Dear Cici,

I’m having trouble seeing eye to eye with my partner on raising our kids; it’s only getting worse as they age. How do we communicate in a way that’s positive for both our relationship and our kids?

It’s not uncommon for parenting disagreements to arise, especially as kids grow and face new challenges. As children develop, our role as parents and our strategies should develop along with them. 

In the early years, it might have been easier to see eye to eye with your partner about parenting because the needs of your child were clear. As kids become school-age and move towards adolescence, parenting can become more challenging as you and your co-parent navigate issues such as shaping ethics and values, developing a sense of responsibility, and promoting autonomy.

The most important thing you can do is to have each other’s backs. Backing each other up means supporting each other and being consistent. When parents show a united front it helps kids feel secure and is especially useful when managing problem behaviors. Whenever possible, discuss rewards and consequences ahead of time so there is consistency. Focus on the values and principles you want to instill in your children rather than specific parenting techniques.

  • It’s important not to undermine their other parent in front of your kids. If you see your partner having a difficult parenting moment avoid jumping in to solve the problem; ask your partner if they would like your help managing the situation.
  • If you make a parenting decision, communicate that to your partner so that they are aware and if you’re unsure, tell your child you want to check in with the other parent before making a decision.  
  • Find a time to debrief with your partner, away from the kids, when you’re calm and without distractions. Talk about what worked and what didn’t work. 
  • Use active listening skills to ensure the other person is feeling heard.
  • Offer praise for the things your partner did well and be sure to take responsibility for your actions. 
  • Choose your battles, keep it brief, offer suggestions one at a time, and try to avoid being over-critical.
  • If you become frustrated/angry, take a break and come back to the conversation later.

Seeing parents in conflict can cause kids to feel unsafe.  Working through disagreements in a calm, respectful way teaches kids that you can communicate with and work collaboratively with someone even if you don’t see eye to eye. Parenting is a journey filled with challenges and finding a middle ground may take time; keep the lines of communication open and be patient with each other as you navigate this shared responsibility.