When Partners Disagree: Tools For Parenting On The Same Page

Seven o’clock rolls around. In our household, that means bedtime ritual begins. Jammies. Brush teeth. Our favorite book. And then…. drift off to sweet dreams and counting sheep?

Ha! Not for us.

Picking out jammies becomes a game of cat and mouse. My husband chases our son. I’m chasing my husband. Brushing teeth becomes an Olympic event and, from the snail’s pace at which we complete this task, we’re not taking home the Gold anytime soon. And then, at last, a book. We sit, we snuggle, and we read. And then we read again. And then the “one mores” begin. “Just one more time. Just one more book. Just one more minute!” Before I know it, one more minute has turned into an hour. Emotions are high, tears are brimming, and yes, there is yelling. 

My husband thinks we need to be more firm. “Let’s put him in time-out or take away something he likes, like reading time,” he suggests.

“What about respecting our son’s needs/emotions?” I counter.  And just like that, my husband and I are locked in a power struggle too. With such different ideas about how best to manage our son’s champion sleep fighting tendencies, is there any hope for us to parent from the same page?

Our ideals and parenting philosophies

According to Dr. John Gottman, when two people have children, a cross-cultural experience occurs. Each parent brings forth a different set of beliefs based upon how they were raised.

William Doherty, in The Intentional Family: Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties, mentions that when a new family system is set into motion, partners have the opportunity to re-evaluate beliefs and values to create a chosen culture within their tribe. The more intentional that culture is, the more the tribe thrives.

“We all come into relationships with our belief systems from our upbringings,” says Burnaby, BC, clinical counselor Allison Bates. “But it doesn’t always mean it’s the best way to raise your family.” 

Given this divide, is it realistic for me to hope that my husband and I will one day be able to meet in the middle, parenting together with a shared set of clear, firm boundaries while still validating our child’s emotions?

What happens when hardwired beliefs and values clash in our parenting styles?

I think my partner is too harsh, where my partner thinks I’m too soft.

My partner prefers a strict routine, where I prefer spontaneity.

My partner is not comfortable with big emotions, whereas I raise the roof on making space for feelings. 

Given this divide, is finding common ground hopeless?

I’ve read enough to know that the way we co-parent can greatly impact our family dynamics. 

Children are concrete learners who thrive on consistency, boundaries, and rituals. Inconsistencies in parenting practices can send mixed signals, leading to confusion and more acting out.

In more extreme cases, “uncoordinated child-rearing,“ as I’m seeing our recent reality called in the literature, can also create anxiety and/or depression in the child.

Color me motivated. I was going to figure this out.

The Science Behind Consistency

In my digging for a solution, I found this little nugget of wisdom, and shared it with my husband:

According to Parent Coach Nicole Schwarz, “When parents are on the opposite ends of the parenting spectrum, kids may show more big feelings with one parent and not the other – often the parent they feel “safer” with.”

Apparently, when children do not feel safe or when they feel that their environment is unpredictable, they resort to brainstem behaviors of fight, flight or freeze, resulting in more power struggles and misbehaviors.

This grabbed our attention.

And then, just in case there was any doubt about our motivations to figure this co-parenting thing out, we read this:

“Although parenting disagreements are bound to arise, prolonged dissonance among partners can echo throughout the rest of the relationship, leading to arguments beyond parenting differences alone. In some cases, relationships collapse.”

There was no question, we were committed to finding a solution.

Finding Middle Ground

We started by putting these six tips into motion:

1. Create emotional and physical safety

Research shows that our brains have a greater sensitivity to negative input; a built-in protection mechanism intended to keep us safe from harm.

Creating a shift of energy that promotes a safe environment allows both partners to feel heard and validated, providing an opening for compromise.

With clear minds and hearts, the sharing of ideas can occur. Ask open-ended questions and then pause to hear what your partner has to say.

According to the Gottman Institute, completing and talking about the following statements as a couple can help evoke safety and connection, a great first step to co-parenting: 

  • I feel that you are a good parent because ____.
  • I feel that my role as a parent is to ___.
  • It’s most important to me for our child to be ___.
  • My goal in raising our child is ___.

