Most parents know that they are supposed to agree on childrearing. It’s better for children if parents present a united front. That’s all well and good when you agree. What about when you don’t? If you have a child who has ADHD, Asperger Syndrome, or anxiety, it is likely that you are presented with behaviors and situations that you did not expect.
Here is a quick list of the major points in coming to agreement.
- Acknowledge that it is hard work. Ross Greene, Ph. D, who wrote The Explosive Child, says he assumes that parents are doing the best they can. I totally agree.
- Find time to talk about the problems without children present. Difficult, but essential. Worth the effort.
- Try to find and express some empathy for each other. Do you understand enough about your partner’s background and disposition to understand why he acts the way he does? Perhaps you might ask.
- Without blaming tell your partner what you see and how you like things to be. “I know that Sally pushes your buttons, but I really need you not to explode in anger at her.” Or, “When I have set a limit with Sally, please do not renegotiate with her. That undermines me.” Be willing to listen.
- Find where you agree and set a goal for how you want Sally to behave. This might be, “Start your homework after a 30 minute break after school. Do this with cooperative behavior.”
- Talk to your child together about your expections. Sally sees that there is a new regime. She has less room to manipulate, and she will test the system, but ultimately, she will be comforted by this approach.
- Follow through. If Sally goes to Dad to renegotiate the homework agreement, he should politely refuse to engage. If Sally starts to negotiate with Mom, Mom might need to walk away, but the basic expectation (Start your homework), still stands.
- Repeat. Over and over. Find a time to talk. Express understanding and empathy. State your needs without blame. Come to an agreement about a goal. Explain it to your child. Back each other up.
Sometimes it is too difficult to start this process on your own. That is where a Parent Coach can be helpful. I enjoy this type of work because it is so helpful to parents and children.
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This past weekend I met my grandniece. She is three months old, and I think she is adorable. The visit prompted some reflection on the nature of families and generations. This little babe has bumped me into a new generation — that of the “grands”, along with my sister who is now a grandmother. My nephew and wife are now parents. It was a pleasure to see them joyously and comfortably taking on that role. This is a pretty mundane experience — it’s what happens in families. But I did notice that I’m in a new generation now.
I reflected on how families can support each other over the miles. Recently the new babe’s parents had professional obligations on a weekend, and my sister travelled to stay with them and care for her granddaughter. Distance precludes doing that very often, but evidently it worked out very well. We joked about having them move in together. I know more than a few families who have done that to support new parents where both parents work.
While we walked around Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon, my nephew’s wife and I talked about returning to work and finding care for our babies. My baby is almost twenty-five, but we found similar feelings about balancing work and motherhood. We agreed that there are times that it is a relief to go to work where life is a bit more predictable. We are both in helping professions, so we could share the need to balance the energy we give to clients and the energy we need for family.
Even across the miles and episodically I expect that our family will support this new family. My extended family has not lived in the same neighborhood for nearly fifty years now. This new family has already found supports among their solid group of friends. It takes a village, as the saying goes. It was good to be a small part of the village for this young family.