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My husband and I often find that we parent differently. We know that up to a point that is why every child (hopefully) as two parents, so they can learn about difference in people, their approaches, and that different can be good. However, there have been times were our disagreements can cause trouble.
For example It is fine if he is more into horse play with them then I am--different people, different styles. It is not okay (to either one of us) that we enforce bedtimes differently (one of us watches the clock, and one of us doesn't care(and admits that). (I can give more examples if required)

So, the question is: How do parents disagree with one another on parenting issues and come to a resolution?

This question was inspired by the question about medication for our children, but here I am asking about general parenting, not life threatening (God forbid) situations or questions.

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There are always going to disagreements about how you implement your parenting strategies. But it is important not to let your children see you two arguing. People have different personalities and will therefore parent a little differently. Choose your battles wisely. –  j.rightly Jan 26 '12 at 20:24
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It is unrealistic to expect to never argue in front of the children. If you do, it is important to ensure that the children also see you work things through and work out a compromise and make things up. –  Mongus Pong Feb 13 '12 at 14:49
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5 Answers

I can relate with your question. My husband and I comes from two different cultural and religious background, so you could just imagine that we do have a lot of differences when it comes to belief and many other things. Same thing with parenting, we also have different views on how we are going to raise our child. Good thing, we are always trying to talk about things and come up with the best solution. It is difficult though, at times, but we learned that we need to be open-minded for the good of our child. Despite disagreements, we both love our child, so what's best for him is our priority.

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My husband I have recently taken to reading the same parenting book and then discussing that so we are not pointing fingers at each other about what the other perceives as poor parenting. This seems to be keeping us on the same page in terms of discipline, rules, rewards, and punishments.

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My wife has suggested this and I think it's a good way to be a "team". Problems often come from one parent being more "careful" (aka Fearful) and one being more laissez-faire. Reading and thinking through issues together helps avoid big disagreements, or passive-aggressive or runaround approaches where parents disagree. –  Warren P Jan 27 '12 at 22:04
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It is absolutely key that parents stand firm together. If mummy says it then daddy says it too, and vice versa. Mummy and daddy think the same thing. Kids are clever. If there's a crack, they'll exploit it to their advantage.

Getting this right involves a lot of communication and listening, with each side putting their own ideas and listening quietly and respectfully to the other's point of view. Listening is key here.

If you can keep it calm I think it's fine to do this with the kids around, it's a good lesson in conflict resolution, and it gives them an insight into the workings of the family. If it's stressful, crying kids, etc, then it's best to take it offline.

In the case of a real conflict though, I think it's the primary caregiver who gets the final say.

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+1 for staying calm and teaching kids conflict resolution –  nGinius Jan 17 '12 at 20:59
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Let me chime in from the male side :-) My wife and I too have disagreements over various topics of child rearing. One of them actually is bedtime. I am more lenient on this, she is more watching the clock. We had numerous discussions over this, where we both presented our case and tried to understand the other's points. Part of this is cultural (I am Hungarian, she is Finnish) and gender based too. However, she explained that the children need ample time to sleep, otherwise next morning they wake up tired, thus they will be grumpy the whole day, in the worst case making the life of the whole family hell (and especially hers, being the one at home with the children, while I am at work most of the day, so I don't experience that much of these problems). I had to accept the rationale behind this. In other occasions, we disagree when she is adamant on leaving from e.g. family reunions early so that the kids get to bed at the usual time. After numerous discussions (and the kids growing older), she is less rigid now on these special occasions, if they fall on weekends so the girls can sleep longer the next morning.

I think if the parents can sit down and talk through such issues calmly, focusing on problem solving, they can get to satisfying compromises.

What might often be behind such issues is that one of the parents (typically the husband) may not be that much involved in the practicalities of parenting. He often is busy earning the money and spends less time with the children. In the worst cases, he may not even know much about the children's life, and their mom's daily challenges. When our firstborn was a baby, I spent a year at home with her, while my wife went back to work, so I had the luck to experience that side too, and I learnt to appreciate being successful in that role.