2. Listen

Although it can be challenging, it helps to commit to actively listening — to really hear one another, even when you disagree with what the other person is saying. 

This tip helped me shift my goal from convincing my husband to see things my way, to actually listening to what he had to share without feeling that my differing views were under attack. Instead, I validated his emotions, just as I was hoping we could do as a couple for our child. 

It helped for me to remember that his reality is very real to him, just as my perspective is real and valid to me. And although I may not have agreed with what he was saying, in listening to him, I was learning. Every opportunity is a growing opportunity. In embracing this mindset, we are brought closer to one another instead of further apart.

I realized that the ultimate goal was not for me to win the argument but to find our middle ground. This shift in our thinking proved vital. We made it our mission to co-parent in a way that respects our shared values and beliefs.

3. Create a shared vision

So we sat down and we defined our long-term goals for our family. We discussed the desired rules and boundaries and why we felt that they were important. Talking through these sharing prompts helped us recognize how our different parenting styles aligned with our sometimes differing goals:

  • My parents were ___ and I feel that was ___.
  • To me, discipline means ___.
  • What are our parenting strengths (individually/collectively)?
  • The approach to parenting that I most align with is ____ because ____.

4. Prioritize

Here, we took the larger, shared vision we had for our family and focused on addressing the reoccurring, high-stress situations we were dealing with, like bedtime. Together, we became curious as to why certain behaviors were arising from our son.

Daniel Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and executive director of the Mindsight Institute, invites co-parents to ask these questions:

  • Why did our child act this way (What was happening internally/emotionally)?
  •  What lesson do we want to teach?
  •  How can we best teach it?

Answering these questions actually helped us find our common ground.

5. Embrace differences

We began to realize that this was not a clear case of right and wrong and that, as a couple, we didn’t have to have the same strengths to be effective co-parents. And slowly, our parenting power struggles at bedtime lessened, so too did our child’s.

6. Be a united front

It is highly unlikely that you will agree with every disciplinary action your partner makes. As long as you are not concerned with abuse or neglect, be a united front in the presence of your children. Undermining your co-partner in front of your children diminishes both of your authority and sends the message that there is a way around parenting decisions. Discuss your feelings in private and re-visit as a united pair.

What if your co-parent is not interested in same page parenting?

Despite having the best of intentions, ultimately, we cannot force change on someone who does not want to change. When both partners continue to hold different ends of the tug of war rope, asking for help from an outside party can be useful. Parenting coaches, couple’s counseling and/or online parenting courses can help co-parents reach compromise.  

To Sum It Up

So, how did we fare? Well, somewhere along the way, my husband and I put down our weapons, leaned into a few shared goals, and slowly, we started to find some common ground. 

As for our little champion sleep fighter? Well, he’s still a champ, but as our rituals became more consistent, and my husband and I more united, our son has shifted too. 

 

And though I’m fairly certain my husband and I will never parent from the exact same page, I feel hopeful, because “same” is not my goal anymore.

Together is.

_____________

Generation Mindful creates tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through play and positive discipline. Join us and receive joy in your inbox each week.

 

When Partners Disagree: Tools For Parenting On The Same Page

Seven o’clock rolls around. In our household, that means bedtime ritual begins. Jammies. Brush teeth. Our favorite book. And then…. drift off to sweet dreams and counting sheep?

Ha! Not for us.

Picking out jammies becomes a game of cat and mouse. My husband chases our son. I’m chasing my husband. Brushing teeth becomes an Olympic event and, from the snail’s pace at which we complete this task, we’re not taking home the Gold anytime soon. And then, at last, a book. We sit, we snuggle, and we read. And then we read again. And then the “one mores” begin. “Just one more time. Just one more book. Just one more minute!” Before I know it, one more minute has turned into an hour. Emotions are high, tears are brimming, and yes, there is yelling. 

My husband thinks we need to be more firm. “Let’s put him in time-out or take away something he likes, like reading time,” he suggests.

“What about respecting our son’s needs/emotions?” I counter.  And just like that, my husband and I are locked in a power struggle too. With such different ideas about how best to manage our son’s champion sleep fighting tendencies, is there any hope for us to parent from the same page?

