Parenting challenges the best of couples. We’ll talk about the difficulties and opportunities for building your relationship. But first, a nod to those of you doing the work of two as one — I can hardly imagine the work of a single parent. Cheers to each of you!
As we all know, opposites attract and that probably includes opposite approaches to parenting. One says, “Get off of that! You’ll fall!” And the response comes back, “Leave her alone, she’ll figure it out.” And that’s when the fight starts.
Parenting is so important and yet we have two individuals with different attitudes and perspectives in facing the world. Spend the money, don’t spend the money; ground them or not; to spank or not to spank ... those are the questions.
Here are a few general thoughts to hold in the back of your mind as your parenting team trains up your little ones.
Cooperate: This will be key. Children are gifted in their ability to work the edges and split parents. They know how to wait until you’re tired, and then say, “Mom said I could.” Before you know it, they have gamed the system. This is especially important in a blended family.
Communicate: It may be too obvious to say, but we have to communicate. Always a key component of coupling, the details are commodities that have to be shared. The ideas and attitudes that we are thinking and feeling need to flow back and forth. A subset of communication would be negotiation. Give and take is a core competency skill for coupling. To negotiate means to do it the other person’s way with a willing heart.
Congregate: This starts with sitting at the dinner table together and specifically not around the television. A study several years ago identified eating meals together as the common denominator for Rhodes Scholars, one of the higher honors a college student can attain. Sit around the table together and deepen your communication and cooperation.
Continuing the concept of congregating is to suggest sitting in the pew together. You know where to find a pew; it’s a bench in a house of worship. Want to teach your children values? Let them see the two of you humbly and respectfully worshiping together.
This brings me to the final point ...
Faith: Have some faith in each other. If the other has an idea to manage a situation with the kids, roll with it, learn something, it won’t hurt to try. Faith in the other creates an opportunity for everyone involved. Your partner is affirmed and the children see your examples of listening and openness.
And have some faith in your children. Try to not help too quickly or too much. If you believe in them, stand back and watch. You might be surprised, but maybe not — you knew they could do it.
Cooperate, communicate and congregate. Practice a little faith, too, it will come back to you.