Updated: Apr 17, 2020
Many experts emphasize the importance of parents being united regarding parenting strategies. While there’s no doubt that this kind of solidarity can provide a strong sense of security for kids, we all know how hard it is to find two people who agree completely on anything! Being married doesn’t magically make our differences go away, especially when it comes to our own children.
There’s a lot a stake here–our children’s physical and emotional well-being, their behavior, their education, our finances, and their ultimate ability to function as adults, not to mention our own reputation as parents–all of these things are tied up in the seemingly endless ways of looking at the way we bring up our kids.
Often, when moms come to me for help, they start by saying, “My husband and I aren’t on the same page when it comes to the kids. What do I do?” While each situation is different, there are some things that can help, no matter what you disagree about.
First, sit down and talk about your family. You should each consider your thoughts on questions such as these:
What are your goals as a family?
What are your hopes for your children?
What are the concerns you have regarding your children’s behavior?
What kind of education do you want for your children? etc.
It is essential to be clear about what your own desires are, to communicate them to each other, and to listen to each other regarding your hopes and dreams. Write them down. Find areas you have in common. Discuss the differences you have. There are probably things you assumed about each other that are wrong! Talk through these things, apologize where appropriate, and work toward clarification.
Second, write out some details of how you think your family ought to function, expectations you may never have expressed:
Family dinners together
Regular chores for the kids
Good table manners
Regular family game nights
Friends over for dinner regularly, etc.
As you write these things down and begin to get a better idea of your expectations and which of them you might have in common, it will become clear that you might have to make some changes for them to become reality. For example, if you want your kids to have good manners, you’re going to have to teach them. If you want a family game night, you’re going to have to do some scheduling, etc.
Third, talk through the changes that may need to be made; honestly assess whether or not they are doable and, more important, whether you are able and willing to make them.
Is dad able and willing to be home in time for family dinners?
When will the children do their chores, and who will oversee their implementation?
What, exactly, does “limited technology” mean? Does it mean dad needs to limit his own gaming? Does mom need to curb texting? Will we let the kids watch TV? How much and which programs? What about phones?
Each of these areas leads to multiple questions, and you won’t be able to solve everything in one discussion. Agree to set aside time for several such discussions until you work through everything, or if possible, plan a weekend away to work through it all.
As you dig deeper, you will run into things either you or your husband are not willing to do–maybe he’s not willing to schedule a regular game night like you want, or maybe you aren’t willing to have people over for dinner as often as your husband would like.
What to do?
Here’s what I recommend. Wherever you disagree:
Honestly recognize it and accept it. Do not even think of trying to change your husband, and do NOT accuse him of selfishness, not caring about the family, etc.
Look at your priority list and see how many of these things you might be willing to let go of. For example, could you be happy with the occasional spontaneous game night, trip to the park, or evening walk rather than a scheduled “family game night”? Can you let go of family meals every night and instead maybe plan on two or three?
If necessary, take care of things you view as vital on your own! If the chore thing isn’t important to your husband, but is to you, just do it yourself! Start teaching them a few daily chores, and make it part of the routine. If dad inadvertently undercuts what you’ve asked them to do, don’t get mad at him, just talk with him about it later or make some other adjustment.
You and your husband, while united in many ways, are still individuals with different ways of looking at things. Instead of ruining your life together constantly trying to change him and continually resenting him for what he’s doing or not doing, just accept it. No, it’s not ideal–I wish every family had a clear and unified purpose, and that all parents agreed with each other regarding how things are done.
But the reality is that we are flawed, selfish, and short-sighted. Agree where you can, do things on your own where you have to, talk through the things that you believe are essential, and compromise where possible.Show grace to each other, and trust that your husband truly has the best interests of you and your family at heart.