Our ideals and parenting philosophies

According to Dr. John Gottman, when two people have children, a cross-cultural experience occurs. Each parent brings forth a different set of beliefs based upon how they were raised.

William Doherty, in The Intentional Family: Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties, mentions that when a new family system is set into motion, partners have the opportunity to re-evaluate beliefs and values to create a chosen culture within their tribe. The more intentional that culture is, the more the tribe thrives.

“We all come into relationships with our belief systems from our upbringings,” says Burnaby, BC, clinical counselor Allison Bates. “But it doesn’t always mean it’s the best way to raise your family.” 

Given this divide, is it realistic for me to hope that my husband and I will one day be able to meet in the middle, parenting together with a shared set of clear, firm boundaries while still validating our child’s emotions?

What happens when hardwired beliefs and values clash in our parenting styles?

I think my partner is too harsh, where my partner thinks I’m too soft.

My partner prefers a strict routine, where I prefer spontaneity.

My partner is not comfortable with big emotions, whereas I raise the roof on making space for feelings. 

Given this divide, is finding common ground hopeless?

I’ve read enough to know that the way we co-parent can greatly impact our family dynamics. 

Children are concrete learners who thrive on consistency, boundaries, and rituals. Inconsistencies in parenting practices can send mixed signals, leading to confusion and more acting out.

In more extreme cases, “uncoordinated child-rearing,“ as I’m seeing our recent reality called in the literature, can also create anxiety and/or depression in the child.

Color me motivated. I was going to figure this out.

The Science Behind Consistency

In my digging for a solution, I found this little nugget of wisdom, and shared it with my husband:

According to Parent Coach Nicole Schwarz, “When parents are on the opposite ends of the parenting spectrum, kids may show more big feelings with one parent and not the other – often the parent they feel “safer” with.”

Apparently, when children do not feel safe or when they feel that their environment is unpredictable, they resort to brainstem behaviors of fight, flight or freeze, resulting in more power struggles and misbehaviors.

This grabbed our attention.

And then, just in case there was any doubt about our motivations to figure this co-parenting thing out, we read this:

“Although parenting disagreements are bound to arise, prolonged dissonance among partners can echo throughout the rest of the relationship, leading to arguments beyond parenting differences alone. In some cases, relationships collapse.”

There was no question, we were committed to finding a solution.

Finding Middle Ground

We started by putting these six tips into motion:

1. Create emotional and physical safety

Research shows that our brains have a greater sensitivity to negative input; a built-in protection mechanism intended to keep us safe from harm.

Creating a shift of energy that promotes a safe environment allows both partners to feel heard and validated, providing an opening for compromise.

With clear minds and hearts, the sharing of ideas can occur. Ask open-ended questions and then pause to hear what your partner has to say.

According to the Gottman Institute, completing and talking about the following statements as a couple can help evoke safety and connection, a great first step to co-parenting: 

  • I feel that you are a good parent because ____.
  • I feel that my role as a parent is to ___.
  • It’s most important to me for our child to be ___.
  • My goal in raising our child is ___.

2. Listen

Although it can be challenging, it helps to commit to actively listening — to really hear one another, even when you disagree with what the other person is saying. 

This tip helped me shift my goal from convincing my husband to see things my way, to actually listening to what he had to share without feeling that my differing views were under attack. Instead, I validated his emotions, just as I was hoping we could do as a couple for our child. 

It helped for me to remember that his reality is very real to him, just as my perspective is real and valid to me. And although I may not have agreed with what he was saying, in listening to him, I was learning. Every opportunity is a growing opportunity. In embracing this mindset, we are brought closer to one another instead of further apart.

I realized that the ultimate goal was not for me to win the argument but to find our middle ground. This shift in our thinking proved vital. We made it our mission to co-parent in a way that respects our shared values and beliefs.

3. Create a shared vision

So we sat down and we defined our long-term goals for our family. We discussed the desired rules and boundaries and why we felt that they were important. Talking through these sharing prompts helped us recognize how our different parenting styles aligned with our sometimes differing goals:

  • My parents were ___ and I feel that was ___.
  • To me, discipline means ___.
  • What are our parenting strengths (individually/collectively)?
  • The approach to parenting that I most align with is ____ because ____.

