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When parents disagree

You and your partner are different. With parenting, that's a feature, not a bug.

When my kids come to me for advice, I like to keep it short and to the point. My husband favors long discussions with analysis. When a child is upset, I like to let everything settle for a few hours or even a few days before discussing it. My husband wants to resolve issues in the moment.

None of these are right or wrong, they're just parenting style. Over time your kids learn your styles and decide which parent to go to based on what they need at the time. It gives them options.

But inevitably there will be disagreements over things where you feel it's essential to be on the same page. Determining consequences is a huge inflection point for my clients. Yelling is another. Expectations and responsibilities can also make tempers flare. When these disagreements come up, it can feel critical that you get it "right." So what do you do when your right is your partner's wrong? Here are four tips to developing an effective parenting team:

1) Take right and wrong out of your parenting vocabulary. There is a lot less right and wrong in parenting than we think. And thinking there is an absolute right way can drive a wedge through your marriage that does far more harm to your child than the parenting ever could. Instead, try discussing together ways to be most helpful to your child. Helping the child is always the desired end result. It may sound like semantics, but words are important in developing a team mentality.

2) Release judgment. "He shouldn't have yelled." "She shouldn't have allowed so much screen time." This kind of thinking is poison. When you find these thoughts coming up, remind your brain that your partner is doing the best he or she can. If you have a concern, find a good time to bring it up when you're alone. Never in front of the child. If you can raise the discussion from a place of, "Hey, I've been thinking maybe we should limit Tabitha's screentime a little more. What do you think?" rather than "You're giving Tabitha too much screentime," it will make all the difference. If a partner feels attacked, their natural instinct is going to be to mirror and attack back. It will be nearly impossible to problem solve effectively with this dynamic.

3) Don't control. Mostly because you can't. Listen, if I could teach you how to control your partner, I totally would. But it just doesn't work. Of course, do your best to get on the same page, but your partner is going to approach things differently than you do. Sometimes you are going to see this as critical. Your brain might start freaking out. Quiet your mind. If there is abuse involved, of course get yourself and your child out of the situation. Otherwise, allow your partner to be themselves.

4) Get curious. Not judgey/critical curious. Real curious. "I heard you arguing with Claire last night. What was going on for you?" "Henry told me you grounded him for the weekend. Tell me more about that." Curiosity creates a place of emotional safety that is critical for productive parenting discussions. It shows your partner that you're there for them -- that you're on their side.

You and your partner are a team, and teams have players with different skills. You would never want a football team full of linebackers. Get a game plan together and execute based on your strengths. Your partner is going to drop the ball sometimes. So are you. It's all ok. Just keep refining the playbook together.

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