They used to say, “it takes a village to raise a child”. This saying might be a little old fashioned these days with our individualistic world, severely affected and disrupted by the current global pandemic.
Families that used to briefly meet in the evenings and over the weekend found themselves staying at home altogether for prolonged periods of time, combining studying and working from home with daily household chores and activities.
And, for many, it was the time when the concept of “parenting as a team” became important but challenging. Pandemic aside, you and your partner are the most significant adults in your child’s life.
By creating a united front at the core of the family you will help your child navigate the world and set them up for success in life. Working as a team doesn’t mean you never disagree though. At some point, all parents differ about how best to raise their children. It’s not, then, whether you disagree, but rather how you handle such disagreements. Even if you and the person you parent with have different parenting styles, you can still parent together effectively.
So here are the 5Cs of effective parenting as a team:
Communication is key. Take the time to understand each other’s basic ideas and values about parenting. What are your respective views on morning routines, bed times, homework, family dinners, gadgets? Set the ground rules without children in sight and stick to them.
Talk about it, read books, attend parenting classes or explore parent coaching. Discuss and respect each other’s specific family and cultural history. Make choices about which traditions you will keep and pass on and where your family will be doing things differently.
Remember that we can only effectively communicate when both sides are calm, so never discuss parenting issues in the heat of an argument, especially in front of the kids. And If you feel uncomfortable with how your partner deals with certain situations, set time aside to provide constructive feedback using “I feel... “ messaging.
Compromise is vital. In fact, it's more important to be presenting as a unified team than whatever the issue is that you're dealing with the children. Kids quickly work out when it is best to approach mum (she always buys me things) or dad (he won’t mind me watching tv and playing computer till midnight). So if they think that mum’s a soft touch, they'll go to her. If Dad's the pushover, they'll go and talk to him. So you can't compromise unless you've spoken to each other about how you feel about different areas first.
There will be some areas that you won't be prepared to compromise on, and you need to discuss what they are. In other areas you will be willing to give a little, for the sake of finding compromise, for some middle ground.
Appreciate each other’s viewpoints and needs.
Children, especially teenagers, may use inconsistent parenting against their parents. While they have to learn life is not fair, inconsistency by mum and dad can affect their emotional security. If you and your partner react differently to the same scenarios, children can become confused and start feeling less secure. Agree with your partner on pausing when either or both of you are not sure how to proceed. Children do not always need an immediate answer or their request to be satisfied right at that moment. Take a pause, reflect on the best course of action, and discuss together with your partner when the kids are not present. When you ponder, instead of responding immediately, there is a better chance for consistency. Manage your expectations, discuss them with your partner and only then deliver them to your children.
Even with plenty of communication and agreement, there are bound to be times when your partner manages a situation in a way you don’t agree with. Of course, if you believe your partner is being emotionally or physically abusive to your child, that is the time to interfere in the moment.
However, if that is not the case, don’t over-react in the moment. Consideration of your partner’s reasons for his/her response in a given situation can be very important. Check in with your partner about their actions.
It is important that you acknowledge each other in front of the children, showing how you care about your partner. Don’t criticise or argue with each other in front of the kids; rather say positive things about each other. It's very easy to nag or to criticize, or even to make fun of your partner in front of the children. Don’t fall into a trap of being ‘good cop and bad cop’.
And also remember that your partner is a person who you love and care about outside of their parenting role, the person who you chose to start a family with and that you not only team-up as parents but also as a couple and lifelong partners.
For sure, team parenting and staying on the same page can be hard at times. Take one step at a time and keep in mind the reasons why you are doing this. Your kids will benefit if they see you working together as a team and that will help them develop their own life-long positive skills.