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Parenting together: 6 tips for partners to be on the same page

You probably won't agree with every single parenting decision your partner makes, but here's how to present a united front.

when parents disagree

Seven o'clock rolls around. In our household, that means the bedtime ritual begins: Jammies. Brush teeth. Our favorite book. And then...drift off to sweet dreams and counting sheep?

Ha! Not for us.

Picking out jammies becomes a game of cat and mouse. My husband chases our son. I'm chasing my husband. Brushing teeth becomes an Olympic event—and judging by the snail's pace at which we complete this task, we're not taking home a gold medal any time soon.

Finally, we sit, we snuggle and we read. And then we read again. And then the "one mores" begin. "Just one more time. Just one more book. Just one more minute!"

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Before I know it, one more minute has turned into an hour. Emotions are high, tears are brimming, and yes, there is yelling.

My husband thinks we need to be more firm. "Let's put him in time-out or take away something he likes, like reading time," he suggests.

"What about respecting our son's needs and emotions?" I counter.

And just like that, my husband and I are locked in a power struggle too.

With such different ideas about how best to manage our son's champion sleep fighting tendencies, is there any hope for us to parent from the same page?

How do you find middle ground when you and your partner disagree about parenting?

My hope was that my husband and I would one day be able to meet in the middle, parenting together with a shared set of clear, firm boundaries while still validating our child's emotions.

Bridging different parenting styles

I think my partner is too harsh, where my partner thinks I'm too soft.

My partner prefers a strict routine, where I prefer spontaneity.

My partner is not comfortable with big emotions, whereas I raise the roof on making space for feelings.

Sound familiar?

According to Dr. John Gottman, when two people have children, a cross-cultural experience occurs. Each parent brings forth a different set of beliefs based upon how they were raised. "We all come into relationships with our belief systems from our upbringings," says Burnaby, BC, clinical counselor Allison Bates. "But it doesn't always mean it's the best way to raise your family."

William Doherty, in The Intentional Family: Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties, writes that when a new family system is set into motion, partners have the opportunity to re-evaluate beliefs and values to create a chosen culture within their tribe. The more intentional that culture is, the more the tribe thrives.

The scientific case for consistency

The way we co-parent can greatly impact our family dynamics. Children are concrete learners who thrive on consistency, boundaries, and rituals. Inconsistencies in parenting practices can send mixed signals, leading to confusion and more acting out.

When children do not feel safe or when they feel that their environment is unpredictable, they may resort to brainstem behaviors of fight, flight or freeze, resulting in more power struggles and misbehaviors. In more extreme cases, "uncoordinated child-rearing," as it's sometimes called in the literature, can also create anxiety or depression.

What to do when you disagree on parenting

Start by putting these six tips into motion:

1. Create emotional and physical safety
It's important that both parenting partners feel safe and heard, even during a disagreement. To clear a path for safe communication, ask open-ended questions and then pause to hear what your partner has to say.

According to the Gottman Institute, completing and talking about the following statements as a couple can help evoke safety and connection, a great first step to co-parenting:

  • I feel that you are a good parent because ____.
  • I feel that my role as a parent is to ___.
  • It's most important to me for our child to be ___.
  • My goal in raising our child is ___.

2. Listen actively
Although it can be challenging, it helps to commit to actively listening—to really hear one another, even when you disagree with what the other person is saying.

This tip helped me shift my goal from convincing my husband to see things my way, to actually listening to what he had to share without feeling that my differing views were under attack. Instead, I validated his emotions, just as I was hoping we could do as a couple for our child.

It helped for me to remember that his reality is very real to him, just as my perspective is real and valid to me. And although I may not have agreed with what he was saying, in listening to him, I was learning. Every opportunity is a growing opportunity. In embracing this mindset, we are brought closer to one another instead of further apart.

I realized that the ultimate goal was not for me to win the argument but to find our middle ground. This shift in our thinking proved vital. We made it our mission to co-parent in a way that respects our shared values and beliefs.

