Why is it so important for parents to be on the same page when it comes to raising children?
“A young child looks up their parents as the ultimate source of love, authority and security in the world. So, if you and your co-parent often have directly opposing views on how to deal with key issues, like bedtimes or screen time, a child will feel scared, confused and angry. Children tend to feel safer and more cared for if both parents are on the same page. If kids are confused about what the boundaries are, because neither parent seem to know, then they are likely to test them more, creating behaviour issues – and even more disagreement for carers. Furthermore, as they get older, children may also use parental division as an opportunity to ‘divide and rule’ to get what they want in the short term. However, this will make them feel more insecure, and actually scared of their power to play one adult in their life off against the other.” – Tanith Carey, author & child behaviour specialist, and author of What's My Child Thinking? Practical Child Psychology for Modern Parents
“We always talk about the importance of consistency and how it is paramount to a child’s development and wellbeing. If you and your partner work as a team, then you are more likely to successfully meet the needs of your child both emotionally and physically. This is because clear and consistent boundaries will help your child to feel safe and secure within the family unit.” – Chris & Rose, childcare consultants and co-founders of Expect The Best
What are the dangers of ‘good cop, bad cop’ parenting?
“Some parents adopt the role of good cap or bad cop. For instance, one parent may play the ‘best friend’ and others find themselves cast in the role of 'the nag' in response to get things done. Or one may fall in the role of disciplinarian (these parents may themselves be the children of authoritarian parents who see obedience as a measure of a child’s ‘respect’ for them). In return, the other parent may become more lenient to try and balance this out if they think the child is being treated too harshly. Research has found that this creates a level of inconsistency for children which can become extremely stressful.” – Tanith
“Often the ‘good cop, bad cop’ parenting arises when one parent is more passive than the other. The issues that occur from this can be that one parent feels resentful at always being made to feel like the ‘nasty’ one while the ‘good cop’ will get the satisfaction of being thought of in a ‘good light’. Unfortunately, this will often backfire and the ‘good cop’ may find that they aren’t being respected in the way that they would like to be. You may also often find that it results in sending your child the wrong message – that it is okay to play one parent off the other. A united front is more likely to be successful in managing behaviour and other aspects of parenting.” – Chris & Rose
How much do your parenting skills relate to how you were brought up?
“Every one of us comes to parenting from a different place. At a conscious level, we may either believe we should repeat some of the parenting we received as kids or we may set out to reject how we were brought up if it has bad memories for us. Often, our parenting styles are a mixture of both. Furthermore, at a subconscious level, we are also likely to default automatically to techniques our parents used with us because it's all we know. So, if for example, a parent used shaming comments to control your behaviour, you may hear the same comments coming out of your mouth. On top of that, your co-parent will have had a completely different childhood and bring a whole different set of ideas and experiences into the situation – and this can create tension. To help understand your individual parenting styles, ask each other the same questions about each other's childhoods. Then look at your answers together. Don’t be surprised if the answers bring up the strong feelings for both of you. Use what you discover to think about your strengths and weaknesses and work out how to best work as a team.” – Tanith
Is there such a thing as a ‘normal’ level of disagreement between parents?
“There will always be some level of disagreement when it comes to how each partner wishes to parent but the most useful thing you can do is to sit down and have a discussion with your partner about what parenting together looks like to you. It is essential to go into this discussion knowing that you will have differing opinions and that that is perfectly normal. Try not to disregard each other’s opinion as worthless, as this can lead to resentment. Remember that at the heart of this is your child and that learning to meet their needs only comes from open and honest discussions and a willingness to find solutions.” – Chris & Rose
Is it important to come to general agreements about daily rules like bedtimes, screen time etc?
“In our opinion, it is vital for both parents to be on the same page, when it comes to all aspects of parenting. It is essential that the decisions you make together on how you wish to parent takes into consideration your child’s personality and their individual needs. In order to achieve this there will of course have to be a certain amount of compromise. Even with the best will in the world, routine won’t always be consistent and decisions about daily rules will need to take into account room for flexibility.” – Chris & Rose
If you feel uncomfortable with how your partner has dealt with a particular situation, what should you do?
