parent opinion

'I completely disagree with how my partner parents our kids. What should I do?'

Parenting can be tough if you and your partner are not on the same page. You might think they’re too hard on the kids... or too lenient. You might hate being the bad cop all the time. Or you might find yourself siding with the children against the other parent because you just don’t agree with how they’ve handled something.

Children, especially adolescents, appear to love this chasm opening between you and they soon learn who to approach to get a "yes". 

But in reality, they would rather have a unified approach (at least on the surface) because then they know where the boundaries are, and boundaries feel safe.

Watch: The Mamamia team share the things they've been keeping from their partners. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

Why do we expect to parent the same way as our partner? We are two individuals with our own families of origin. Most of us love some things about our own childhoods, and we want to carry on the traditions. But there are other elements of our upbringing that we are determined not to replicate when we have children. 

So what happens when these two individuals with their own backgrounds try to create a new parenting recipe? Some couples stumble and fall but get back up again, while others fight non-stop.

If you keep having the same arguments over how to parent the kids, stop and ask yourselves: Have we worked out our parenting recipe? Have we agreed on how to manage normal child and adolescent behaviour? Have we even talked about it? 

If you haven’t discussed your families of origin and how you were parented, you’ll be amazed by how much your understanding of each other grows once you start to delve into this subject. Countless conversations need to happen over many years as the kids grow up. Being on the same page is impossible without these chats behind the scenes. 

And the page you’re both trying to be on is a very large page – definitely A2 or bigger. That’s because we don’t have to agree on absolutely everything.

Many adult children tell me that they loved and respected both parents (and stepparents) irrespective of how strict they were. It’s just not the case that kids love the good cop more than the bad cop. But they do know who’s who and that’s okay.

Real problems arise if you’re not just unhappy with how your partner parents, but when you’re really worried about the kids because of how your partner is parenting. You might be concerned about a child’s safety because they are being given too much freedom and they are making some bad decisions. You might be troubled by how withdrawn a child has become because they seem afraid to upset your partner. You might be worried about their education or their health because your partner doesn’t back you up when you’re encouraging study or a healthy lifestyle. Or you might think the children are feeling too much pressure because there is too much talk of study and healthy living. 

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Other serious issues arise if the parents don’t agree on the treatment approach for a diagnosed problem or if one parent is uncomfortable with the influence of the other parent’s extended family on the children. 

As both clinicians and parents, Dr. Ginni Mansberg and clinical psychologist Jo Lamble know first-hand how challenging it can be to raise adolescents. This is why they're the hosts of Mamamia’s parenting show, Help! I Have A Teenager. Post continues below.

Whether the disagreements are over small issues or the more important matters, try to start any conversation with an attempt to understand where your partner is coming from. 

"You keep getting upset when you come home and you don’t see them studying. Are you worried that they will fall behind?"

"You seem very stressed when you see them eating a snack. Are you concerned about their diet?"

"You really don’t want them to take the medication. Can you tell me why?"

"You seem angry a lot lately, especially around the kids. Are you okay?"

"I know you love your family, and you hate me criticising them."

Starting a conversation with an attempt to hear your partner will increase the odds of a productive chat. Even if you don’t like what you hear, keep asking questions until you’re completely clear about what your partner is thinking and how they’re feeling. 

Then I’m hoping that they will give you the same courtesy - they need to hear what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling. When we feel heard and validated, it is easier to hear and validate others.

Every conversation needs to keep what’s best for the kids in the very centre. Now you might not agree with what’s best for the children, but sometimes we forget what we’re fighting for – we just want to win the argument. 

Hear why your partner thinks it’s best to handle a situation a certain way. If you see their reasoning on why their approach might be best for that particular child, it can be easier to support the cause. 

Agree to go into any discussion with an open mind. Agree to trial an approach and see if it works. Agree to back each other up in front of the kids and discuss any disagreement in private. 

A different approach is warranted if you’re a stepparent and you don’t agree with how your partner is parenting their child. All you can do in this scenario is gently (and privately) express your concerns if you have any, but your partner’s kids need to see that their mum or dad has your support. 

And if the disagreements on parenting you’re having are with your ex, then do all you can to align with whatever is best for the children, for their sakes. 

Kids do cope with having different rules in the two households, but you’ll get better buy-in from the children if most of the rules match.

Did you know we have a whole family focussed community you can join on Facebook for more discussions like this? Join the Mamamia Parents Facebook group and follow  Mamamia Parents on Instagram and tell us what #parentinglookslike for you!

Feature Image: Getty.

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