Are Issues Around Parenting Interfering With Your Relationship?
Do you and your partner have arguments over parenting? Or maybe you or your partner have children from previous relationships? Is agreeing on ways to parent kids and step-kids difficult for you? If so, this post will help you identify common problems and get some ideas on how to solve them.
Issues around parenting can have many forms – which fits you and your relationship?
When partners have different views on parenting or different styles, it can create conflict. Additionally, in blended families, families made up of parents, step-parents, kids, and step-kids who come together to make a new family unit, the opinions of outside parents and interactions with current partners can become heated. Often, navigating all the people and opinions that surround parenting can cause significant problems for relationships.
GOOD COP / BAD COP
One partner may feel that his/her partner is too strict with the children and that his/her own opinion on how to raise the children isn’t heard or taken into consideration. Or one partner could feel unfairly responsible for all the discipline in the household or judged for his/her parenting style.
The Strict Parent
The more your partner pushes you to lighten up on the kids and have fewer rules, the more you feel the children need structure and discipline. Tips to change these situations:
1. KID GOALS
Sit down with your partner and discuss what your goals are for parenting the children. Make a list of rules together that you can both agree on. This will likely involve some compromise!
2. SHARE THE DECISION-MAKING
Try not to criticize your partner or dismiss his/her ideas. Each parent should have a say in the final decision and rules. So, think about the issues you feel really strongly about and maybe let your partner decide some of the other things.
3. PARENTING BOOKS
Would reading a book on parenting be an option? Below are several great choices that you and your partner could read together.
The Easy-going Parent
The more alone you feel in your opinion and frustrated that your partner is hard on the children, the less you feel you have a say in the decisions regarding discipline. Tips to change these situations:
1. BE A TEAM
Do your best to back up your partner in front of the kids. If you disagree about something, try to handle it in advance or after it has happened – somewhere out of earshot of the kids. If the children know the two of you don’t agree, that could create more problems down the road.
2. SHARE YOUR SIDE
Try to explain to your partner why you disagree with their parenting style rather than calling it ‘wrong’ or ‘mean’. What are you worried will happen if your partner continues to parent in this way? Do you have any past experiences or emotions that are triggered in these situations? Try framing your thoughts like a DEEP understanding to share with your partner.
3. BE SPECIFIC
Do your best to figure out what specifically you would like to see change. Is it the form of discipline (spanking vs time out), expectations for the children, or tone of voice when interacting with the kids?
4. PARENTING BOOKS
We learn most of what we know about parenting from experience and observation, but there are lots of other good resources out there, too! Check out some of the options below.
YOUR KIDS VS OUR KIDS
Partners may not agree on the rules for children or one partner may feel uncomfortable disciplining the other partner’s children.
The Non-Biological Parent
The more your partner pushes you to become involved with his/her children, the less you want to help. Tips to improve this cycle:
1. FUN TIMES
If you’re struggling to connect with the children, you could set up an activity that you feel confident the whole family will enjoy, especially your partner’s children. Maybe spending time together at the park or at a school function would be an option. This could help by allowing you to feel more comfortable with the children by starting with fun activity.
Discuss with your partner what your role should be with the kids. Does he/she want you to be involved in rule setting and discipline? If so, find a time to decide on what the rules are so you’re not disagreeing about them in front of the kids. Having these conversations early on can help prevent misunderstandings and arguments later. On the flip side, there may be topics or situations where your partner doesn’t want you involved. Getting clarity about what these situations are so you can respect his/her decisions is key.
3. WORK TOGETHER
Work with your partner to create a list of tasks or activities that involve the children and find some for you to do. Maybe you could get the kids breakfast in the morning or help check homework after school? Dividing the time when either you or your partner is responsible or in charge keeps both partners involved as parents.
4. PARENTING BOOKS
If you don’t have children of your own, you may not feel very comfortable being a parent to your partner’s kids. Or, you could be looking for more ideas how to help. Would reading a parenting book be an option for you? If so, see the ideas below!
The Biological Parent
The more alone you feel as a parent, the harder it is to express your frustration to your partner in a productive way. Alternately, if you feel your partner is overstepping, finding a way to create balance without shutting him/her out completely can be challenging.
Tips to improve this cycle:
1. ASK “WHY?”
Ask your partner why he/she isn’t more involved or why he/she is so interested in helping out. Is there something about how he/she raised that is related to how he/she is acting now? Does he/she feel uncomfortable asserting authority over kids who aren’t his/her own? Does he/she feel left out when not involved in parenting?
2. BE SPECIFIC ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT
Try to tell your partner specifically what you need. For example, you might want help with watching the kids or support from your partner when you discipline the kids. If you can identify specific changes you want your partner to make, those can be really good things to discuss as part of your “Respond” conversation.
3. … AND ABOUT WHAT YOU DON’T WANT
If your partner is doing things that you wish he/she wouldn’t, that can also be helpful for your partner to hear. But if you’re going to include something like this in the “Respond” conversation, try to also include something you DO want him/her to do.
4. PARENTING BOOKS
Would reading a parenting book be an option for you? See the ideas below!
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