I should have known early on when my husband shared his anti-getting-picked-on strategy for his little sister that our parenting philosophies would differ drastically.
His advice to his 10-year-old sister when she would get picked on? Punch ‘em in the face. Stand up for yourself. Don’t let them get away with it. While I’m all for standing up for yourself, my conservative, keep-everyone-happy approach would err on the side of walk away and ignore them.
My intuition of the differences in our approach to raising kids was only solidified once we actually had one of our own.
He’s traditional, put your foot down, pop ‘em on the butt if they’re out of line. I’m touchy-feely, what’s the underlying cause, what’s the most positive way to deal with this.
He’s old school; I’m closer to crunchy.
You’d think we were a recipe for disaster: spouses on opposite sides of the parenting spectrum trying to raise a child together. Most of the co-parenting advice you hear is that no matter what, you must be on the same page. Remain a united front.
But how do you stay united when you inherently believe in different things? If we’re not united on the varied philosophies and strategies of raising babies and toddlers, how will we ever survive the big stuff during the teenage years and beyond?
We’re like a fuse, slowly building flame that could suddenly ignite in front of us in terms of parenting disasters. Our good efforts could be completed undermined by the one little fact that we clearly believe different things.
But the thing is, while our approaches and views are completely opposite on most levels, we have common ground on the most important part of the parenting spectrum: we both want to give our child the best opportunities as possible. The best opportunities to be confident, well-rounded, engaged, caring, empathetic, and happy. We may believe in different ways of creating that outcome, but the end goal is identical.
It may not work forever, but for now, our difference in parenting strategies is no different than the other things that set us apart as parents, partners, and people.
When my son engages in an act that needs discipline with my husband, he uses his strategies to handle it. When it happens with me, I use mine. Instead of creating confusion and further unwanted behaviors, my son has come to expect each of those things from each of us. He knows I’ll react differently to something than my husband will, and he tends to go to the parent that fits his need at the time. The surprising part is that it’s not always the same parent for the same situation. Kids are complex and while they need routine, regularity, and consistency, they also need to feel comfortable reacting in different ways to the same situation depending on so many factors.
What’s more, my husband and I have come to learn from our potential conflict that sometimes — just sometimes — the other one just might have the better strategy in mind. When we see something working or not working, we learn to adapt our own strategies and beliefs.
We keep in mind that we were both raised completely differently and so much of your parenting persona comes from your own experience. We keep in mind that despite these differences in our own childhood, we both turned out okay. And above all, we remember that it’s okay to continually adapt, to flip to the other side of the fence when it’s appropriate, and above all, to remain open and welcoming to the other’s tactics.
It’s not about convincing the other spouse that one way is better than the other or to make each other do it “our” way, but rather to keep the end goal in mind: a happy, healthy child that we will do absolutely anything for to grow into a happy, healthy teenager and adult.