It takes work to raise children together
When it comes to deciding how to raise children – think about your children and how the alternative (i.e. divorce and custody disputes) will negatively affect them. They need stability. Give your partner respect. Don’t contradict them in front of the children. Discuss it later – calmly and coherently without attributing blame.
For example, if your spouse lets the children do something that you think they shouldn’t be allowed to do – don’t get into an argument about it in front of the children. Instead, support your partner.
You can always discuss the pros and cons of letting your children do that later on in the privacy of your bedroom after they are asleep.
Focus on what each child needs, not what you need. Think about your actions from a child’s point of view. You want to model to them how to be civil. How to respect other people.
You don’t want to show them how to lose control – lose your temper and yell at your partner. You want them to end up being kind and thoughtful individuals, so you need to model that to them at all times.
They don’t want to see their parents fighting and yelling. They want a happy home so they can focus on their homework, their friends and their own lives.
Don’t burden your children with adult concepts and decisions. Don’t let them see the frustrations and issues you may have with your spouse.
Demonstrate cooperative parenting
Biologically, your child is driven to love both parents. They want to have a relationship with each of their parents.
They need to see you both cooperating and supporting each other’s decisions.
This might take a superhero effort on your part – particularly if your spouse tends to push your buttons – but this will benefit your child (and you) in the end.
Don’t say ‘my child’ – ever!
You don’t want to treat your children as if they are your possessions. They are human beings in their own right. So don’t reflect this in how you talk about them. Instead, say (as appropriate):
- The children
- Our children
- The boys
- Our daughters.
Be balanced and fair towards your spouse
Don’t ever criticize or badmouth or blame your spouse in front of the children.
Even if you have very different parenting values or approaches, it is in your interests (and your child’s interests), to always see and acknowledge the positive qualities of your spouse and what they bring to your child’s lives.
Be polite in texts and emails to your spouse
When you are writing a text or email, imagine your child reading it.
If you send a demanding, threatening or hateful text or email to your spouse, chances are your child could see it someday.
If your spouse sends you a nasty text or email, don’t respond in kind. Sometimes it’s best to simply ignore it. If you need to respond, be polite and stick to the facts. Tit for tat never gets anyone anywhere.
Own your flaws and mistakes
No one is a perfect parent. We’ve all said or done some things we regret.
Acknowledging the faults of your own behavior, and showing a willingness to change, can go a long way to taking the sting out of negative incidents that have happened in the past.
It is human to be flawed and to make mistakes – own it, rather than give blanket denials which will only reduce your credibility. People can tell when you are lying.
Have realistic expectations
We all want our children to become model citizens. But placing too high expectations on them can make their lives stressful.
Provided that the children are not at risk of harm in your spouse’s care, it is likely their best interests are served by both parents having a meaningful involvement in the children’s lives.
Be prepared to compromise about how to raise children
Work out what your ideal living situation would be, both from your child’s perspective and from your perspective. Then work out the arrangements that – although they may not be your perfect ideal – maybe you could still live with them.
Be open-minded in thinking about the different options and arrangements that could work. Try and find a new alternative that works for both of you.
If you need help learning how to raise children together, you can discuss it during a couple’s retreat. We have often found that how to raise children is a key subject of discussion and there is a lot to learn.