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You slink back to join them, angry, hurt and frustrated, and eat your lunch in silence. Lunch over; you all wearily climb onto your bikes for seemingly endless ride home. How did our happy day go wrong? What, if anything, should be done about it? Do you simply hope and pray for arrival of Monday morning and refuge of work routine? No! It’s essential to communicate with your partner.
Plan a Response Often, our first reaction when faced with a difference in styles is, "That's not what I would do." Conflicts bubble to surface when one or both partners operate with “my way is right way” mentality. Discussing and resolving a conflict is only way to minimize negative impact differing parenting styles can have on family. An unresolved conflict in parenting styles is one of leading causes of partner breakups.
Relying on some of following may minimize your distress as you plan a response:
Communication: Take time to discuss each other's parenting styles and values. Work on listening to your partner as carefully as you would like them to listen to you. Awareness (self and others, especially your child): Be aware if your own childhood is influencing how you are reacting to your child or your co-parent, and assess if your reaction is a fit for today's situation. Ask yourself: Why did you react that way? Why did they?
Ownership (your actions/non-actions): Don’t play blame game. Examine what role your actions or non-actions played in conflict.
Control (who has it; who needs it): Understand each other's needs for this vital resource. Strive to be more flexible and to not have to always be in control. Never undermine your partner or your partner's parenting in front of your children.
Resolution (bring issues to closure): Unresolved issues are a sure course to dissolution. Don't put off dealing with important conflicts.
Keep in mind: Despite your differences, you both want what’s best for children. This wasn't first conflict and it probably won't be last. The next time you and your spouse lock horns over a parenting matter, remember to relax, be compassionate, and know that your kids need you both.
Dr. Charles Sophy currently serves as Medical Director for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. He also has a private psychiatry practice in Beverly Hills, California. Dr. Charles Sophy, author of the “Keep ‘Em Off My Couch” blog, provides real simple answers for solving life’s biggest problems. He specializes in improving the mental health of children. To contact Dr. Sophy, visit his blog at http://drsophy.com.