Focus on Fathers
When Dad Disagrees
Westmont IL USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 1, January-February 2001, p. 31
My husband and I have had many disagreements when it comes to children's issues. However, I am pleased that we have developed a philosophy of parenting on which we completely agree! Once I became pregnant with my oldest child, Cassandra, I began gathering ideas that have helped Mike and I work together to agree on parenting issues that are important to both of us.
To begin with, we came up with a mission statement for our parenting. We refer to our mission statement when we are in a situation we can't agree about how to handle. We think about how each option fits in with our goals for our children.
Our mission statement says:
"We will nurture our children with loving guidance, encouraging them to follow their bliss, and helping them develop spiritual awareness, self esteem, self confidence, and empathy."
So if we were thinking about whether to spank our children, we would realize that it doesn't fit our mission statement because we both feel strongly that spanking doesn't lovingly guide our children and doesn't foster self-esteem and empathy. Another example would be if we were deciding if we should make a child wear a special outfit for a party. Our mission statement doesn't mention wanting our children to look a certain way. We agreed that we want them to develop self-confidence, which is encouraged by letting children make as many decisions as possible for themselves—including decisions about clothes. Avoiding spanking and allowing children to wear what they want might not be the appropriate decisions for every family, but they are right for us because they reflect our values.
A few years ago I discovered a way to present new ideas to my husband so he would be more likely to listen with an open mind. First, I mention that I have heard, or thought about whatever the idea is, and then I say nothing else. If he wants more information, he asks for it; otherwise, it's the end of the conversation at that point. I found that if I ask him what he thinks about it right away, he will tend to look for the disadvantages of my idea. If I wait until the following day, week or month to ask his opinion, he has often already agreed with me because he had time to think about it in a non-threatening, relaxed way. If not, at least he is willing to discuss the idea without being defensive so we can have a more open-minded conversation. I've found this technique works with friends and family, too.
Sometimes my husband was puzzled about why I was so focused on parenting ideas and so attached to our children. It helped him relate to my situation when I compared it to his job. He reads the paper to keep up-to-date on the latest information, he reads books relating to his field, consults with his co-workers, and sometimes thinks about his job when he is home with our family. I read parenting and self-help books, discuss ideas with friends, and attend LLL and other meetings and conferences for similar reasons. Parenting is my full-time career and I spend most of my time and energy on it because I love it and find it worthwhile and he feels the same way about his career.
Because parenting is my full-time job, I have many opportunities to be exposed to new ideas that relate to our unique family. When my husband told me that his co-workers kept coming up with stranger and stranger parenting ideas, it helped to remind him that those people don't live with us or our children and that we are the best ones to make choices for our children. Sometimes people follow mainstream parenting philosophies because they believe it is the right way since many other people do it the same way. They don't feel the need to research much because it seems familiar and seems to work well enough. I reminded my husband that I am a smart person (that is, after all, why he married me!) and that I want what is best for our children, just as he does. That's why I don't accept other people's ideas at face value. Instead, I search for ideas that work for us and our children.
I feel very lucky that I've been able to work things out with Mike. Our shared, sincere commitment to our mission statement and our ability to communicate respectfully helps us know what we want. We are now less likely to argue over small issues that don't matter much in the long run. Keeping our long-term goals in mind helps us guide our children as a cooperative team and our whole family benefits.