You know I love giving McSweetie a hard time. I rib him constantly on his lack of finesse when it comes to loading the dishwasher or when he puts food garbage in the recycle bin. That makes me SO STABBY! But I move on. I step away and don’t smother him with a pillow, because I’m nice like that.
But what I have learned over our married life is to not sabotage his parenting. It truly comes down to sometimes just biting your tongue.
Now that the kids are older, we parent together but differently and over different things. Not like in the olden days when there were bedtime routines to struggle with, or sleeping habits of a toddler to argue over, or what to do with a whiny child and how long the time-out should be.
I look back on those days though and remember they were a struggle. Parenting was more physical, more taxing. Now I feel emotionally drained as a parent. Helping my daughter through heartbreak or anxiety over teen stuff is more of a thing around here than whining over a cookie before dinner or struggling with a preschooler during naptime.
Sometimes I get attitude from Owen. He seems to be in a confused place of little boy on the brink of teenhood but with surging emotions and he has even said to me, “I just don’t have words and all I can do is cry!” Sometimes I want to go soft on him and James will want to be the tough guy on him.
So sure, we differ on our parenting styles, like most parents do.
But of all the things to do with your spouse and disagreeing over how you parent your kids, try not to fall in these sabotage scenarios that will only set a lit match into a powder keg.
Number 1. Probably the most important of all. Do not say, “He never does that around me. What do you do when you’re with him?” Another version of this is, “Why does she always act like that when you’re around?”
Kids behave differently for different people. Even their parents. This is true especially with grandparents. Sometimes the primary caregiver gets more ‘stuff’ thrown at them when they’re with the children day in and day out.
So maybe if you see the kids mostly in the evenings and the weekends, your time with them is different than how they are at school or during the day at home. Kids can be tired and spent from trying to behave in front of teachers all day. Or maybe the stuff you get to do on the weekends is fun and the kids get to let off steam around you. Obviously they are going to act and feel different during those times.
Number 2. Don’t say ‘shut up‘ around the kids to each other or to them.
I firmly believe in this. It has been a rule in our house since the day we were married. When you say shut up to someone it completely negates their validity. It takes away compassion in the argument, it tells the other person that no matter their pain or feelings, you don’t want to hear them. And you know what, it hurts feelings and cuts like a knife.
Number 3. Don’t belittle your spouse in front of your children. If you want to criticize something your partner does, by all means, go ahead. But don’t say it in front of your kids. Okay, well, say it in front of your kids but in a way you would want them to say it to their peers, or their superiors. Speak to your children the way you want them to speak to you. I’m guilty of saying something like, “How come you always do it wrong?” But if Emma talked to Owen that way, I would step in. So instead I should be saying, “I know how you do it gets the job done, but could we try my way to make it more efficient?”
Yes those are more words and more work. I know our fuses can be short. But isn’t this where our love, commitment and effort come into our relationship?
Number 4. Crop dusting your spouse with a task as you walk out the door. You know what I’m talking about. You’re heading out with your girls for the latest Benedict Cumberbatch film and you tell your husband, “Oh hey, while I’m gone, be sure Timmy learns to ride a two-wheeler, and Julie needs to build a rocket ship for the Science Fair.” I mean, maybe that was your husband’s plan while you were out of the house, but if you catch him off guard, he might feel a huge obligation he can’t meet, which puts him on the defense.
The fact of the matter is, your kids love both of you. Whether your spouse parents differently than you do, your children probably love you the same. Just like your spouse loves your children as much as you do. Different styles don’t mean different love.
Focus on that, take a lot of deep breaths and choose your words. And as much as you can, always choose kindness.
Thanks for this round of joining me as Dr. Phil. I try to keep it real folks.
I want to hear about the parenting landmines you try to avoid, share them in the comments or email them to me!