Parenting young children is hard. It's even harder if you and your partner are not aligned in your child-rearing strategies. Same Page Parenting can go a long way to removing the obstacles that breed conflict and anxiety.
Significant differences in parenting approaches create inconsistencies that send mixed signals to kids when they misbehave. Many couples come to me for family coaching seeking ways to be more coordinated in their parenting. Inadvertently, one parent will try to counter the style of the other, and this inconsistency creates stress for everyone.
For example, one parent’s style is kind, loving and lenient, while the other's is strict, firm and takes a “tough love” approach. Other times both parents vacillate between styles when reacting to their children, but that typically results in parents feeling guilty, ineffective and helpless. My role is to help parents step out of these patterns to find the right blend that sets respectful boundaries for the parent-child relationship.
There are three critical steps to becoming a Same Page Parenting team.
1. Define your long-term goals for your children and your family.
The best place to start is to chart a vision of what it is that you are trying to achieve as a parent and what you wish for your child(ren). The process is surprisingly easy and can take as little as five to 10 minutes to answer some thought-provoking questions and then share your responses with your partner. What you will likely find is that your values and goals are quite well-aligned. This exercise alone will serve as an anchor that you can return to often to reestablish just how on the same page you really are and want to be.
2. Prioritize near-term areas for improvement.
With family values and long-term goals now in place, it’s time to focus on the specific high-stress situations and behaviors that are creating the most friction in the home. Yes, this might be a long list but get it all out there on the table. Include everything from bedtime struggles, to not listening, setting limits on technology, getting out the door and even whining. Agree with your partner on what are the most urgent items to address and pick a few. Focus on really making an impact on a few issues rather than trying to boil the ocean.
3. Take action.
Once you are clear on the near-term areas for improvement then it’s time to take action. Just knowing your shared values and areas of focus can be a huge weight off for most parents. But where to begin? This is where things get tricky because there is no one-size-fits-all Same Page Parenting manual. We are constantly inundated with parenting advice but here are three areas worth exploring:
- Consult a professional — e.g. a pediatrician, family coach or behavioral specialist
- Access community resources — Take a parenting class or workshop together. Most communities hold frequent events that provide a great way to promote discussion between partners.
- Read a parenting book — There are some amazing resources out there from authors, including Alfie Kohn ("Unconditional Parenting: Moving From Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason"), Jane Nelson ("Positive Discipline: The Classic Guide to Helping Children Develop Self-Discipline, Responsibility, Cooperation, and Problem-Solving Skills") and John Gottman ("Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting").
No matter what tools or strategies you choose, finding that blend of kindness and firmness will be paramount to any successful Same Page strategy.
Taking the time to have these conversations early in your parenting career will be an invaluable investment in your family. Getting clear on your long-term goals as parents will set the stage for your near-term planning. Tackle two or three issues at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed and can measure progress. Take action by getting knowledgeable about resources available to equip you with the skills you will need to be successful.
Same Page Parenting is the journey. Knowing where you want to get to and why is the necessary roadmap. Isn’t it time you and your partner sat down to get on the same page?
Editor's note: This story was originally published in 2017 and was updated in January 2022.
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