Parenting is a massive endeavour that we strike out on as a couple. It is an adventure that can test and strain a marriage and build it and strengthen it. Here are a few ideas to think about as we figure out how to parent together.
Give yourself permission to prioritise each other. A strong marriage is vital to our own mental health, to the sense of safety and peace that our children have, and to the stability of our life together as a family. We must make space to grow our marriages and make each other feel valued, heard, and loved. Let your kids see you doing special things just for your spouse, expressing affection, wanting to be with them. You are people in a relationship first, not just parents.
Talk ahead. Conflict can arise when our instinctive parenting clashes with our spouse’s intuitive parenting. Take the time to discuss your core values together of parenting your kids. When you discipline your kids, are you aiming for behaviour change, mind change, discussion or obedience? Is “respect” a value that you want your kids to have when they talk to you, or more like “raw and honest”? What boundaries do you have in how to handle mistakes or disobedience? What did you like about the way you were parented, and what didn’t you like? You can often spot a parenting issue arising: from how you want to handle social media for tweens, toddler tantrums, or sibling stress. Discussing it before it happens can help get you on the same page and give you a basis for discussion when one of you parents differently. Rather than argue about a specific decision, bring the conversation back to the values you both share and how those are working out in your parenting choices.
Value what makes you different. You are two different people and so bring a variety of strengths and weaknesses into your parenting. It can be so easy to get annoyed and feel undermined when our spouse’s parenting instincts are not the same as ours, but take a step back occasionally to appreciate how those differences bring richness to your children. As a team, you may be strong at different things. You can cover each other’s weaknesses and enjoy each other’s strengths and value what each other brings.
Be graceful with imperfection – We all are imperfect parents. We all are still growing in learning how to be the parents we want to be, and just when we think we have figured it out, our children grow and change, and we are back to feeling like we don’t know how to do it well. Be gracious with each other as each of you grow and change both as people and parents. You may learn at different rates. One of you may be more natural at a particular season of your children’s life. Commit to growing together and not expecting perfection from each other. Help each other process the emotions of being imperfect parents together.