Perennial topic of contention: when couples disagree about raising children
- How strict should children be raised? This question is a contentious issue for many couples.
- Clear boundaries and a loving upbringing do not have to be mutually exclusive.
- Our couple therapists Marga Bielesch and Daniel Konermann give tips on conflict resolution.
A reader asks: "We, that is my husband and I, have two children (3 and 7 years old). All in all, we are a happy family, if it weren’t for the eternal argument about parenting. My husband attaches great importance to table manners and good behavior, and is sometimes very strict in his rules – from watching TV to romping around. Basically, I think his consistency is good, but sometimes I have the feeling that he is just too strict and authoritarian in dealing with the children. In the last few years, I have studied the attachment and relationship-oriented approach a lot and would like to meet my children at eye level. After all, they should have a say in everyday life, even if it sometimes takes a little longer and is more uncomfortable for us adults. Our different attitudes always lead to arguments. My husband accuses me of spoiling the children, and I just want him to be a little more loving and less of an authority figure. Do you have a tip on how we could settle this perennial issue?"
You also have questions for Marga Bielesch and Daniel Konermann? Then write to us [email protected]. We refer your questions to couples therapists!
ON THE TOPIC
What to do if the dispute about the second child cannot be resolved?
This is the advice of couples therapist Marga Bielesch
When it comes to "parenting", I think it’s very important to pull together and remain authentic at the same time. If the ideas are still too far apart, it is valuable and necessary to find compromises. This requires parents who take a step towards each other. Despite the compromises, everyone should be allowed to find his or her own way of dealing with the child. It’s important for mothers and fathers to take a step back and not constantly tell each other what to do.
At the same time, both parents should always make important decisions together – with a healthy balance between the two positions. For such compromises, an exchange and regular conversations with each other are very important. It is necessary to listen to the other person’s concerns and to take them seriously. This is the only way to renegotiate things and find solutions.
Blame and vocal conflict are inappropriate
It is not very helpful to stab your partner in the back in front of the children and to deal with conflicts loudly and emotionally in front of them. This does not solve the conflict and leaves everyone with depressing feelings. You-messages, blaming and emotional accusations are also counterproductive in conflicts and prevent a sustainable solution. It would be better to find a quiet moment without stress and hectic to then talk about the different points of view in a mindful and respectful way.
Talk about parenting even before the baby is born
Expectant parents could also engage in exchanges before the baby arrives, when it comes to basic parenting or splitting parenting time. This is where you can start to explore points of view and make initial compromises – without the fatigue of the first few months causing parental tempers to boil up. A look at your own childhood can also be helpful. After all, our own upbringing also influences the way we (want to) fill the role of parent.
In addition to their own ideas and experiences, "facts" or scientific findings may of course also play a role. For example, I often experience discussions about vaccinations or about whether or not you can let a child scream. Instead of arguing about it emotionally, it is good in such cases to read the vaccination recommendations of the pediatricians or to deal with the mechanisms of action together and then make a decision.
This is what couple therapist Daniel Konermann advises
A fundamentally happy relationship is a good foundation for tackling difficult parenting issues. And let’s be honest for once: When you get married, you always decide on a few unsolvable problems as well. As a couple, can you come to terms with the fact that you might disagree on some issues and not find permanent solutions, but keep finding new temporary ones?? And can you, despite this foreboding, keep engaging, listening, and enduring the discomfort that comes with being? There’s no question this is an art, but it becomes easier when we recognize how embracing our contradictions and growing from them can strengthen us as a couple.
In the case of irreconcilable opposites, it is important to understand the need behind the partner’s behavior.
Daniel Konermann, couples therapist