The fact that the divorce rate is now approaching 50% in the United States is evidence that disagreements between parents are common, but the secret to successful parenting lies in the way in which such disagreements are handled.
Handling disagreements is often far from easy and requires a great deal of thought, maturity, patience and tact amongst other qualities. Most important of all perhaps it requires an ability to see things in perspective and to approach problems realistically.
Disagreement can often spark emotion and lead at best to irritation and at worst to considerable anger. Wherever the case emotion will certainly color your view of the situation and affect your objectivity.
It is important to recognize that your spouse may well hold a different point of view, but that this is a view is nonetheless held for good reason and is no less valid than your own. As such their views and opinions on any given subject need to be respected and given due weight and consideration alongside your own.
It is also important to consider the nature of the problem itself. It is surprising how worked up you can become about issues which are quite trivial. If the outcome is quite inconsequential then is it really worth getting into a fight about it.
The true problem comes when you disagree over something which you consider to be of particular importance and herein lies the difficulty as we frequently place far more importance on things than they warrant.
There are numerous common examples, but let’s consider just one. When should your child go to bed?
The majority of parents would agree that it is very important for a child to get a good night’s sleep and would also agree that sending an eleven year old to bed at 8 pm or letting her go to bed whenever she chooses would not be in the child’s best interest. But when should she go to bed? One parent may feel strongly that she should be in bed by 9 pm while the other might consider that 10 pm would be more appropriate. One thing is probably not in doubt though and that is that the child would almost certainly choose to go to bed later rather than earlier.
This may well seem like a trivial issue when you read it in print, but it is surprising just how frequently parents come close to blows over this particular issue. The answer is of course that it is a trivial question and that, whatever you decide, the decision is far from set in concrete.
Imagine that you feel strongly that 10 pm is too late and that your child is not going to get enough sleep. Rather than get into a disagreement why not merely voice your opinion and then give it a try. If after a week or so it’s clear that your child isn’t getting sufficient sleep and is finding it difficult to get up in the morning and lacks energy during the day, then it’s simple enough to revisit you decision.
Very few issues are of such importance that it is impossible to find a compromise and, in the majority of cases, decisions can be reversed if they turn out to have been the wrong decision.
Another extremely important thing to think about is that the way in which you handle disagreements sends a strong message to your children.
It’s no bad thing for children to see that mom and dad have different views and don’t always agree about everything, but it’s especially important for them to see that you respects each others views and are prepared to listen, discuss and, if necessary, to reach a compromise. Not only does this lead to a happier and healthier home environment, but it also provides the child with an excellent model to follow.