4. Prioritize

Here, we took the larger, shared vision we had for our family and focused on addressing the reoccurring, high-stress situations we were dealing with, like bedtime. Together, we became curious as to why certain behaviors were arising from our son.

Daniel Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and executive director of the Mindsight Institute, invites co-parents to ask these questions:

  • Why did our child act this way (What was happening internally/emotionally)?
  •  What lesson do we want to teach?
  •  How can we best teach it?

Answering these questions actually helped us find our common ground.

5. Embrace differences

We began to realize that this was not a clear case of right and wrong and that, as a couple, we didn’t have to have the same strengths to be effective co-parents. And slowly, our parenting power struggles at bedtime lessened, so too did our child’s.

6. Be a united front

It is highly unlikely that you will agree with every disciplinary action your partner makes. As long as you are not concerned with abuse or neglect, be a united front in the presence of your children. Undermining your co-partner in front of your children diminishes both of your authority and sends the message that there is a way around parenting decisions. Discuss your feelings in private and re-visit as a united pair.

What if your co-parent is not interested in same page parenting?

Despite having the best of intentions, ultimately, we cannot force change on someone who does not want to change. When both partners continue to hold different ends of the tug of war rope, asking for help from an outside party can be useful. Parenting coaches, couple’s counseling and/or online parenting courses can help co-parents reach compromise.  

To Sum It Up

So, how did we fare? Well, somewhere along the way, my husband and I put down our weapons, leaned into a few shared goals, and slowly, we started to find some common ground. 

As for our little champion sleep fighter? Well, he’s still a champ, but as our rituals became more consistent, and my husband and I more united, our son has shifted too. 

 

And though I’m fairly certain my husband and I will never parent from the exact same page, I feel hopeful, because “same” is not my goal anymore.

Together is.

_____________

Generation Mindful creates tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through play and positive discipline. Join us and receive joy in your inbox each week.

 

Infertility, Treatments, and Stress… OH MY!

By Nattalie Roepke

Have you or your partner had difficulties conceiving? If so, you are not alone. According to womanshealth.gov, 10% of US women struggle with becoming pregnant or carrying to term. Infertility is defined by the World Health Organization as being unable to conceive after 12 months of regular unprotected sex. Some reproductive specialists believe that this is overgenerous. They believe that after 6 months, couples 35 and older should begin the testing process for infertility.

If you or someone you love has ever gone through this, you may understand how difficult it is. 20% of couples who have been diagnosed with infertility, don’t know why. Many others are left with frustrating diagnosis such as premature menopause, low ovarian reserve, PCOS, low sperm count, or endometriosis. All of these disorders are outside of individual control and difficult, if not impossible, to treat medically leaving many couples with no other options except for expensive, and perhaps financially prohibitive, treatments.

There are many aspects about infertility that go unaddressed by medical practitioners. Women and men who discover that they are incapable of having children without medical support experience:

  • Shame
  • Isolation
  • Greif over the loss of this ability
  • Anger at their body or their partner’s body for not working
  • Confusion
  • Regret
  • Fertility hyper-awareness
  • Disappointment
  • Jealousy for other’s who do not have difficulty conceiving
  • Feelings of loss of control over one’s body
  • Guilt
  • Low self-esteem

While you may see a reproductive endocrinologist, gynecologist, and/or urologist for your physical concerns, many forget that mental health is equally important. Because many individual’s experiencing fertility challenges may not feel comfortable sharing them with friends or family, isolation and depression commonly occur.

What Can You Do?

If you have been involved in reproductive treatments for a while, you already know that reproductive health has a vernacular all its own. Step into any online chat community for infertility for the first time and the acronyms and drug names will overwhelm you. Individual’s new to the process may feel completely lost when speaking to doctors and may struggle to even know what to ask.

Reproductive mental health counselors specialize in providing support to individuals who are dealing with the stressors related to this process. As a patient of an infertility clinic, you may dig into supplements and diets all geared to help you produce the best quality eggs or sperm you can. While you are doing all that you can to take care of your body, don’t forget to take care of your mind.

