By Denize Suarez written for IT’S July
Whether you and your partner are from different cultures or the same, parenting differences can abound and there are probably moments when your parenting styles clash!
One partner may be stricter and the other more permissive. One partner may be very protective and involved in their kids' activities, while the other may want to give their kids more freedom to explore themselves and make mistakes. In such scenarios, it’s important for parents to come together as a team and find a balance that works for the whole family. With effective communication and a willingness to compromise, parents can resolve these differences and create a supportive and nurturing environment for their children.
So what can you do to make sure you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to raising a family? Here come the ABCs of parenting as a team:
Accept your differences.
Be clear on your non-negotiables.
Communicate with curiosity and compassion.
Accept your differences
One thing many IT’S July families have in common is their love for travel. Do you enjoy visiting new places, meeting new people and experiencing other cultures? You can bring the same appreciation of differences into your relationship with your partner! Many times, conflicts between you and your partner may lead you to feel more disconnected from them. You feel as if you are going through your parenting journey on your own and have no support from the person you wanted to become parents with in the first place.
But when it comes to parenting as a team, everything starts from a change in your mindset. Choose to see these differences in parenting style as a good thing. The differences that you have are what enriches your family. It is what makes your family uniquely you. When you are able to accept your differences, you can see them as an opportunity to connect with your partner and get to know them on a deeper level. What makes your partner think like that? Why does your partner think that is best for your family? Take the time to listen to each other's perspectives and understand why they approach parenting the way they do.
Think about the example you are setting for your children when you accept, and appreciate, your partner’s differences. Not only are you showing them that you will also accept and appreciate your children for who they are, but you are modeling how it’s possible to have differences, love each other and live together peacefully. You lead by example when you show positive behavior and attitudes towards your partner and respect their parenting style, even if you don't fully agree with them. When your children see you working together as a team, they are more likely to adopt similar behaviors and attitudes themselves.
Be clear on your non-negotiables
“But wait,” you may be thinking. “It’s one thing to see differences outside our home but it’s another for it to happen inside our family. Won’t my children be confused by the mixed message?”
Yes and no. Your children will understand that you and your partner are different people with different ways of doing things - but they will also need to know what your family values are and see that these are consistently applied by both parents. This is when being clear on your non-negotiables comes in:
If you haven’t done this yet, now is the time to sit down and talk to your partner about what it is that you both want for your family. Ask yourselves questions like:
What do you want your children to be like when they’re adults?
What type of relationship do you want to have with your children, now and in the future?
What is truly important to you?
What can you be flexible on?
What can you let go off?
Once you have answered these questions, write them down. If you wrote that you want your kids to be confident, curious, empathetic, persistent or able to openly talk to you about anything, get clear on what that means. What would that look like in your day to day? What limits may you need to set?
Be clear also on your reasons behind your non-negotiables. Making changes in your family dynamics can be hard. It’s important that you know why these changes matter to you and your family.
When parenting styles clash, it’s important to respect each other’s boundaries and also understand each other’s needs to find something that works for everyone. This could involve adopting a hybrid approach that incorporates elements of both parenting styles, or finding new strategies that are tailored to the specific needs and values of the family.
Communicate with curiosity and compassion
Now that you know what your family values and non-negotiables are, it’s time to talk about how to make sure they are respected. Nothing will fall into place after just one conversation.
This is when the idea of metacommunication comes in. Metacommunication happens when you communicate about how you want to communicate. Let’s say you and your partner have decided that the children can no longer have sweets before bedtime, but it’s Monday night and you see your partner giving your child a candy.
What would be the best way to remind your partner of the non-negotiables you decided on together? Ask each other in advance, “What can we do when we see each other not doing what we said we would? How can we help each other uphold our family values? Do you want me to correct you after it has happened or right in the middle of the situation with our child?” As you do this, communicate with your partner from a place of curiosity. Even if you have known your partner for decades, do not assume you know what they’re thinking and feeling. When you notice yourself making assumptions about them, clarify these assumptions with them. It can sometimes feel strange and vulnerable to let your partner know what you think they’re thinking about you, but you may be surprised by just how incorrect your assumptions are.
Finally, bring compassion to every conversation you have. Parenting is tough. You and your partner are each doing your best and you both want what’s best for your family. It is possible to speak to each other with kindness even in the midst of a conflict. Whenever it gets difficult, connect to the love you have for each other and why you chose this person to have children with.
Now that you have the ABCs of parenting as a team, what is the next step you will take to apply them in your own family?
Denise Suarez is an international parent coach who helps fellow parents enjoy parenting more. Through mindset shifts and communication skills, she gives parents the tools and support they need to become the parent they want to be - and the parent their children need them to be.
Born in the Philippines and raising her children in Spain, Denise guides intercultural families like hers to appreciate their differences and see how these differences enrich their family’s lives. Learn more about working with her at www.denisesuarez.com