When your Spouse and you Disagree on How to Raise Children

No two individuals are exactly alike in personality and as parents too, there are bound to be differences. One may be a bit quicker to scold or to forgive. One may be more sensitive to appearances and propriety, while the other may focus on results. Problems though arise when parenting styles differ to the extent that the child starts receiving confused signals as to what he/she should and shouldn’t do, all of which is likely to lead to behavioral problems. So if you and your spouse often disagree on how to raise children, here are a few tips on finding a middle path.

Recognize the negative effects of fights

No child likes to see his or her parents fight. When you argue with your spouse about what to do with your kids, you create a stressful environment for them, which could lead to serious behavioral problems in the long run. Fighting with your spouse shifts the focus away from your child — and how they can learn to stop misbehaving — and on to a "parent versus parent" situation. It makes the child not only feel that unloved but guilty that somehow he/she is responsible for the conflict between his/her parents.

Decide to agree on safety issues

Even if you and your spouse have widely different parenting styles, ensure that Safety issues are non-negotiable. There should not be two ways about having your kids hold an adult’s hand when walking on the sidewalk or the kitchen drawer keeping knives, forks etc being out of bonds for small kids.

Be prepared

Very often, changes in children’s behaviors are linked to their stage of normal development. Thus if your kid was a sweet-tempered baby to begin with, you may seem him/her becoming more defiant as a toddler becomes defiant. Again while your preschooler may have started out as a positive child, he/she may surprise you with an occasional temper tantrum. In order to minimize chances of quarreling with your spouse about over such bad behavior, make sure to talk beforehand with your spouse about how each of you would handle these predictable situations. Sit down with your spouse at a time when nothing is wrong and try to agree on ways to discipline. When you discuss things calmly, you're more likely to come up with a plan you can both stick to. This will allow you to talk about what's best for your child, without the urge to be right when things are already heated up. Best of all, being prepared ahead will help you have fewer conflicts when a kid breaks out in unacceptable behavior.

Let your kids see you as a team

Even if you and your spouse inherently disagree on how to raise kids, when before them make sure you present a united front. , no matter what their age Kids instinctively understand when their parents feel differently about disciplining. Thus they will often play one parent against the other, not only to get away with misbehavior but to obtain things which they should not be demanding at all. Thus while a pre-schooler may know to run to Daddy to escape punishment for spilled milk, a ten-year old may find it easier to wear out his Mom than Dad when demanding a new pair of sneakers. The unfortunate thing is that playing one parent against another not only lets a kid off the hook in case of misbehavior, but goes on to it creates a problem between the parents. As far as possible, ensure that your child sees both parents following the same guidelines, at least on the really important issues like safety or giving respect to elders. Even if you and your spouse don’t agree on things like whether to definitely punish your kid for indiscipline or take away important privileges, avoid arguing in front of them. Go along with each other before your kids while you can later thrash out the details in the privacy of your own room. Once your kids start receiving the same treatment from both parents, they'll stop using your disagreements as a way to avoid punishment.

Don’t bring baggage

You may have been brought up according to a particular discipline style or witnessed an ex bring up the kids in a certain way. If your experiences have been negative, you will probably tend to use the opposite parenting style while if your childhood had been a happy one, you may seek to continue with your family’s parenting style – in either case, you may clash with your spouse who has no such baggage from the past. Be conscious about not getting trapped in the past. Instead Look for ways to explore other parenting styles and every once in a while, try and question your assumptions about disciplining children. One good way to do that is to take a parenting class with your spouse. That does two things: It helps you realize how differently other people respond to the same situations you face as parents, and it gives you and your spouse a common base of information from which to develop your shared approaches to discipline.

It is not a control issue

When parents can’t reach an agreement how to discipline and set limits on their children, the children’s behavior often gets worse as they search for the reassurance of stable boundaries to their lives. In such a situation, the main issue of using discipline to teach children appropriate behavior gets lost in the battles between parents for an illusion of control. The children become confused and respond by continuing to act out, both to assert their own power and to figure out which rules are really important. So consider honestly, if your fights over raising kids have their actual source in marital problems between you and your spouse. Are you opposing your husband’s attempts to discipline the kids because he came home last night from an office party or do you genuinely think he is yelling too much? Perhaps your opposition to your wife taking out the kids to a movie in the evening is not really because you don’t want them to have a good time but rather you are irritated at the lack of exclusive attention from her. If you feel that your disagreements with your spouse over how to bring up kids stem from relationship issues, seek to resolve them first so that your kids do not end up as hapless victims in your attempt to control the relationship.