Chronic stress can alter your hormonal balance. In an article written in 2008 in “Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience” researchers were able to tie stress related hormones to worsened pregnancy outcomes when patients are undergoing assisted reproductive techniques (ART). This seems to correlate with anecdotal stories that seem to show that couples are more successful when they are less stressed. Everyone has heard of a couple who tried for years. At some point they stop trying and go on a vacation and come home pregnant. Although this definitely does not work for most couples, lowering stress hormones can increase the effectiveness of treatment.

Help Is Available

Contact a mental health counselor who specializes in treatment of clients experiencing fertility challenges. There are many interventional therapies which can help you reduce stress and become more resilient when faced with the obstacles of infertility.

Meet Abby

Harmony US has a new intern we would love for you to meet, Abby.

Hello everyone, I am a master’s level student in Northwestern University’s clinical mental health counseling program. Having completed a practicum experience through which I provided supervised counseling to a variety of individuals, I am now in my internship year where I am able to provide counseling to individual adults, couples, groups, children and adolescents. My major areas of interest include working with the LGBTQ community, gender, sexuality, and healing from trauma. I am also a major advocate for the idea that counseling is for everyone, ranging from those who wish to heal from trauma to those who are experiencing the stress of every day life. I welcome the opportunity to work with anybody! My approach to counseling is very much relationship based as I believe that a truly safe, warm, collaborative and trusting environment can sometimes be the most powerful aspect of counseling. My hope is that the things you discover about yourself, and the things you learn through our counseling relationship can be applied to your life in order to empower you to become the best version of yourself.

The Advantages of a Cuddle Buddy

The Advantage of a Cuddle Buddy

Have you ever felt that feeling of cloistered peace within a night’s rest, listening to the drifting wind or the soothing rain? That warm sensation that you are watched over, safe and not alone? Perhaps the comforting cuddling of another, despite the struggles and turmoils of the day by day. This elusive ideal sensation of peacetime, of relaxation. It should belong to all, as it astronomically improves one’s well being, and attitude towards life. But what is one to do in the cold, when there is no other to aid in this feeling? Perhaps it may be received as juvenile, rejected, or unsettling, but the positive results are positively undeniable. The solution is to cuddle inanimate, comfortable objects in the absence of another. Sometimes, it is even more advantageous to cuddle inanimate objects in the presence of another partner. Why is this the case? There are two answers to this question, however. The secular advantage, in the chemical balance of the body, or perhaps the more personal perspective from that of one’s own actions. Examining the secular advantage to inanimate cuddling is the simple act of endorphin stimulation. The comforting touch of another, be it inanimate or otherwise, is of a healing process that aids in the reinforcement of safe feelings. This act of routine or occasional relaxation provides a necessary reprieve from the day to day stresses of the singular individual. Although it may seem tacky, it allows one to revisit the instinctive comforts of youth and safety, and allows for a better sense of security overall. The continuous, unchecked anxiety of the individual unconcerned for their own wellbeing can be detrimental to daily life, so it is imperative to keep the anxiety in check and take care of it. When looking from the personal experience perspective, the advantage of such cuddling and relief, be it an object or person, is not totally obvious. Some find it warm, unsettling, or perhaps lack the experience of such practice. But it cannot be denied the relief when, faced with monstrous and overwhelming obstacles, that one simple hug from the correct individual may grant one the strength to persevere and continue to provide their best in the trials ahead. That correct hug, that promise of safety, can be provided by something like a doll or teddy as well if preferred.  There is nothing shameful or condemnable about self-help. It is the responsibility of yourself to tend to yourself and soothe using the tooths that are available to you.   

