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Parenting: Developing a Unified Front

It's a Good Idea!

At times, you and your partner will disagree about an issue, yet one of you will feel more strongly than the other. She: “I cannot allow the kids to talk about bodily functions at the table!” He: “Well, I don't love it, but I feel issues need to be addressed when they come up. But, I see it really matters more to you than to me, so let's go with your feelings.”

Behave Yourself!

Discussions about discipline should, ideally, be planned. Why ruin a good (and rare) date? Picture this: You're dressed to the nines, your sweetie looks terrific, and you gaze at each other across the table through a haze of delicious food, wine, and raging pheromones. A leg brushes yours under the table. Your eyes lock, and your darling whispers, “If Mary socks Marty one more time, I'm going to ground her for a year!”

Every partnership will have differences of opinion on how to handle certain disciplinary issues. Undiscussed, these differences will fester. It's important to clearly establish where there is a difference in disciplinary approach, and where there is a difference in the underlying values. Ideally, your partner shares your values about the importance of taking a positive, rather than a punitive, parenting approach. (Say, maybe your partner needs to read this book!)

What if you love your partner, shiver under his touch, adore the French toast he makes you every morning, but, alas, differ with him on certain parenting values, including disciplinary approach? It can be a scary thing to contemplate discussing something as volatile as discipline (since it cuts right to the heart of parenting philosophy), but it's crucial, for the sake of all of you.

As you meet to “hash out” your feelings, keep an open mind. Plan ahead and make it pleasant—take an evening drive and park near a view, have a wine and cheese date. Make the grandparents take the kids out for the evening. When you're relaxed, loving each other, and in a good mood—now's the time to discuss discipline.

  • Bring up disciplinary values issues privately. This isn't a conversation for the kids! Make sure the atmosphere is safe for raising disagreement—try active listening, and try for an open mind as you listen.
  • Each of you might consider spending a little time defining your basic disciplinary philosophy (you may think you know how you and your partner feel and believe, but give it a try anyway. There is something very defining, powerful, and often surprising about putting your philosophy and feelings into words.
  • Your partner may be taking a different path to achieve the same goals, of respecting your children, honoring their autonomy, and nurturing their needs. Look for the positive intent!
  • Clarify the problem. Is this really about differing values? Or do you have the same value, but a different approach?
It's a Good Idea!

If things get too “hot” when you're talking about discipline with your partner, take a break, focus on transforming the “heat” into passion, and leave the discipline for another day.

  • If you are meeting about a specific incident, try to separate out the incident from old hurts and disappointments.
  • Discipline is about learning—in order to be a “well-behaved” parenting duo, you two may need to do a little problem-solving.

Discipline is a tough area for all parents. It touches deep nerves—our values, our histories, our sore spots. We all get passionate about these issues. Watch that, in your passion, you aren't burning each other.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child © 1999 by Ericka Lutz. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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