We hear all the time how important consistency is for children and none more so that at home. The way that parents interact with each other has enormous influence on children. Research tells us the following:
- Children’s sense of safety and wellbeing is closely linked to how their parents behave towards one another.
- Children’s happiness and development also depends on the quality of their relationships with their parents.
- Severe conflict between parents can be associated with behavioural and developmental problems in children.
While the focus in this blog is parenting teamwork the ideas easily translate to other areas of bringing up children. As childhood educators we know the value of working with parents, sharing ideas and knowledge for the benefit of the children. Often it can be the simplest ideas that can make all the difference.
In regards to parenting there are many clichés, “good cop, bad cop”, being the “fun” parent. A very important one is the theory of divide and conquer. Children understand this, we don’t know how but they do! Being on the same page with your spouse in parenting will make your job easier. It’s about backing each other up, so that your child doesn’t play one of you off against the other. For example, a child might say to his dad, `Mum said I couldn’t go swimming today’. Dad might think that the decision is unfair, but he’d back up his partner in front of their child and discuss the issue with his partner later.
You bring to the job of parenting your own family experiences, as well as the parenting you inherited from your own parents. Past experiences can influence you in profound ways, bringing you into conflict with your partner. For the sake of family harmony and your sanity it helps if you agree more than your disagree with the way you parent. Here are some communication ideas to help you develop compatible, consistent ways of raising your children
1. The path can be different. People have many different ways of reaching a goal, it is ok for you and your partner to achieve the same goal differently, as long as you are both heading towards the same goal. Respect these differences and things will be a lot smoother.
2. Ask your partner for their opinion. In life as in families we often take on certain roles and certain jobs become our responsibility. Ask your partners opinion; you may be surprised by their different take on the daily routines that we take for granted.
3. Knowledge is power, keep your partner informed about children’s behaviour, educational achievements and general well-being. It is usually the job of the primary parent (the parent who spends most time with kids) to update the secondary parents on these issues. Take time to do this regularly.
4. Consult your partner, when practical bring your partner into the picture about children’s behavioural issues. For instance, rather than always responding to children’s requests yourself say something like, “I am not sure about that. I’ll check with your mother/father and get back you.” This also again shows the child that you are both aware of the issues and are both going to respond in the same way.
5. Communicate with your partner about your upbringing, share different stories that will help your partner understand your approach.
6. Divide areas of responsibility. ‘You look after breakfast and I’ll get them dressed” is the sort of sharing of the parenting roles that leads to real teamwork. Communication prior to doing this is ideal to ensure you both expect the same outcome (e.g. in this situation that both parents will be happy with the breakfast choice or outfit chosen to wear).
7. Review this often. It probably sounds a bit formal to say review but don’t underestimate the importance of this. Over time things change slightly, this is natural and part of growing up. All it takes is for each of you to adapt to these things in different ways for some major mixed message to start being sent out.
Whether you live with your partner, or you live apart, one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is the consistency they experience when both parents are working together.