When we find that special someone and dream about our future family life, we envision a cute
house and kids happily playing together in the yard. Some of us may even adopt a four-legged "kid" to get used to the responsibility before starting our own family. The next step is actually bringing our babies home and learning to care for them. We are in love with their cute little faces and the excitement of becoming parents. We assume we will just slide into our parenting roles, after all how hard can it be, right? Our parents figured it out so we're positive we will too. Having married our "perfect match" we are even more confident that between the two of us we'll handle it whatever comes our way as a team.
When reality hits... Do you remember the first time you had to deal with a parenting concern as a couple? It might have been when your firstborn spiked a slight fever. You're in complete worry mode, your spouse says, "Let's wait and see before we call the doctor." You look at your partner, the person you thought was brilliant and competent and you think, "What is wrong with you? Our baby has a temperature and you want to wait and see?!" Ugh!
Welcome to the world of learning to be parents together. Buckle up, you'll be on this ride for a long time! When things get challenging with the kids, we see things in our partner we didn't expect. Parenting tests our relationship more than most other things will! Why are we arguing?
I remember a conversation I had with Bill and Anna, a couple I worked with last fall. During our first meeting they each shared some things they wanted to work on. I'll never forget the look on her face when Bill complained that he's tired of toys laying around all day long. "Why can't the kids just pick them up?" Anna shared that they do pick them up, at certain times of the day. She has 10-minute clean up before lunch and then again before dinner. She felt her system worked and she didn't want to be nagging the kids all day long to pick stuff up. For her, it was no big deal. For him, it was a constant aggravation. Bill wanted the kids to learn to put things away before getting out something else. He was very organized and tidy, so it drove him crazy to see the mess. So...what's really going on? This couple had very different expectations based on how they were raised. Bill's dad was a career military man. He expected everything to be in it's place, so Bill was expecting his own home to be the same way. Anna, on the other hand, had parents who were less particular about clutter. They kept the home clean and neat, but weren't hyper concerned about little things laying around. Anna wasn't bothered by a little mess, to her it was normal. Many times when I chat with parents about their own up-bringing, they begin to realize some differences of experiences. This difference is typically what leads to their current conflict. Neither is right or wrong, they just have different experiences and expectations.
How do we move forward? Helping Bill and Anna was very similar to peeling an onion. They came to me for some discipline strategies, but the more we unpeeled the onion, we discovered differences in their perspectives on many parenting topics.
We immediately got to work on building and clarifying their family foundation. What's a family foundation? Think of it as the roots of a tree, it's what holds the family in place and gives it its strong base. My formula for building a family foundation looks like this: VISION + VALUES + GOALS = OUR FAMILY FOUNDATION There are many steps to building a shared vision, setting up family values, and defining goals, but it's worth it! Once we worked our way through this process Bill and Anna were able to come to an agreement on expectations, family rules and consequences. What's the benefit of doing this work? (It's never too late to start!)
When parents have different expectations or values, our kids get mixed messages. Flip that to parenting with clearly set family values and goals and we'll see 3 things: 1. Improved behavior
If parents are clear about behavioral expectations, kids will know how to behave. Less mixed messages means more clarity for the kids. 2. Improved communication between spouses When we are on the same page for parenting, it allows us to avoid conflicts, assumptions and unspoken expectations. T