Good cop/bad cop is an all too familiar scenario in families.
Dad tells his freshman daughter that it’s okay to go to a party, with no questions asked. Mom, on the other hand, is less than happy. “There might be drinking!”
Dad feels like mom’s too uptight and tells her to lighten up and let Susie have some fun. Mom feels dismissed and angry to constantly be the bad guy. An argument ensues with mom accusing dad as always having to be the good guy.
It’s common to play these roles as parents. When I coach moms, I often find that the more each parent feels justified in their opposing position, the more polarized they each become.
Being on opposing teams as parents isn’t good for the kids and can create conflict in your marriage. It is important as parents to learn to play on the same team, how to agree on parenting.
Here are 7 ways to learn to compromise and become team players.
Have an open conversation to understand each other’s perspective.
Rarely do we come into our marriage having had a discussion about how we will parent our kids. The good news? It’s never too late to have these conversations.
Find a good time to talk with your spouse free from distractions and outside the heat of the moment. Understand that husbands often hear, “I want to talk” as a negative. Let him know that your desire is to come together and become more aligned, not to criticize or find fault.
Don’t get stuck in ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ thinking.
Request that you each be respectful of each other’s views and not interrupt when the other person is talking.
Be careful of the temptation to point fingers about whose approach is ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ Instead, be open to listening and understanding your partner’s point of view without judgment, blame or being defensive.
Understand where you both come from.
Each of us brings our own unique story and history to the way we parent. Discuss your childhoods, how you were parented and where your beliefs come from. Were your parents strict or lenient? How did they discipline you? What did you like or not like? Did you feel like they cared about how you felt?
When you talk about how you were raised, you will build empathy and a greater understanding of why you each parent the way you do.
Find middle ground.
Compromise requires you to be willing to hear your partner’s side of the issue. Be flexible. You will have to give something up and meet in the middle. But you will gain much more as a result.
Get clear on what matters to you.
Before you have a conversation with your spouse, get clear about what values and issues you feel the most strongly about. Share what issues you’re willing to bend on and what you’re not.
Talk about your common goals and values for your child.
Each parent can take a turn to identify what your parenting beliefs, values and goals are for your child.
Chances are you both want similar things – for them to be happy, successful and well-adjusted; your approach is just different.
Have each other’s backs.
Decide ahead of time how you will handle common behavior issues when they arise. Discuss strategies, potential pitfalls, and what you’d like from your spouse.
Here’s a little exercise I liked from John Gottman that will help you to understand each other in deeper ways and move towards compromising.
• I feel that you are a good parent because ____.
• I feel that my role as a parent is to ___.
• My parents were ___ and I feel that was ___.
• Discipline means ___.
• It’s most important to me for my child to be ___.
• My goal in raising my child is ___.
It’s understandable that we have disagreements about how to handle different parenting situations. When we’re willing to be open, hear our spouse’s perspective and understand where they’re coming from, we can learn ways to compromise that benefit everyone.
It’s never too late to learn how to compromise and play on the same parenting team!