In the first two installments of this series we took a look at resolving couples conflict related to money and household chores. We’re tackling another big topic today, children. These are tips for helping you get through conflicts in the moment, but if you and your partner are experiencing conflict on a regular basis, give us a call. You might benefit from speaking with a professional, objective third party.
When Kids Play You Against Each Other
We’ve all been there. Children are smart and can use their intelligence to be pretty darn manipulative when they want something. They are all about immediate gratification, so doing whatever it takes to get their way seems like a perfectly reasonable approach to them.
Our best advice is to communicate directly with your partner when making “yes or no” decisions. Avoid ever telling your child, “if your mother/father says it is okay.” You are abdicating your responsibility. Not only does that set a bad example for your child, it is almost always a recipe for creating conflict. Instead, tell your child, “I’ll give you an answer in a little while.” Then, talk to your spouse directly and agree in advance on an answer.
When You Disagree on Boundaries and Rules
You think it is fine for your 14-year-old daughter to wear makeup. Your spouse disagrees and is determined to have their way. Your spouse thinks your 14-year-old son should be able to go out at night with his 18-year-old teammates, in their cars, with no supervision. You think it is a very bad idea.
Most importantly in these situations, do not have the discussion in front of your children. Make sure you have a private conversation. And, be clear with each other about your concerns. Likely, you position on a topic is more about you and less about your child or the actual situation you are fighting about. Will you be so worried about your son going out with older boys that it will keep you up at night and cause you constant anxiety? Tell your partner that. They may be much more likely to come around to your way of thinking if the focus is on your well-being.
When Your Partner Makes a Decision You Disagree With
What do you do when your partner has made a unilateral decision, set an expectation with your child, or given them permission to do something that you disagree with?
Again, communication is really the key. You may be upset with your spouse about making a decision without you, but focusing your discussion on something that is already done, isn’t likely to produce anything but more conflict. Have a calm discussion about the importance of making decisions together, and come up with a plan to make sure that unilateral decisions are avoided in the future.
If you are in the Loveland area, give me a call and come in for a consultation. I’m here to help.