Are You Enemies, Sidekicks, or a Team?: Defining Your Relationship with Your Parenting Partner

You see your child in front of you with that bottom lip stuck out. They are asking to do/for something that you have already said “No” to multiple times in the past. You try not to fall victim to those sad puppy dog eyes. You quickly glance around the room to make eye contact with your partner. Do you…

A. Find them no where in site, and therefore have to go by what your child tells you they said.

B. Find them not to far away, but completely ignoring your desperate stares.

C. Meet their gaze and know they are going to back you up no matter what you say.

Or D. Some rendition of one of these or a combination of one, two, or three of them?

family shadow

If you answered A.

You may be enemies. This probably isn’t the first time they’ve been m.i.a., and it probably won’t be the last either.When your partner is no where to be found it is hard to feel supported or appreciated. It also isn’t real conducive to that whole “united front” idea. If this is your relationship it is important to work on two things…communication and appearances. You have to have very open and reachable communication with your partner. If they aren’t going to be by your side when making a decision, they at least need to know what decision they are suppose to be supporting. This is where appearances comes in. You want it to appear to your kid(s) that you are both on the same page with any and all decisions being made. Any sign that one parent is out of the loop, you might as well be bleeding into a tank of sharks…those little monsters will sniff that out and take advantage.

What To Do: 

  • Be aware of any permissions your child(ren) may be asking for
  • Have an open line of communication
  • Do NOT waiver on any agreed upon decisions

If you answered B.

You may be sidekicks. Your kid(s) probably know that they will hear, “Ask [insert other parent]” instead of actually getting an answer. Someone in this parenting dynamic is the boss, and someone in this dynamic is probably disengaged from the relationship and/or family. This can be dangerous because not only is there a lack of support, but there is a lack of care. One parent is left making all the decisions and feeling like they are in it alone, while the other doesn’t even know what decision is being made.

What To Do:

  • Practice making eye contact
  • Ask how you can help or ask for help
  • Set aside time to engage with spouse/family
  • Do NOT defer to the other parent

If you answered C.

Congrats! It sounds like you are already acting as a team! Your kid(s) recognize that an answer from one parent is as good as an answer from both. You put on a united front that shows teamwork and consistency. No one parent is taking on the burden of being “the bad cop”, and all parties are being shown mutual respect.

What To Do:

  • Continue being consistent
  • Discuss decisions with each other before coming to a final conclusion
  • Do NOT argue in front of the child(ren)

If you answered D.

Consistency isn’t your strongest attribute. Sometimes your partner is a dependable ally and sometimes they are your worst enemy. Either way, you are probably craving the same stability your kids are searching for. Being inconsistent can create resentment and an unstable environment for a couple and family. A lack of dependability leaves one partner unsure of what to expect and reluctant to share their needs. If you don’t know what response you will get you are more likely to avoid any communication.

What To Do:

  • Practice consistency with small tasks/decisions
  • Prioritize with partner what really needs their full attention
  • Do NOT flake on decisions that have been set

 

At the end of the day, your relationship with your spouse and family is affected by how you choose to parent. Attending couples and/or family therapy can help you gain insight on how to make improvements that will make parenting easier and more rewarding. If committing to weekly sessions is not suitable for your schedule, look up local parenting workshops and parent groups that may lend the support you are looking for.

“Coming together is a beginning; Keeping together is progress; Working together is success.” ~Henry Ford

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