Frustrated and feel like you’ll never get your spouse on board with how you want to parent your child or address problems they’re facing? Learn 3 simple ways to end the fighting and finally get on the same page.
At one time or another, most kids face some sort of challenge in their development, and as the child’s parent, you’ve got to make a decision about how you’re going to handle. It comes down to a parenting decision.
As an occupational therapist, the challenges I help parents with the most often are difficulty learning to eat table foods, sensory issues, or picky eating. Each of those challenges, and dozens more, usually leave parents feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
When those challenges, as eating and sensory in particular often do, start to affect your kids life (and your own), it’s natural that you start worry. Worry if they’ll ever eat. Worry if they’ll ever be able to follow any directions, listen, or pay attention. Worry if they’ll get the nutrition they need.
That worrying usually leads to questions. You ask the doctor, your friends and family. You scour Pinterest and search Google. You even check out workshops and even online classes to help your child. But, as you learn how to help your child, it surprises you. It’s different than how you’ve been helping your child already.
You see this as a good thing because what you were doing wasn’t working anyways, but now you have to get your spouse on board with these new changes to your child’s mealtime. How you feed them, special strategies, and what you say.
And, there’s the rub, because your spouse or partner doesn’t agree with what you’ve been learning or your point of view on how to help your child.
Parenting disagreements are normal too, but if you’ve reached a standstill with your spouse, the situation can get a lot more stressful. And, it can also be VERY difficult to make progress with your child when you and your spouse aren’t being consistent.
Remember That You’re Both Fighting for the Same Thing
In these moments, it’s so easy to lose sight of why you’re each so firm in how you want to help (or not help) your child, but the truth is that 99% of the time, you both have your child’s best interest at heart.
While you may be fighting for a new way to approach feeding/behaviors/sensory needs, your spouse may be saying:
“I think he’ll be fine, let’s just wait and see.”
“I think she needs punished for not eating/acting wild/etc.”
As a result, you feel frustrated, maybe outraged or defeated. These are all normal emotions as you’re trying to make a case for what you believe to be best, but remember that’s exactly what your spouse is doing too.
You’re Spouse May Be Afraid…
But, besides your spouse/partner also wanting what’s best for your child, they’re also bringing in their own experiences about how they were raised and that is often a source of comfort.
When we challenge that by saying, “I want to try these strategies to help our baby learn to eat now and not wait”, it’s new for them and outside of their comfort zone.
Personality plays a big role in this too, and most of us want to just stay where we’re safe, with what we know. Of course, most people aren’t going that deep with their thoughts, but I share this with you because beginning to understand where your spouse is coming from can help you exude patience and compassion!
Come From a Place of Compassion in Parenting Disagreements
And, that place of compassion will help you see their perspective, letting your own guard down so that the tension can subside. Stepping back and seeing that your spouse is probably worried too, or at least is operating from what they know, can help you see them through a new lens. And that new lens allows you to see another way to working through the parenting disagreement with them.
We’ll talk about some specific ways to do that in a minute.
Have an Outlet, but Don’t Let It Turn Into a Bash Session
If you’re anything like me, talking it out helps. But, journaling, exercising, or prayer and meditation can also give you the strength and clarity you need to remain in that stance of compassion and patience towards your spouse.
I want you think about one way you can have an outlet for your own frustration and worries, because your human and have your own past experiences too! But, be careful if you do talk to someone else. Choose the person that will be listening wisely. You want to talk to someone that’s a good listener, because you’re not really looking for advice.
And the last thing that will be helpful is a person that is piling on how crappy your spouse is handling a situation. Having an outlet to talk is great, but having a bash session will only get you fired up and make the situation worse!
3 Ways to Overcome Parenting Disagreements
These are some strategies I’ve used in my own life, and learned from others, that can be some great first steps to getting you and your spouse/partner on the same page when you’re in the middle of a parenting disagreement.
Know that this can take some time, and sometimes it’s helpful to talk to someone else that can be a neutral third party.
These are the three steps I use to help my students when they’re trying to get their spouse to follow through with what they’re learning in the online classroom:
1. Make your case and learn together
I think it goes a REALLY long way with a spouse when you find a time to talk when your children aren’t going to interrupt and when neither of you is exhausted. That may seem impossible, but it can happen with a little effort. It may mean getting a sitter or a cup of coffee late in the day so you aren’t falling asleep after getting the kids into bed.
And, don’t be afraid to reschedule if one of you is having a bad day or is too tired even after you scheduled it in advance.
As you sit down to talk with your spouse, remember that your coming from a place of compassion and focus on how your feeling and why you’re worried. Let them hear you say that you feel this approach/strategy/perspective could help your child and that you value their thoughts and feelings.
Focus on words like “I feel or think” and avoid saying things like “You make me feel”.
This will help keep the convo open and keep defenses down.
Then ask them if they’d be willing to learn with you. This “learning” could be as simple as sharing a blog post, article, or a lesson inside of a class your taking that teaches the point your trying to make a case for. When they aren’t getting the information from you, but someone else, that can influence their perspective and open them up to new ideas.
So for instance, if your baby is 11 months old and they aren’t eating table foods at all, and you’re getting worried, you could say to your partner, “There’s this occupational therapist online that I found, and she specializes in these feeding troubles. She has a free workshop that’s only an hour long, will you watch it with me?” (click here to sign up for that free workshop :))
Or, you could say, “I’ve been reading this really great book about kids that have poor attention, and there’s been some amazing things to try in there. Would you read this chapter 4 tomorrow night? I’m not sure I’ll explain it as well and then we could talk about it.”
At this point, you’ll have to be careful not to nag them. In that initial conversation, be specific about when they can learn with you so they can commit to that.
That could open the floodgates to you both being on the same page for how you handle your child, or at least ending the tension!
2. Agree to disagree
If that doesn’t help, then depending on the situation, you could agree to disagree as long as you feel that what your spouse is doing isn’t having a negative impact on the challenge your child is trying to overcome. This is a tough one to have work with feeding because those strategies need to be really consistent, but with a lot of other challenges, you can often find a middle ground that you’re both comfortable with!
Make sure you hold up your end of the bargain though and really let go. It may be helpful to lay out some ground rules in advance about what you’re each agreeing to tolerate and what is out of bounds.
3. Trial run with support
Instead of going the agree/disagree route, you could also ask your spouse or partner to trust you for a certain period of time. So you could say something like, “Could we try not force feeding for 1 month and see if we can make progress.”
With that agreement, you want to make sure that they’re following the same method as you if they’re managing the challenge without you around. You’ll want to emphasize the importance of that because consistency is usually critical for progress.
Getting them to accept a certain time frame is huge, because they know it’s going to end and you’ll have that time to show that progress is happening!
I commend you for being here and not hiding in the corner, because the strain that challenges with our children can put on our spousal and partner relationships can be a lot to bear on top of everything else. By taking the time to work through this and dig a little deeper, you’re helping your child by not only giving them the consistent help they need, but also a more positive environment which is invaluable!
Now I want to hear from you. Have you and your spouse had a time when you weren’t on the same page about your child? Are you in that time now? If so, which of the strategies are you going try? Tell me in the comments below!!
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Alisha Grogan is a licensed occupational therapist and founder of Your Kid’s Table. She has over 14 years experience with expertise in sensory processing and feeding development in babies, toddlers, and children. Alisha also has 3 boys of her own at home. Learn more about her here.