Remember when you first embarked on your relationship together and thought what a great parent the other would be? You could picture him/her playing in the park with your toddler or helping with homework and you felt excited and at peace? Did you ever actually discuss your parenting philosophies out loud to one another? In a perfect world, couples would take the time to discuss how they want to raise the kids prior to having them. They would talk about different parenting styles, what they liked or disliked about their own upbringing, and agree or come to compromises on the details in order to avoid any surprises later on. In reality, most couples just assume that since they have the same basic morals and values, likes and dislikes, that child rearing will naturally work out smoothly. However, you can take a look around to see that this isn’t necessarily the case. The job of parenting is full of trials and errors and it’s normal that couples will disagree and become frustrated with each other. I know in my own family, I favored going to one parent instead of the other because I knew I’d like the answer better. This is turn made my dad feel like my mother was unsupportive and constantly undermining him. It added to the list of reasons why divorce was imminent.
Cooperative parenting isn’t always easy. It takes a plan and certain skills to succeed. Most experts agree that the following platform is crucial to create a strong parenting team:
1. Empathy. If you always think you are right and that your spouse is being difficult, you’ll just end up constantly frustrated. When a parenting situation arises that you don’t agree with, take some time to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes and look at it from his/her point of view. Maybe they have insight that you aren’t aware of.
2. Open communication. Instead of fighting over each individual video game or movie that your child watches, talk about your basic underlying values. For example, explain why you think a certain type of violence shouldn’t be allowed in anything the kids play or watch. If you still can’t agree, come to a compromise.
3. Create emotional intimacy. Share your failings and fears with your spouse. Be ready to admit mistakes. Remember it’s not about who is right, but how you can work it out together to create a united front.
4. Don’t fight about it in front of kids. When kids see their parents fight it creates a sense of fear and uncertainty that they might get divorced. Also, the kids might try to take sides, which can cause further deterioration of the situation. Agree to disagree and discuss it later when they aren’t around.
Parents who are interested in learning more about current research on successful parenting skills can benefit from reading or taking parenting classes. Group or online parenting classes offer even the most seasoned parent updated tips on how to manage stress, build the child’s self-esteem, set boundaries, and take responsibility to be a positive role model. Divorcing parents often are court ordered to take these classes to learn how to overcome differences in order to cooperatively parent while residing separately.