Parenting is hard enough when everything is going well. But when your co-parent approaches parenting differently from you, it can create resentment and tension in your family life.
There are infinite ways it can play out…
If your co-parent is more permissive than you, you will resent having to play “bad cop” in the family.
If your co-parent reacts out of anger, you’ll be upset and protective of your children.
If your co-parent is stricter than you, you will be perpetually annoyed by arbitrary rules.
All parents have views on parenting, and of course, co-parents will always differ. But it’s important that co-parents are on enough of the same page that there is consistency and regularity in your family life.
Children thrive in structure. And so do parents.
You need to know that your co-parent has your back, and that you are working together to facilitate family life.
So how do you begin to close the gap between parenting differences between you and your co-parent?
Begin with empathy. There is a reason that your co-parent is approaching parenting the way they are. It is quite likely that it is rooted in their own childhood. Or it could be an expression of how they are feeling about parenting, perhaps not confident in themselves or overwhelmed. The first step to trying to come together and have an honest conversation where you simply try to understand your co-parent’s perspective. It’s quite likely this will take more than one conversation. The goal is to not fix anything in the beginning. It is to understand each other.
Educate yourselves, together. Take time to learn about best parenting practices. Together. Consult books, take classes, or consult with parenting experts. The goal is to go on a learning journey together. You both care about your children. The goal is to identify best parenting practices to help your children thrive.
Evaluate and plan. Now that you are informed about best parenting practices, take an honest look at your parenting, your co-parent’s parenting, and how you are parenting together. What are your strengths and challenges? It’s quite possible that you have now confirmed that what is bothering you is a big problem: that your co-parent is parenting in a less-than ideal manner. It’s also possible that what you viewed as a big issue is really not that big of a deal given what you learned about ideal parenting. Finally, it’s possible that you learned that you have room for growth as a parent. Identify areas of growth for you and your co-parent and make a plan on how you will support each other to accomplish those goals.
Entrust. Assuming there is no abuse occurring, trust your co-parent to do their best. Support them to become better. Any shortcomings in parenting are not because somebody wants to do a bad job – it’s simply because they need help doing better. Improving parenting is a process and with effort, you and your co-parent can make progress. By being patient, supportive, and working together, you will improve your relationship with your co-parent and help your children thrive.