Is your parenting style different from your spouse’s?
That’s the case in the Daly household. Generally speaking, I’m laid-back and spontaneous. When things get tense, I tend to diffuse the situation with humor. I enjoy using car rides with my boys to have spontaneous devotions.
My wife, Jean, on the other hand, likes consistency, planning ahead and routines. She appreciates the benefits of a regular, dedicated time of family devotions.
Jean and I know first-hand it can be hard work to merge two distinct parenting styles. In some households, the challenges can be so great they strain the marriage. For example, some couples get into power struggles over their children. Differing parenting styles can also cause a sense of resentment in one spouse (usually the father) over how highly the children are prioritized.
The good news is, with intentional effort, couples can overcome these common marital pitfalls. To that end, I want to give you some helpful advice from our marriage experts and counselors here at Focus on the Family.
1. Communication is key
So often when a conversation gets heated, the issue at hand isn’t the real issue. Seek to understand what’s going on below the surface and in your spouse’s heart.
That’s why it’s important both spouses communicate with an open heart. You might need to spend a little time thinking through what your spouse said before you come to a final decision on an important or difficult issue. That’s okay. It sometimes takes a little time to get our hearts in the right place.
2. Anticipate and Prepare
Be proactive in thinking through the challenges that lie ahead. Make time to talk about what you know is on the calendar. For example, what are the parameters you want to establish for dating or a Friday night curfew?
3. Recognize your spouse’s different style is a gift for the family
Jean and I had an “ah-ha!” moment when she voiced her frustration that I didn’t adequately plan family devotion time. I explained that I did take the responsibility seriously – I just tend to the need in a different way than she does. We ultimately realized the boys benefit from our differing styles: my spontaneous chats and Jean’s methodical approach both offer something unique to Trent and Troy.
That’s why it’s vital parents see their differences as something to be valued and appreciated and not sources of frustration. If understood and appreciated, God can use our differences to complement one another and ultimately make us stronger as a couple. Our kids also reap the benefit of that good and balanced middle ground.
4. Be flexible and give in
Many times children become the proverbial rope in a tug of war when parents have conflicting approaches.
Avoid disputes and power struggles where you can by being willing to compromise, or to try it your spouse’s way. Be willing to lean on each other’s wisdom, experience and ideas.
5. Watch for the subtle social pressures to be a child-centered family
We live in an age of designer preschools, lavish, Pinterest-inspired birthday parties and extracurricular activities of all kinds. This pressures parents to put their children ahead of their spouse in terms of time, attention and emotional energy, and that can strain the marriage.
However, perhaps the best gift you can give your child is a strong marriage. It provides tremendous emotional security for children when they can see that mom and dad love each other even more than them. So, for the sake of the marriage and the children, make the time and effort to work on your relationship with your spouse. A healthy marriage is the foundation of a healthy home.
I hope these five pieces of advice are helpful to you and your spouse as you work your way towards parenting common ground. If you want more information on parenting topics, visit the parenting section of our website. Also, you can talk with one of our family help specialists by calling 1-800-A-FAMILY.