Continuing Couples in Crisis theme…
As has been previously mentioned, couples in crisis often find themselves arguing about parenting. Parenting can be simultaneously both rewarding and challenging. It is not uncommon to hear parents express that parenting is the best and most difficult thing they’ve ever done. Differences in parenting styles and attitudes seem to be at the heart of conflict centered on parenting. Parents need to model good communication and conflict resolution skills in order to provide a safe and supportive environment in which their children can grow and develop.
How conflict arises
Conflict can easily arise when either person in a couple parents differently to their partner. Parenting styles are automatically driven by what each individual experienced and saw modeled in childhood – both positive and negative. The chances are that these experiences were quite different for each individual.
So if one partner applies what comes naturally, even though it was positive for them, it may conflict with the values and beliefs of the other.
It makes sense then that the key to resolving conflict around parenting is respectfully talking about each other’s experiences, values and beliefs. Building on this foundation, shared values, beliefs and strategies can be developed that you can both fully support.
Exploring parenting values and beliefs
Ideally, this process is done before deciding as a couple to have children as part of marriage preparation. However, this timing is not critical, as some couples only begin to think about parenting styles and values when actually planning for a family. Either way, talking through these issues in a structured way with the help of a trained professional can be hugely beneficial to forging a united parenting style for when your children do come along.
A counselor can ensure that unexpected emotional reactions to your own parenting experiences are safely explored so that you get to choose what you want to leave behind, and what you want to carry forward into your own parenting style and family. This way you can, together, identify beliefs and values you both ascribe to and establish parenting guidelines that you can both implement and maintain.
No matter how good our parenting preparation is we will inevitably face the reality of children’s behaviors that will test our plans and ability to respond consistently with our values and beliefs. Typical scenarios include things like:
- What to do when your child refuses to go to school or is constantly getting into trouble at school.
- How to respond when your teenager seems to be drifting, gets in with the ‘wrong’ crowd, or starts to experiment with drugs or alcohol.
- How to navigate your relationship with a child who no longer listens to or respects you, or behaves abusively towards you.
When an apparent ‘crisis point’ occurs, it is natural to feel overwhelmed, panicked and under-supported. If this happens, it may be time to revisit a counsellor, reaffirm your values, restore your confidence, and settle any highly charged emotions before tackling such situations.
And while this article is about parenting and its role in relationship conflict it is appropriate to add some links to practical and proven parenting help. This includes Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) and Healthy Families (by Beyond Blue)