Children often use play and not words as a means of communicating.
“There’s no I in team” is a common sports expression and a value highlighted in many superhero movies. It’s also a great motto for parents. Consistently working together toward family goals with a unified parenting approach reduces the chances of children being confused about what is expected from them. Creating simple and concrete rules and expectations that are clearly and jointly communicated to children is a great way to accomplish this.
A few tips to help parents be a strong and unified team:
- Come up with a game plan: It’s important for each parent to be able to identify their own values and goals first before coming together to discuss family values and goals. Then parents can jointly and collaboratively decide what the family values and goals are that they want to instill in their children. Try this four step exercise to accomplish this:
- First write down what are your most important values. Write down as many as come to mind and do this independently from your partner.
- Then write down your goals for yourself and family in as much detail as possible by asking yourself the following questions: What do I want to accomplish in 5, 10, 15 years? What do I want my family accomplish in 5, 10, 15 years?
- Now that you have both written down your own values and goals, spend some time sharing what you wrote with your partner. Be curious and ask many questions to explore these values and get more details.
- Lastly, you will probably have a good idea about what the family values and goals are by now since both of you have shared your own values and goals. Write these down and use them as guidelines for parenting decisions and also when making other decisions that impact your family. In other words, keep those values and goals in mind when making future choices.
- Keep your eye on the ball: Parents work best together when they keep their eyes on a common goal. So keep discussions focused on the goal rather than falling into the trap of blaming each other. Focus on how you can achieve the goal such as reducing or eliminating an unwanted behavior your child is doing.
- Get on the same page: Present a unified front when disciplining your children especially about rules, consequences, and incentives. Doing the exercise above is a good way to start because it helps clarify the rules. It is helpful for parents to also have discussions about consequences and incentives they want to use with their children. I will write more about this in a separate blog.
- Avoid mixed messages: A common trap that parents fall into is when one parent gives a consequence that the other parent quickly overturns after the child complains. Instead, back up your partner even if you don’t agree and discuss your disagreement with them out of your children’s earshot. If it turns out that the consequence requires adjustment, both parents can explain the reasoning for the change to the child together. This way the child hears a clear message and views parents as a unified front.
I hope you found these tips useful! I plan to write about other tips in the near future so stay tuned. You can subscribe to our wellness blog (see the far right column of this page or far bottom on mobile phones) or pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff.
My colleagues and I at Intuition Wellness Center specialize in counseling children, teens, and families. We have clinicians who specialize in working with families overcoming challenging patterns. If you believe you or someone you love could benefit from our services, we are here to help. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.
Written by Yoendry Torres, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist
Image credit: By The Conmunity – Pop Culture Geek from Los Angeles, CA, USA (Comikaze Expo 2011 – mutant family) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons