When my kids were little, I found that my husband and I often disagreed on parenting styles and it had a negative impact on our marriage at that time. We both had our own ideas on what was the right way to parent and we didn’t do a good enough job communicating constructively. This is actually a common problem for new parents so if this is happening to you, don’t feel alone. You can learn to communicate more effectively. Remember, you are on the same team! Vicki Hoefle is a sought-after coach, speaker and professional parent educator with 25 years of experience teaching parents, educators, and caregivers how to raise respectful, responsible and resilient children. She understands that parenting together is an important element to a happy family. She also understands that sometimes, parents need help learning to how to parent together.
Vicki Hoefle brings parents sustainable and proactive strategies for nurturing happy families in her latest book which is called Parenting as Partners: How to Launch Your Kids Without Ejecting Your Spouse (Routledge – May 2017). In Parenting as Partners, Hoefle provides a step-by-step approach to creating a parenting plan that will preserve and strengthen your marriage, as well as launch emotionally healthy and happy young adults. Her book is full of advice to make co-parenting so much easier! I have included my affiliate link to her book below for your convenience.
Hoefle’s strategies for parenting together work for all types of families showing them how to invest in the relationship, focus on what is important, and experience the joy of living in a healthy, loving family.
Parenting Together: Plan For Co-Parenting
I was given permission to share an excerpt from Parenting as Partners with you here.
Planning for Your Partnership
For you and your partner to co-parent successfully through every age and stage of your children’s lives, a well thought out parenting plan and a set of skills to help you navigate the process of creating that plan initially is required. Then you are charged with the challenge of sticking to this plan over time with respect, openness and honesty for yourself and your partner. This is your opportunity to set the stage for success and explore areas that will have a direct impact on your ability to work collaboratively with your partner in designing and then implementing your parenting plan. Some of these areas are between you and your partner; some come at unwittingly crafty hand of your children and others from the looks of unsuspecting friends or bystanders. Taking the time to identify them, before you are knee-deep in the middle of a conversation or floored by a response to something you said or did, will go a long way in pushing through and achieving the original and planned outcome.
Whether we know it or not, we are always communicating either by our attitude, words or actions (and our kids are watching and learning). Most parents I talk with say they are good, clear, strong, respectful communicators. And they are, when they have had enough rest, enough caffeine, enough yoga, enough sex, enough alone time, enough of whatever the thing is that grounds and centers them. When there hasn’t been enough of what we need to remain in balance, communication suffers, and for this reason, I bring it up here. Lousy communication is enough to undo any of the work you and your partner put into completing the exercises in this book. No matter how good we thing we are at communication, a small gesture, a tone, a roll of the eyes or a dismissive tsk can end any potentially productive conversation immediately and definitively. Here is a chance for you to take an honest inventory of how you communicate, not only when you are at your best, but when you feel angry, disrespected, ignored, overlooked, threatened or hurt. Admitting that you aren’t always the best communicator when you are experiencing a negative emotion opens the door for learning new and more effective ways of talking and listening during difficult moments. The following are specific examples of how our messages misfire, and we fall into ineffective communication habits.
Passive aggressive Messages
Remarks like “It’s fine” or “I don’t care” or “Do whatever you want” send a very clear message that in fact you do care, you do have an opinion and it isn’t all fine at all. This passive aggressive communication style, when used as a fall back method to end a discussion (or argument) with your partners, instead of remaining calm and articulating what you believe, want or need, causes resentment and unnecessary misunderstandings.
Sharon recalls, “My go-to is do whatever you want, it’s not that important to me, which is a lie. I throw it at my partners to let him know I’m pissed and to hurt him because I feel hurt. This is especially true when it comes to our parenting. To make things worse, I walk away, sulk and instead of having one problem to solve, we have multiple problems to weed through, and because we are fairly certain each conversation will end in the same way, we try and avoid them all together. We both end up harboring resentments toward the other, and that interferes with our ability to co-parent successfully.”
This communication style is a power play disguised as submission. Instead of walking straight into the snare, try taking a deep breath and mustering up a bit of courage to share your idea, your concern, your perspective or to ask for what you want. It may seem awkward at first, but if you give yourself time to practice and you ask your partner for assistances as you break this pesky habit, you will find yourself feeling more confident sharing what is on your mind, in the moment, in a respectful and productive way.
Don’t Should on Me
Most of us have heard the expression don’t should on me, and yet we still do a great deal of shoulding on ourselves and others on a regular basis. The word should is one of the most highly charged and disempowering words in the English language, and it is a word thrown around quite loosely.
Statements like “I really should turn off the television and go to bed” activate feelings of guild if we don’t actually turn the television off and go to bed. That guild turns to resentment, stubbornness or discouragement toward ourselves. These negative feelings and judgements then filter out and land on those we feel closest to – namely, our kids and partner.
Statements like “I don’t think you should do that,” said to your partner, are another way of saying, “I don’t think you have what it takes to make a decision for yourself, so I will tell you what to do,” which again leads to resentment and distance.
No matter how or when it’s used, the word itself interviews with respectful, honest and effective communication and can send a conversation spiraling out of control in a matter of minutes.
One client recalled her powerful insight after we explored the word should in her life: “My partner and I were able to identify an area of life where we intersected and were really excited to create our first parenting plan together. After years of my husband feeling judged and feeling disappointed myself, we were looking forward to working together for the good of our family. Imagining our surprise when our plan not only didn’t work, but made things worse between the two of us. It turns out that I had an entire belief system developed that was based on shoulds. Good mothers should, good fathers should, good kids should. Shoulds were running and ruining my life, and they trumped the wonderful parenting plan my partner and I created together. Now, when I hear myself thinking I should or he should or they should, I reframe it and suddenly all kinds of options open up to me that I never would have considered before.”
Try replacing the word should with:
- Next time I could…
- Next time I will try…
- What could I have done differently?
- Are you open to…
I hope these tips for co-parenting help you develop your own parenting plan. There can be no doubt that parenting together is so much easier than parenting independently. You may like to take this Good Parenting Skills quiz with your partner.