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Friday, September 17, 2021

From the Counselor’s Couch: Good parent or good spouse — do you have to choose?

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Are the differences in your style of parenting and your spouse’s style of parenting wreaking havoc on your relationship? Are you and your spouse frequently disagreeing about the best steps to take with your children? In many households, the answer would be yes. While you are working hard to parent your child the best way you can, you do not want it to be at the cost of your marriage or relationship. When couples do not agree on how to discipline children, it can create an emotional divide that hurts the couple and eventually the whole family. Of course, the best course of action would be to agree, but when that is not happening, consider the following tips to help you be a good parent while also being a good partner.

Make your plan ahead of time.

Any discipline will get a child to stop a behavior in the moment. If a child is not being abused there can be many right answers. The question is not only about a behavior you want to stop but also what creates long-term behavioral changes that strengthen the child in his or her development. That answer may not come quickly so it is important to take time to develop a discipline plan by discussing how you and your partner will handle common misbehaviors before they happen. Consider developing family rules and consequences for lying, disrespectful behavior, fighting with siblings and not completing chores. We tend to do the worse job parenting when caught off guard by a child’s actions. Developing a plan will help each partner feel heard and included in parenting decisions.

Be willing to do something different.

Historically, a “good whoopin” solved everything. Now many of us have abandoned past ideology for more creative and consequence-focused discipline that does not always require physical punishment. What is your discipline plan? Is it a mixture of your childhood and your adult beliefs or is it something totally different? Discuss what effective discipline was when you were a child and why. Are there areas where you can modify what worked in your family of origin to suit your current family’s needs? Black people are notorious for living hectic lives that require us to hustle at a pace quicker than many other cultures. In previous generations, there was no time to explore different forms of punishment or discipline because we needed children to change their behavior quickly to keep them safe. Now we can take the time to explore alternatives. When you and your spouse design your personal plan for discipline it can deepen your connection and create unity in your relationship while also communicating that united front to your children.

Create a parent-free zone.

Before there were kids there were just you two. Your healthy relationship is one of the best things you can “give” to your children. Make sure you create space for your relationship that is not about being a parent. Reserve 15-20 minutes each day that puts your relationship first. Try talking about something you read, accomplished or desire to do. Create a space to remind you of the friendship you have and why you decided your partner is your ride or die. Remember, the two of you have a shared goal of raising remarkable children and maintaining a healthy marriage. Hopefully, you will find these three tips help you do just that.

Denita N. Hudson is a counselor at The Well Counseling and Consulting Group and an associate professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. For more information, visit thewellcounselinggroup.com, or call 317-471-8996.

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