Get on the Same Page
He who is carried on another man’s back does not appreciate how far the town is.
Please pass me that parenting handbook. I need to smack my kid with it.
—JORGE, FATHER OF TWO TEENAGE BOYS
When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.
UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL
When it comes to discipline and boundaries, parents should try to stand united. When they are on the same page with discipline, boundaries, and consequences, they are halfway there. But it’s not easy. Very few parents are naturally on the same page when it comes to discipline. Maybe it’s dad who is too lenient and wants to befriend the teen and mom who has to do all the discipline. Maybe it’s the opposite. But the kids take advantage of the divided front, and the parents end up resenting one another.
The easiest way to get on the same page is to keep the goal in front of you: to build your child’s character and to help him or her become a responsible adult—not to make your child happy. Though it’s sometimes difficult, the more united you can be and the less mixed messages you send to your kids, the better off they will be. Someone once said, “I don’t know the secret of success for families, but I do know the secret of failure: trying to keep everybody happy all the time.” That really does make a difference in our parenting.
Getting on the same page means developing a philosophy of parenting that both parents can agree to. Then work the plan, stay calm, and do what you can do to stay emotionally healthy. This can be difficult for a married couple, so divorced parents trying to co-parent their children often find being united in parenting even more difficult. 1 It is still a worthy goal. Parents could read a book together once a year or go to a parenting seminar. Counseling or family coaching could also be helpful.
It takes time, energy, and intentionality to get on the same page as your spouse, but it will strengthen your relationship and keep you from always parenting in reactive mode.
Jim’s new book, Understanding Your Teen comes out October 28th. Be one of the first to get it by preordering here.
1 Some of the finest parents I know are single parents or couples trying to blend their families. The task of coparenting with two different value bases or with an ex who doesn’t have the same goals is always difficult. However, the better you can communicate and coparent, the easier it is. If it doesn’t happen, you can still give your kids a great amount of security and direction by being as consistent as possible. For step-parenting, I recommend Ron Deal’s book The Smart Step Family.