When our oldest son was born sixteen years ago, we wanted to make sure we got everything right. We researched the best way to hold him; the best position for him to sleep in; the best baby food to feed him; the best educational toys to buy him; the best methods to parent him. We never said this aloud, but every first time parent thinks it: “If I can be perfect as a parent, then he/she will be perfect.” We measure our own worth in many respects by how “perfect” our kids are.
After sixteen years of parenting, there is one thing that is more important than anything you can research; anything you can buy; anything that you can do. The most important thing in parenting is unity. If you are a married parent, unity with your spouse. If you are single parent, then that unity comes from your consistent voice in their life.
There have been many times that Trish and I haven’t been unified in our parenting. We were on different pages. When you are on a different page with your spouse your kids smell it; know it; take advantage of it. Here are a few things that will help restore unity with your spouse in the area of parenting.
1. Don’t correct how your spouse parents in front of your kid(s).
This is a huge issue for most of us. There have been so many times over the years that Trish would do something, say something or promise something that I didn’t agree with and I would call her out in front of our kids. There have been times that I was disciplining our kids and she questioned the discipline I am giving, while I’m giving it. This communicates to your kids that you aren’t in this together. They will then see opportunities to play one against the other. We have really worked on this the past seven years. It is hard, but it pays off.
2. Allow your spouse to be themselves.
Unless your spouse has your personality traits, your wiring, your giftedness, and your life experience, they are probably not going to parent your kids exactly like you do. Most of the time we make our spouse feel guilty for not doing things like we would have done it and we rob them of opportunities to be themselves. Values are what we should focus on in our family, not methods. How your spouse expresses or enforces a value is far less important than the value itself.
3. Don’t threaten but not come through.
I’ve done it. My wife has done it. You have done it. “If you do that one more time, I’m going to spank you.” “When we get home, you are grounded from TV.” “If you touch your brother again, I’m taking your phone away.” Then nothing happens. Enforcing discipline when we promise it helps create unity. If you are going to threaten it, you’ve got to help each other come through with it.
4. Relax and enjoy the journey.
You don’t have to be perfect. Your kid doesn’t have to be perfect. You’re not being judged on perfection. Consistency is much more valuable than perfection in parenting. Relax and trust that your Heavenly Father loves your kids much more than you and longs to give you wisdom and discernment; love and grace; patience and endurance. Time doesn’t slow down as your kids get older, it only speeds up. Relax and enjoy it. Joy fosters unity in a marriage and in a family.
These are some things that have helped us in our parenting. What would you add to the list?