1. Practice the “Same Team Mentality” in front of the kids.
Smart parents know that kids will do what it takes to get their way. Pitting one parent against the other is a classic move. Kids don’t even need to be taught! They come out of the womb knowing that mom responds differently to a sweet snuggle and a smile before they ask for what they want than dad will. They know which is more likely to sneak some chocolate into their lunch (DAD!) and which is more likely to read one more little book even though it’s 20 minutes past bedtime (MOMMY!). Nobody told them. They just know.
Look, I may not like the extra sugar in her lunch and Tony may not like that bedtime should have been over by now, but in front of the kids we are on the same team. If dad says no, mom says no. So, in order to have the upper hand with these tiny master manipulators we’ve developed a new response…
“Have you already asked Daddy about that? What did Daddy say?” (and vice versa)
With the same team method, whichever parent gave the first response to the request is the parent that leads that situation. Sometimes the kids forget that their main objective is to divide and conquer, so they’ll ask one parent in front of the other. When that happens, we openly discuss in front of the kids what we each think about it and come to an agreement together.
“I really don’t like Claire to have chocolate at school.” – Mom, obviously
“I like the idea that she’s got a little treat with her lunch.” – Dad, the fun guy
“Sure, I get that. Let’s just not make it a daily lunch habit.”
“Great. Maybe once a week or so, she’ll get an extra little treat. Claire, what do you think?”
Not only does this method save a ton of arguments between the two of you, it’s a fantastic chance to model what teamwork looks like for your kids. They can see that we disagree and that we’re willing to talk it out and work toward a solution together.
2. Talk about differences away from the kids.
If you’re letting your partner be a parent, and practicing the same team mentality in front of the kids, you may still find yourself frustrated over something your partner has done. The best thing to do is to wait until the kids aren’t around to bring it up. Then, when you bring it up, don’t forget all of the problem solving skills you already know:
- Start kindly and respectfully.
- Name what specifically happened.
- Name how you feel about it.
- Present what you think would have been a better method.
- Remain open to their perspective.
- Remind yourselves that you’re on the same team.
It could look something like this…
“I love that you want to do fun things and make fun memories with our kids. But, when you took Claire out there to light fireworks, I felt scared and frustrated. I was afraid something bad would happen, and I was frustrated that it seemed like you ignored me when I mentioned it. I wish you would have listened to me, or that we could have waited until I didn’t have my hands full with the baby so I could be out there to keep Claire away from the flames while you lit things on fire.”