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Creating Connection over Parenting Differences

June 9, 2010

It’s not uncommon for me to witness differences in parenting beliefs and styles between parenting partners in my work with parents. It would be rare for parents to see eye-to-eye and agree on everything that comes up on the journey of raising children. The post below was written by my colleague Michael Sherman of Courageous Loving, a company that offers many resources to help people strengthen and grow in their relationships. In this article, Michael describes a simple but powerful exercise you can try with your partner the next time you find yourself butting heads.

Creating Connection over Parenting Differences

by Michael Sherman

As parents, how many times do we notice our partner interacting with our children in a way that makes us tell ourselves, “I would never do that!”  Whether it be about food or play time or modeling appropriate behavior in front of other people, when our parenting styles clash, it can lead to conflict between partnering parents.   If the conflict is not addressed, it may evolve into fights or even worse, silent resentment. We need tools of communication to resolve these conflicts, and create an uplifting environment in the home.

Can I tell you a story?

Last year, my wife wanted to pierce the ears of our then two year old.  My thinking was this:  If my baby girl can’t control when she pees and poops yet, what business does she have with jewelry on her body? Needless to say, my wife Amy was on a mission.  She had a date set for the piercing – and it was up to me whether or not I was coming to what I perceived to be a gruesome, tribal ritual.

I wasn’t happy, but as a relationship coach, I was determined not to create further conflict.  I needed information.  So I spoke to our babysitter.  She gave me the inside scoop.  She told me that in some cultures, infants get their ears pierced as early as a year old.  She also explained that as a “mommy”, Amy needed to bond with her daughter in this way.  Once I was able to see this, it freed me.  I still wasn’t thrilled about the enterprise, but I found peace about my partner’s perspective.  Conflict resolved.  Ears pierced.  Happy home.

Here’s a communication tip when you get into conflict with your partner over parenting:

1)   Ask your partner, “What’s important to you about this issue?”

2)   Tell them, without judgment, why their answer makes sense to you. (A MUST!)

3)   Ask them, “Do you feel like I’m understanding you?”

4)   Wait for an answer.  If yes, continue.  If no, get it right.  Again, no judgment.

5)   Ask them, “Does it make sense to you that this bothers me because….” And fill in that blank with a kind, respectful statement of your feelings about the situation.

Now that you’ve got to that point, let the situation breathe.  Unless your partner is doing

something unsafe with your child, you’ve got to step back and allow both perspectives to simply be heard.  This creates trust and de-escalates resentment and conflict.  It’s the flow of trust that will naturally create harmony out of the situation.  Whether you let go or you let your partner grow, it’s the mutual trust that creates the change.   Your partner will appreciate the communication and respond naturally, if you can show them you really, really get them.

A year later, our baby girl can go potty by herself.  And she looks cute wearing my mother’s earrings.  No big deal.

MICHAEL SHERMAN is the Co-Founder of Courageous Loving, a company devoted to helping people answer the question, “Who are my relationships calling me to become?”  His powerful audio program, “Relationships are the Roadmap To Destiny” is available at www.RelationshipDestiny.com.  To experience his work first hand, go to www.FreeRelationshipCoaching.com or visit his interactive blog, www.CourageousLovingNation.com.

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