All parents come into parenthood with their own ideas about how kids “should” be raised. These beliefs and rules are often influenced by our own childhood experiences of how our parents raised us and lead to the expectations we place on our spouses and children’s behavior. Because these beliefs and rules come from time’s past, they often are highly engrained and passionately held. Therefore there is no doubt that along the road of parenthood, spouses will have starkly different ideas on just how certain situations such as discipline should be handled. A lot of the time these differences can be resolved behind closed doors with a simple discussion but this is not always the case. Studies report that one of the most commons topics couples argue about just behind towels being left on the bathroom floor are children, more specifically child rearing practices. Therefore, you are not alone if you are finding you and your spouse arguing over seemingly simple things such as how your child’s hair should be cut.
All parents want to raise their children to be healthy, happy, and well-adjusted and work hard to ensure their children have the best shot at happiness and success. Interestingly, it is often these very intentions that are behind the passion that becomes the “bowl cut” versus “crew cut” argument that raged for days. These good intentions are often the drivers of the discipline strategies, bedtime rules, and other parenting practices used to raise children. However, when these strategies turn into absolutist rules or musts the likelihood of arguments between you and your spouse will rise when these rules don’t align. Ultimately, working against your very intention! Holding onto your belief in the right way to parent IS important, however holding a more flexible view that allows room for your spouse’s perspective can help reduce the chances of your parenting differences turning into arguments.
If you and your spouse find yourself stuck in frequent arguments regarding parenting practices, this may be a sign for both of you to slow down and take a second to practice some new thinking habits that can minimize the conflict and turn your parenting differences into parenting strengths.
Assumptions make an ass out of you and me- remember that old saying? Well in this case it just might hold some weight. Often time we ass-u-me things about each other’s actions or tactics and jump to conclusions which ultimately lead to arguments. Assumptions often come in the form of if/then thinking. For example: “If things aren’t done my way, then our child will end up a failure.”
Antidote: Absolve the assumptions and jump to curiosity instead of conclusions. Before assuming that if things don’t go your way everything will be ruined, ask yourself: “Is it true?” “Where’s the evidence for that?” and “Are there other ways of handling this?” Next, jump to curiosity…ask your spouse to clarify how they think it will teach the moral or lesson you both are intending to teach. You will find that asking questions and genuinely attempting to understand the other’s perspective can not only extinguish the arguments but lead to a more unified front.
Consider Goodwill Instead of assuming the worst, remember that both of you have the united goal of raising a healthy, happy child. Recalling those good intentions behind your spouse’s parenting differences can help minimize the desire to win the fight and can also replace the negative thinking with a more balanced view and understanding of your spouse’s strategies.
Remember “All roads lead to Rome” There are many different parenting practices and strategies, all of which can lead to your ultimate goal. Holding to this flexible belief about parenting practices can reduce the urge to jump to a negative conclusion about your spouse’s parenting practice and ultimately reduce arguments.
Practice Empathy Remember that Superbowl commercial with the puppy that just couldn’t be without his best bud, the horse, and your eyes started swelling with tears because you could feel exactly what it was like to be that puppy? THAT is empathy. Tuning into what your spouse may be feeling about the importance of a certain parenting strategy as well as exploring where or how this rule came about, can help you better understand the reason your spouse is so adamant about the 7pm bedtime.
Weigh the Costs It is inevitable that you and your spouse will have disagreements on how to raise your child. Before jumping into an argument in front of the kids or letting these disagreements turn into resentment and prolonged anger towards each other, remember to think of the costs of doing so. Ask yourself- Is it more important for the fight to be won or for no fighting to occur? What are the potential consequences for the kids if we aren’t on the same page? Then ask yourself, is it worth it to keep arguing about this? And if not, apply strategies 1-4 regularly and you will notice a shift to a more balanced, sensitive approach to your parenting differences.
Parenting differences don’t have to be destructive. In fact, these differences can provide opportunities for growth for both of you as a couple and as a family with some simple changes in thinking. Minimizing the times you jump to a negative conclusion or assume that the worst will happen if things don’t go the way you think they should go will certainly allow for decreased anger and frustration. These steps can also improve your ability to work together towards your common goal. Holding this more flexible approach to your parenting rules can reduce the chances of fights in front of the kids and increase the consistency of your rules between you and your spouse. So, does it have to be a bowl cut this time or is some variety ok? Because remember, no haircut is worth fighting over.