“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

– Henry Ford

Up to this point, my blog postings have centered on improving the connection and quality of life between two people, specifically partners or couples. We’ve discussed the importance of practicing good communication, maintaining healthy boundaries, and engaging in regular self-care, all of which makes you a better version of yourself…which is exactly what you and your partner need when parenting your children.

Various parenting issues surface in my couples counseling sessions, yet one topic continues to appear: for couples to learn how to be on the same team when it comes to disciplining their child. Naturally, you and your partner are different people from different backgrounds, each of you bringing to the relationship your own set of beliefs, values, and experiences – inevitably shaping how you approach parenting.

I’ll illustrate this with a not-so-unbelievable example:

Jimmy’s parents, Joe and June, recently found out about 10-year-old Jimmy stealing a candy bar from the corner store. Joe believes that “boys will be boys” and recalls similar times from his youth; clearly, it’s not a big deal to him. June, however, believes Jimmy should be punished harshly for his actions in order to teach him a lesson about what’s right and wrong. In this case, Joe and June react differently to the situation because they aren’t in sync about the consequences or discipline in general. They’re lacking a united parenting front, which Jimmy (and other children) can sense a mile away. These young opportunists may then seize the chance to deflect punishment by turning parent against parent…

…which brings us back to the critical role communication plays in co-parenting. Try establishing a rule that if one of you is disciplining your child, the other must provide backup, even if you don’t necessarily agree in the moment. This demonstrates to your child that you both mean business and you’re one unit. In private, you and your partner need to discuss and identify clearly defined rules and consequences, as well as any issues that have emerged. Don’t chat or argue about it in front of your child; this can have longstanding, negative impacts on your household and relationships.

Instead, look to collaborate with your partner by researching ways to improve your collective parenting skills. You’re on the same team here, so it’s important to support one another through the journey of parenthood. Ensure that you and your partner are spending quality one-on-one time together to work on being solid as a couple. Remember, it’s not always all about the kids. Go out on regular dates to celebrate being a couple, not just parents. When you’re stronger and more aligned as a duo, you’ll both be in a better place to parent your children with love, boundaries, and respect.

TAKE-AWAY: With parenting, it’s important to not only understand your own family history, but also your partner’s. Ask your partner about how they were raised. What were their parents like? How was discipline handled in their home? What was their experience of their childhood? By exploring your partner’s background, you’ll be able to view their behaviors and beliefs through an objective lens – ultimately leading you to respond to your teammate with more insight, less judgment, and a commitment to work together to formulate the household rules and consequences with regards to parenting.