3. Create a shared vision
We sat down and we defined our long-term goals for our family. We discussed the desired rules and boundaries and why we felt that they were important. Talking through these sharing prompts helped us recognize how our different parenting styles aligned with our sometimes differing goals:

  • My parents were ___ and I feel that was ___.
  • To me, discipline means ___.
  • What are our parenting strengths (individually/collectively)?
  • The approach to parenting that I most align with is ____ because ____.
4. Prioritize
Here, we took the larger, shared vision we had for our family and focused on addressing the recurring, high-stress situations we were dealing with, like bedtime. Together, we became curious as to why certain behaviors were arising from our son.

Daniel Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and executive director of the Mindsight Institute, invites co-parents to ask these questions:

  • Why did our child act this way (What was happening internally/emotionally)?
  • What lesson do we want to teach?
  • How can we best teach it?

Answering these questions actually helped us find our common ground.

5. Embrace differences
We began to realize that this was not a clear case of right and wrong and that, as a couple, we didn't have to have the same strengths to be effective co-parents. And slowly, our parenting power struggles at bedtime lessened—and so did our child's.

6. Be a united front
It is highly unlikely that you will agree with every single parenting decision your partner makes. But as long as you are not concerned with abuse or neglect, be a united front in the presence of your children. Undermining your co-partner in front of your children diminishes both of your authority and sends the message that there is a way around parenting decisions. Discuss your feelings in private and re-visit as a united pair.

What if your co-parent is not interested in same page parenting?

Despite having the best of intentions, ultimately, we cannot force change on someone who does not want to change. When both partners continue to hold different ends of the tug of war rope, asking for help from an outside party can be useful. Parenting coaches, couple's counseling or online parenting courses can help co-parents reach compromise.

So, how did we fare? Well, somewhere along the way, my husband and I put down our weapons, leaned into a few shared goals, and slowly, we started to find some common ground.

As for our little champion sleep fighter? Well, he's still a champ, but as our rituals became more consistent, and my husband and I more united, our son has shifted too.

And though I'm fairly certain my husband and I will never parent from the exact same page, I feel hopeful, because "same" is not my goal anymore.

Together is.


A version of this post was originally published on Generation Mindful.

14 Toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

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Meri Meri: Decor and gifts that bring the wonder of childhood to life

We could not be more excited to bring the magic of Meri Meri to the Motherly Shop. For over 30 years, their playful line of party products, decorations, children's toys and stationery have brought magic to celebrations and spaces all over the world. Staring as a kitchen table endeavor with some scissors, pens and glitter in Los Angeles in 1985, Meri Meri (founder Meredithe Stuart-Smith's childhood nickname) has evolved from a little network of mamas working from home to a team of 200 dreaming up beautiful, well-crafted products that make any day feel special.

We've stocked The Motherly Shop with everything from Halloween must-haves to instant-heirloom gifts kiddos will adore. Whether you're throwing a party or just trying to make the everyday feel a little more special, we've got you covered.

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As a mom, I say the phrase 'let me just…' to my kids more times a day than I can count.

Yes, I can help you log into your class, let me just send this email.
Yes, I can play with you, let me just make one more call.
Yes, I can get you a snack, let me just empty the dishwasher.

I say it a lot at work, too.

Yes, I can write that article, let me just clear my inbox.
Yes, I can clear my inbox, let me just finish this meeting.
Yes, I can attend that meeting, let me just get this project out the door.

The problem is that every 'let me just' is followed by another 'let me just'... and by the time they're all done, the day is over, and I didn't do most of the things I intended—and I feel pretty bad about myself because of it.

I wasn't present with my kids today.
I didn't meet that deadline.
I couldn't muster the energy to cook dinner.
The house is a mess. I am a mess. The world is a mess.

It's okay, I tell myself. Let me just try again tomorrow.

But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes and the list of things I didn't get to or didn't do well bears down on my shoulders and my heart, and all I can think is, "I am failing."

And I think that maybe I'm not alone.

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