Carol the Coach: Parenting Differences

Parenting is tough and when two parents are arguing about the right way to discipline a child it can end up backfiring and working against both of them. Often times each spouse feels judged and misunderstood because their partner is not supporting their position. To make matters worse, each partner probably disagrees with the child rearing techniques of the other parent.

The good news is that this is a common occurrence in coupleships and happens in all families.

Consider this scenario: Perhaps your child is having difficulty going to sleep and is getting out of bed to come sleep with Mommy and Daddy. Mother wants to ignore the behavior, or read him several good night stories, or leave the light on and let him play games. Dad wants to punish him by spanking him for his incessant crying and "wimpy" behavior. In actuality these approaches have been utilized in the past and have not been successful. So it appears that nothing is working and ultimately your child's refusal to sleep on his own has resulted in lots of anger and tension for you both. By the time this couple gets to counseling my objective is to get them to do two very important things. First, I want to make sure that each person's suggestion has been heard. This involves each person repeating back "verbatim" what the other person has said. That may look like this..... Mother says, "I just want to work on decreasing his fear by making him feel more at ease at night by making bedtime more enjoyable and less stressful and when I read to him, he seems to be more relaxed and ready for bedtime." Father is thinking, "Well that sounds good but that method hasn't been working and I believe that we are rewarding bad behavior. Even though he is thinking that thought he repeats what he heard instead (verbatim). " I heard you say that you want him to go to bed with less stress and so when you read to him it helps him to that correct?" Mother than gets a chance to respond. Now it is Dads turn to voice his opinions and thoughts. Dad says, "Our son is capable of going to bed and staying there so we need to discipline him when he doesn't listen to us. He will eventually get the message once he sees that we mean business by spanking him." Mom is thinking ....We have spanked him and that has accomplished nothing except get him wound up....but instead she uses reflective listening and says, I heard you say that you think we are too easy on him and a spanking would send him a stern message that this behavior is unacceptable.

Dad may say "That is not exactly what I said but you got the general message." I would then ask Mom to restate what Dad said and she might reiterate the following. "OK, I heard you say that Tommy is capable of staying in bed and when he doesn't follow our guidelines you think a spanking is in order." Dad responds with "That is exactly what I said." Once each person feels heard it is a lot easier to compromise and negotiate a parenting technique that works for both of them.

More than likely either technique will work if done long enough with consistency so the next goal is to get each parent to agree to try one technique daily for the next 30 days. In 95% of all situations, any parenting technique will work when the parents use it with steadiness!

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