“It would be unrealistic to expect your co-parent to agree on everything. But avoid showing your anger or disapproval of a situation in front of your child, as it undermines the authority of both of you. When you do disagree, agree to discreetly work out your differences out of the earshot. If you also see your co-parent struggling to handle a situation and you feel they are not dealing with it in the best way, don't tell them they are doing it all wrong in front of your child. Instead ask 'Can I help?' On other occasions, when your co-parent is not there and your child says: “But mummy/daddy lets me do that,” reply calmly. “They may do, but I’m the one responsible for you right now”.” – Tanith
What are your top rules for managing conflict with your partner?
“Wait until you are alone to discuss any parenting issues, so that your child does not blame himself/herself. It will also mean that you are able to show a united front to the child/children. When you discuss an issue, it is important to avoid laying blame as this can lead to resentment and exacerbate the situation. If you can, be considerate of your partner’s opinion, it will go a long way in helping them to feel heard and therefore will help to resolve the any potential issues.” – Chris & Rose
What are your tips for raising a child as a team when you’re no longer in a romantic relationship?
“If you’re separated from your child’s co-parent, behave like business partners. Business partners don’t have to be friends, but they prioritise the successful launch of their project – in this case your child. That’s most likely to happen if your child isn’t caught in the middle of your differences. Rather than getting angry or resentful, agree on the things you both want for your child – which is to grow into an emotionally balanced, secure individual. Concentrate on those common goals.” – Tanith
And if you’re a single parent?
“Being a single parent can be challenging, but remember you simply can’t do everything, you are just one person. Instead, decide what are the most important aspects of parenting to you and work towards making those your daily goals, rather than trying to focus on what you fear your child might be missing out on. Ultimately, the most important thing is that your child is loved and cared for, everything else is a bonus.” – Chris & Rose
What should you do if your other half isn’t putting in as much effort as you?
“Discuss with you co-parent how you are feeling in a warm, non-confrontational way. Have you actually told them you feel you need more help or are you acting like a martyr and expecting them to guess? Avoid accusations like: “You don’t do enough to help with the kids' bath times.” Instead, talk about how you feel you could do with more help in certain areas and ask if you could come up with solutions together. Often a co-parent may also give less help with the kids if they feel they are being criticised or don't feel they are very good at it. So, give praise to your co-parent for what they do well in their childcare so they want to continue.” – Tanith
If you are finding it hard to work as a team, what kind of help is on offer?
“You could try this exercise to decide what matters most to each of you. Set aside half an hour after the kids have gone to sleep to think more deeply about what your core parenting values are. Think of this as like deciding your parenting mission statement. For example, in my book, there is a long list of positive qualities, like kindness, loyalty, friendliness, creativity, self-awareness, compassion, and humour – but you can add to them. Next, each pick the word from the list that best answers the following questions for each of you: What’s important to you as a parent? What kind of parent do you aspire to be? What sort of relationship would you like to have with your child? How would you love to hear people describe your child? How would you like your child to describe you in later years? Then look at how your answers and c compare them to your co-parent. When you understand what’s important to the other, you will be able to shine a light on where these differences stem from and how you can meet in the middle – and what you both want for your children. List the values you both agree with and keep them somewhere you can see them to remind yourselves of your shared goals.” – Tanith
“It can be helpful to do some research together. Take the time to listen to each other’s opinions in more detail, so you can come to an informed decision together. You can also consult a childcare professional and seek advice on how to resolve a childcare issue. If you are finding you need some extra support with learning to parent together then you can look into therapy and counselling options.”
What's My Child Thinking? Practical Child Psychology for Modern Parents by Tanith Carey and Angharad Rudkin, is published by DK and available to buy now here. To get in touch with Chris & Rose, visit ExpectTheBest.uk.