In my view, there isn’t too much you can really do wrong with parenting. Sure, you can make things REALLY difficult on yourself, but barring abuse or neglect, as long as you actually try to parent them there isn’t too much you can mess up.
There are so many different styles of parenting, so many points where style and beliefs can differ, but all these kids seem to turn out fine in the end.
This one parenting mistake, however, can have massive effect on the life of your child. Worse yet, it’s not something very obvious and in the first look of it doesn’t even make it into the parenting top 10. And I see this parenting mistake all the time.
What it is?
Disagreeing with your partner on parenting issues, in front of the children.
To children everything is new. Everyday there is so much to learn, so much is new. At the end of the day they’re completely exhausted (we all know what it’s like when that happens). There’s so much they don’t know, so much that they depend on for us. Giving them a solid, steady home is incredibly important. And yet, it’s sometimes so incredibly difficult.
How this creates balance
This is one of the most common parenting mistakes I see. It’s also very difficult to spot if you’re in the thick of things. It’s difficult to back your partner when you think they’re wrong and it involves the kids. But it’s essential! Create balance in your relationship and thereby in your family by backing each other. If this is a mistake you are making, then you can quiet down the tumult in your family by supporting each other in parental decisions and issues.
I bite my tongue
For us, my husband and me, the pain point is in eating. Just like most parents, we want our kids to eat their dinner in the evening. When they don’t eat, we worry. If they eat badly, refuse to eat dinner, for a couple of days in a row, we worry even more. Are they ill? Are they losing wait? Don’t they need to eat their veggies?
Now, I think I know a few things.
One thing I think I know, is that my kids are stubborn. Especially the youngest one, he isn’t eating if he says he isn’t eating. You can do the airplane thing, or play the train and the tunnel. You can sing a tune and do a jig. He might find it entertaining (you don’t need to sing well, he’s easily pleased when it comes to entertainment), but he’ll still refuse to eat.
So I don’t try.
I also think I know that kids will eat what they need, as long as it’s presented to them. And I’m relatively sure I’m presenting them with enough healthy options so they can eat the stuff they need. Not giving them any other foods too close to dinner also helps.
My husband also know this, but he worries more about it. And so, he’ll try to get the kids to eat beyond the point that I think is wise.
Here, my opinion differs from my husbands. I don’t want to make an issue out of food, because I think it’ll affect how the kids see food and handle food later on. There will come a time when they eat plenty. And when that time comes, I want them to still be able to recognize that feeling of being full. Of not needing to eat. And to listen to that feeling.
Do I say this? No, I bite my tongue. Sometimes literally.
In my view, disagreeing in front of the children on parenting issues is one of the worst things you could do.
In one word, making this parenting mistake is inconsistent. Of course, nobody is consistent all the time and I fully agree with that. Nobody can be consistent all the time, you’d be a robot of some sort. Besides, a lot of situation have nuance, being completely consistent might not even be wise all the time.
But this is different. I think of it as a different sort of inconsistency.
First of all it’s humiliating. Sorry if I’m putting it harshly. But how do you feel when someone doubts your abilities to raise your children. It’s not pleasant, right? So let’s not do this to our partners.
Second, your basically telling your partner you don’t trust their judgement.
Third, you are also telling your children your partner’s opinion is incorrect or unimportant. No, you don’t need to go to bed now, daddy’s wrong about that.
I’ve seen this in action. Two of our friends split up in the past year, exactly because of this.
They’d never really figured out what their parenting values were and didn’t discuss nor agree about what they wanted for the kids in the future.
They are now divorced. The kids were devastated.
Support or hold your peace
As I said earlier, it’s difficult to spot when you make this parenting mistake. The reason for this is because you believe you are right and you believe you are doing what’s right for the kids. So I hope my story above about the consequences hit a nerve. Next time you think you’re right, try to stop yourself.
But, better yet, stop right now. Think about when you disagreed. What are the typical things that you disagree about with your partner. And your partner with you?
Sit down together and talk this through. What are the things you disagree about?
Very often, this means that there are underlying principles and values that you hold dear. Try to unearth those. Why do you feel so strongly, that you must undermine your partner (and vice versa). What are you trying to accomplish in the upbringing of your children with this point?
Talk and find common ground
To try to avoid making this parenting mistake, I always try to think of what kind of children I want to raise. When people talk of my kids, what would I like them to say? When you think of the future, when your children area adults, what kind of people would you like them to be? These questions might help explain why you and your partner respond the way you do. And it can help explain to each other why you disagree.
Then, try to figure out how much of a priority this truly is to both of you. Do you disagree, but you don’t mind that much if you do things otherwise? Or is this truly a conviction?
Lastly, you’ll both need to agree on a way forward. This might be easy, perhaps you know you’re responding to an unfounded worry. Maybe it’s not so easy. If you keep disagreeing, I strongly urge you to get more information on the topic that might be helpful. If that’s not enough, consider talking to someone independent or an expert on the topic.
In short how can you avoid the #1 parenting mistake:
- What are your values in parenting?
- How can you both agree on a way to handle the situation next time;
- If something doesn’t go according to plan, still back your partner;
- If necessary, come back to the topic later, when the kids are not there.
Whatever you do, don’t underestimate how important it is that you can form a unity in front of the kids. Even if the compromise you come up with isn’t perfect, back your partner or failing that, bite your tongue and keep quiet.
You really don’t want the kids to start to divide and conquer, making this parenting mistake can seriously undermine your marriage. The topic of parenthood and kids is so near your heart, it’s touches on the emotions so much, that disagreeing on these things can become detrimental in the long run.
Please, if you find yourself disagreeing on things, download my worksheet and find your unity again!