We’ve all heard the advice, right? Don’t fight with your spouse about parenting Be a united team — especially in front of the kids.
You know this intuitively, and I’m sure that most of the time you and your spouse actually do agree about parenting decisions. It’s just those few difficult situations where you cannot come to agreement.
Keep reading for 3 questions you need ask about every parenting battle with your spouse.
For the first 18 years of our marriage, my husband and I got along well. We rarely fought. We had differences in our parenting styles which sometimes caused ruffled feathers between us, but it was never a super huge problem.
Then a few years ago, one of our children started to have serious behavior issues. Despite the fact that we are united in our goals and values, suddenly it seemed like we were nit-picking and fighting about parenting decisions constantly. What was happening?
After talking with other friends, I’ve learned this is not unusual. Marriage problems can often occur with the stress of a difficult child, whether that be a wayward teen, a child with special needs, or other crisis points with your kids.
You are on the same team, but it gets tough.
3 Questions You Need to Ask About Every Parenting Battle with Your Spouse
Maybe parenting has becoming a sticking point for you and your spouse, and you find yourself arguing often. Consider these questions about your relationship.
1. Are you fighting in front of the kids?
I’m going to come right out and say I’m not one who says you should never fight in front of your kids. I’m not talking about the knock-down-drag outs, because those are scary for kids. Some topics are defintely for only behind closed doors.
But how will your children learn to handle disagreements in their own lives and marriages someday, if they never see you disagree and then come to resolution?
You need to model healthy, realistic behavior for your children. If this isn’t happening, something needs to change.
Your kids also know when you and your spouse are giving each other the cold shoulder because you are in the middle of a disagreement, so don’t try to pretend it’s not there. That is so annoying and fake to me. If you think your kids don’t pick up on that, you are wrong.
I think it’s much healthier to be honest without giving details, like, “Your dad and I are talking through some things. We are are working on it. This is between us. We are committed to each other and will stay married forever.” — or whatever is realistic, is true, and how you would say it.
2. Is triangulation happening?
Welcome to the world of triangulation. My husband and I had been foster parents for years before we adopted our two youngest children, plus parented our oldest 3 kids, and we feel pretty confident in our parenting skills. We’ve been to all kinds of trainings, had therapists in our home working with us, and have years of experience as parents.
Guess what? We still get sucked in to triangulation.
Let me set the scene for you. Our sweet child will engage in some type unallowed behavior (temper tantrum, behaviors at school, beg for something one of us would allow and the other wouldn’t). My husband and I disagree. Then we start to disagree louder. Maybe we take it up to our room to continue the (getting louder all the time) conversation. Get the picture?
You know what we realized?
We find ourselves in a heated debate while the child — who was at the center of the issue — sits quietly on his bedroom floor, playing with Legos.
Hmm, what’s wrong with this picture?
EVERY child triangulates his parents sometimes. It’s as simple as asking dad for something when you know dad is the go-to yes guy and mom would probably say no.
The problem comes when you have settled deeply into patterns of it happening again and again, and it’s causing continued conflict. But don’t worry, it’s fixable when you recognize it’s happening. (More on that in the next post.)
3. Are you settling too deeply into your personality traits?
One of the awesome things about how God created marriage is that we marry someone who is different from us, and we compliment each other. I’m more outgoing, he is more reserved. Together, I bring him out of his shell and he helps me stay grounded.
When this gets out of whack, you each settle deeper into your personality traits, which isn’t good.
If you feel your husband is too permissive with the kids, and you tend to be more strict, what happens the next time you see him doing something you feel is lax? You rush in to fix the situation, becoming even MORE strict.
He sees you become overly strict with the kids, which he thinks is overkill. He becomes even MORE relaxed to compensate for what he feels is your issue.
On and on the cycle continues.
If this is happening, you each need to step back and appreciate the good in your spouse so you can relax your behaviors.
Finally, remember this important truth: Your spouse is not your enemy. You and your spouse are on the same team.
Do you see one or more of these issues — unhealthy arguing in front of the kids, triangulation, or settling into personality traits, playing into your parenting battles?
Next Up: See How Quickly You Can Stop Fighting with Your Spouse About Parenting
If you and your spouse continue to argue, consider seeking the help of a professional, such as a doctor or licensed therapist. This is not intended as a substitute for professional advice.