relationship therapist, author, speaker and therapist supervisor. She is also founder of The Village, the parenting community empowered by experts. With a doctorate in Psychology, Dr Ben-Ari has worked in the field for over 20 years and runs a private clinic in Hampstead, London. She is the author of Small Steps to Great Parenting - an Essential Guide for Busy Parents and children’s book The Lost Book. Dr Ben-Ari is also the Chairperson of Imago UK - an internationally-recognised approach to relationship therapy.

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