What I had to realize was that parenting requires an awful lot of planning ahead. Outsiders don't see this, so they fail to understand why a mom is requesting this or that at a certain point, when they don't yet see the need for that. But by the time it gets noticeable to everyone, it may already be too late to start preparing for it. Like making food. If I start worrying about the lunch only when my children are already hungry, I am in deep trouble. (And I might save the day once or twice by a quick call to the pizzeria for home delivery, but that too, if used as a general solution, brings its own problems in time... however, in order to be able to regularly supply my family with healthy home made food, I need to plan and act several days ahead.)

If this is the case, it probably helps for the mom to explain the practicalities to the father. Or even for him to try herding his child(ren) for an afternoon or a full day, to feel on his own skin what it takes to avoid major blunders.

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Oh oh so agree about "parenting requires an awful lot of planning ahead"! –  Swati Jan 16 '12 at 23:37
    
+1 for the planning ahead and I would give another +1 for the point that very often one of the parents just does not have the inside in the kid's and the at-home-parent's daily life and struggles. Changing roles can help a lot to improve mutual understanding. –  BBM Jan 26 '12 at 21:42
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How to disagree and still come to an amicable resolution (aka Negotiating for Parents 101)

Péter Török makes good points about each parent explaining the impact of certain decisions on the family. I am going to elaborate on Swati's note to pick your battles.

In our house, when things become contentious, there are usually three types of dispositions on an issue:

  1. the issue is very important (meaning pro) to someone,
  2. the issue is neutral (not important) to someone, or
  3. they are opposed to issue.

When the mix is neutral/neutral, then it's not an issue. Our kids don't take music lessons because neither one of us cares enough about it. No problem.

When the mix is important/important or opposed/opposed, we both care and are in complete agreement so there is more consistent follow-up. For example, we both think it's important that our kids can swim. So, the kids are always at their lessons and it doesn't get forgotten. Another example, the rule in our house is that "you hit; you sit". Crime and punishment are both clear by both parents.

When the mix is important/neutral, generally the person with interest takes the lead. For example, it's important to me that clothing be put away. So I take charge of that. Sometimes I enlist the help of my spouse, but generally he is not leading that task. This is when explaining how doing this task impacts me and the family has the best results. One of us gets talked into caring. Re-motivation is required because there are more slip-ups. The parent who cares generally needs to ask for help when they want it.

Arguments happen when the mix starts involving opposition. The violent TV/movie issue is a good example. This is where we start invoking veto power. Either parent has the right to forbid something that they think is wrong. This is a firm "drawing line in the sand" kind of approach and is used rarely. Restricting is easier to enforce than banning because as your children mature you can loosen the restrictions. The things that are banned in our house are banned for everyone (i.e. smoking). Another example is helmets: "thou shalt not ride a bike without a helmet"...until you are legally responsible for yourself; same rule applies for parents.

Note that these examples don't involve life-saving decisions, like blood transfusions or transplants or surgeries. This is where you and your spouse have hopefully discussed your values and come to terms with your differences before deciding to (marry and) have children.

For contentious issues, trying to go about the decision logically rather than emotionally helps.

  • List the pros and cons.
  • Make everyone's reasons known.
  • Exhaust alternatives first.

Then when you still have a problem, the person opposed can feel better about agreeing to what previously unthinkable.

A good book on negotiating that fits most situations that don't involve money is "Getting to Yes". Law schools use it. The premise is that there are 4 elements to negotiation and how you should deal with them:

People: Separate the people from the problem.
Interests: Focus on interests, not positions.
Options: Generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do.

Criteria: Insist that the result be based on some objective standard

Most of all, regardless of the situation, be sure to address the idea and not the person. If you can avoid personal attacks, finding a mutually agreeable solution is more likely.

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Wow, well explained. My answer seems pitiful now... –  Swati Jan 17 '12 at 6:05
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+1 for the negotiation strategy. –  Péter Török Jan 17 '12 at 8:39
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