The Bill of Rights for Parents of Adult Children

Parents undergo a dramatic shift in their lives when the child grows to be an adult. The Parent must learn to treat them as an equal, to transition from being a doting figure to a respected and respectful neighbor. It is a harsh transition, one that leads to many broken hearts or unexpected obstacles. While it is important to make this transition with communication and understanding, there are a few ‘Rights’ that parents should keep in mind while making this move:

  • The Right to be Free from Abuse: There are unexpected scenarios in which a parent of a newly adult child will find themselves in the position of lashing out, verbal abuse, sometimes even domestic abuse. Abuse from anyone is never warranted, so parents of abusers must set strict boundaries with the child to prevent further concern.
  • The Right to be Guilt-Free: Certain Adult children will become abusive in the sense of attempting to put the blame on the parents. This can lead to a sort of rewritten family history in some cases, in the hopes of pinning guilt and or blame on the child. It is necessary to get help if the child cannot forgive, or the parents cannot forgive themselves.
  • The Right to Peace of Mind: It is instinctual in order to take the negative emotions involved with the child’s state of affairs unto the parents’ selves. The parents, however, still have the right and permission in order to take time to enjoy peace, time, jobs, hobbies, or otherwise.
  • The Right to Have Reasonable Expectations: There are certain minimum guidelines by which an adult child should live by when living alongside their parents. Young adults who temporarily live in the same house as their parents, and the parents owned the home, the young adult should be working part-time or going to school, such as with college. They should contribute to the maintenance and good of the household, such as with some cleaning or certain payment. If the young adult is working a full time job, it is expected that they should be responsible for their meals and payments, such as for health insurance and the like.
  • The Right to be Imperfect: No one individual succeeds perfectly at all times. There are scenarios in which even parents do not have an answer to certain problems. But that is alright, each one person has the right to make mistakes, as long as they are aware of their own limitations. It relieves a massive amount of stress when you do not worry about your own imperfections.
  • The Right to Decide What to Do with Your Own Money: The parents have a choice to grant financial support to their child, but it is not an obligation. The parents must consider that they have no obligation in order to financially assist their adult child, even for basic necessities. Be perfectly transparent and forthcoming with financial expectations whenever the child moves back home.
  • The Right to Decide What to Do with your Time: Time is a precious resource that we must not squander. This is highly important when considering the time that you spend doing favors or the like for your adult children. Consider that time spent doing favors may create an expectation that is difficult to maintain. You are your own person, and not obligated to your child.
  • The Right of Selective Association: It is each parent’s, and adult’s, right to choose who they involve themselves with, romantic or otherwise. Most children acknowledge this, or do not care in the matter. However, there are always exceptions, so you must keep this in mind.

 

The Right to Retirement: Each caring parent has, at least a minute, instinct to give away retirement funds and rewards for a lifetime of work in order to support an adult child that has

Massachusetts Mandatory Parent Education Program For Divorcing Parents With Minor Children

By Massachusetts Divorce Lawyer and Divorce Mediator Colleen E. Cunnally, Esq.  Divorcing couples are usually most concerned about their children.  How will my children adjust to the change in our family structure?  How will I effectively co-parent with my soon to be ex?  When and how should we tell the kids?  What questions will they ask?  My ex is placing the children in the middle!  For these reasons and more, the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court requires parents of minor children (even in uncontested cases) to complete a mandatory parent education class.  The order requiring the completion of the class […]

Don’t Shoot Your Eye Out! Tips for Divorced Parents Around the Holidays

It’s the holiday season! Whooooppeeeeee! Time to do fun holiday activities with your kids, buy them gifts, and let them eat all forms of seasonal deliciousness! But, BAH HUMBUG, what if you and your ex-spouse have differing ideas about what is appropriate holiday fun? Every parent wants to be the fun parent.  No one likes to be the Grinch, but what do you do if your ex-spouse’s overindulgence of the kids leaves you feeling like Scrooge? Or, what if the guilt of getting a divorce is turning into trying to make up for it by buying your child lots of […]

Parenting Plan Challenges – Boston Divorce Lawyer

If you are a separated or divorced parent in Massachusetts, you are likely dealing with some disruption today.  I know this because today is Monday, and ends in a “y.”  Of course as parents, disruption is the norm, and we can handle it!   Parenting is certainly rewarding, but also presents challenges – especially during and after a divorce. Combine the regular parenting and custody issues such as communications and coordinating transportation and swirl in a Hurricane/Nor’easter for even more excitement!   The power just went off for the record.  Seriously. Sandy is wreaking havoc with power lines, tree branches, […]