Many couples experience conflict related to child rearing, as each parent brings their values and experiences to the table. It can be difficult to present a united, consistent front when conflicts arise and research shows that 29% of parents wish they were more consistent with their parenting behaviour.
Differences in opinion between partners are extremely common, and it’s even more prevalent when it comes to raising kids. There can be several reasons why you and your partner make different parenting choices, including:
- How you were raised
- Your personalities
- How busy you both are
- Different views on discipline and children’s chores
- Conflicting attitudes on freedom and levels of risk for children
- Differing opinion on choice of schools and extra-curricular activities
Conflicts most commonly arise surrounding discipline. If you are easy-going, you might put up with a lot more than your partner is prepared to tolerate, and if you are a strict disciplinarian, your partner might think you are too hard on the children. Whatever you disagree on, it’s important to find ways to work through your differences for the benefit of the children. When parents argue about children it is often harmful, as the children tend to think it’s their fault.
Raising children is the most complex job you’ll ever do, and conflict is inevitable, but when parents can agree on the important things it makes things much easier. Thankfully, it’s never too late to talk about your parenting values and develop some guidelines to help you in the years ahead.
Parenting tips – the 7 things you and your partner should agree on
According to expert parenting advice, there are seven things that almost any parent can – and should – agree on when it comes to raising their kids.
1. Build resilience and connection
Helping your children develop resilience will support their self-confidence and allow them to cope when you’re not around. The Raising Children Network provides great parenting tips on developing resilience and establishing boundaries.
It’s also important to support children to learn how to talk and engage in conversation. Families who have dinner and conversation at the dinner table (without the TV on), often have greater resilience and connection. If you’re struggling to think of conversation topics you can talk to your children about, try discussing family plans, holidays, age-appropriate news, school and their friends. Make it casual and avoid sounding as though you are interrogating them.
Ultimately, family conversation creates trust, whilst teaching children they can discuss and disagree on matters, but still love and care for each other.
2. Give your children limits and choices
Children need rules and limits to help them feel safe. They should understand that parents make most of the important decisions that affect them and understand the reasons why. But as they get older, it’s important to allow children more of a say about what happens in their lives.
Even when they are little, children benefit from making some decisions, because they learn from making good and bad choices. If you keep rescuing children from their own decisions, you are preventing them from learning valuable lessons.
Don’t be too concerned if children push your boundaries at home as it’s a good way for them to rebel and assert their independence in a safe way – better they test the limits at home than out in the wider community.
3. Mean what you say
If you make idle threats without follow through, children soon learn that you are not true to your word, and they will be less likely to adhere to your boundaries and rules. Be realistic and timely with your punishments and threats. Instead of “Santa won’t bring you any presents this year” try “we won’t go to the park this afternoon”.
4. Talk to your children
Make sure you talk to your children every day about issues big and small. No matter how frivolous they may seem to you, the more you engage with them about their worries and problems from an early age, the more likely they will continue to confide in you into adulthood. Talking about what’s happening in the family, at school and in the wider world is a wonderful way to build trust, show interest and show them they are loved. Create the habit early, before the complex teenage years have begun.
5. Give them your time and interest
Being interested means you spend time playing Lego, dressing dolls, bowling cricket balls, playing board games, baking a cake, reading the school newsletter, listening to a detailed account of how a sporting match or dancing class went, learning how the latest bit of technology works or listening to their current favourite song – you’ll often have fun, learn a lot, and it helps keep you young and connected to them.
It is important for you to know who their teacher is, who their friends are, their interests and to recognise when they are behaving differently. If you know your child well you will recognise when they are upset, worried or unwell and know how to support them.
6. Be honest
Being honest with your children helps build a foundation of trust. If their birthday present request isn’t in the budget, be honest to avoid future disappointment. However uncomfortable, give them honest answers about life and death, sexuality, parental mistakes and world news. Keep your answers age-appropriate and apologise if you make an error. It’s better they learn things from you than from a dubious website or in the playground.
7. Be fair
Children are quick to pick up on what they consider to be unfair, so try to be balanced. If one child gets lots of parental time, treats and rewards because they are talented at something, it doesn’t mean that the other children should miss out. Try to balance your time and weekends fairly among all your children.
Siblings know each other longer than anyone else in their lives, so the more you do to encourage good relationships between them, the better chances of a healthy, lifelong friendship.
Remember: there are very few absolutes when it comes to raising kids
At the end of the day, even with all the parenting tips and advice, there are very few unwavering rights and wrongs when it comes to bringing up children. The most important thing is your children feel loved, cared for and safe.
A few final things to keep in mind:
- You are the most significant role model in their lives
- Children need consistency, routines and boundaries
- Children are individuals – what works for one child, may not work for the other children.
If are struggling to communicate with your partner and can’t have conversations about raising the children without anger and conflict, consider seeking help from a counsellor.