03 Dec 3 Tips for Parenting as a United Front
Parents often have questions about handling difficult situations and topics within their family. It can be difficult to get on the same page when it comes to parenting styles and techniques, but parenting as a united front is important for many reasons. Many parents have shared that they feel unsupported or undermined by their partners when it comes to a parenting decision. Presenting as a united front while parenting will not only benefit your relationship with your partner but is also good for your children as well.
What does it mean to parent as a “united front?” Simply put, it means you and your partner have come to an agreement about how to approach a situation. For example, let’s say that you feel that sugar is no good, but your partner believes an occasional treat is okay. Someone will have to compromise for the sake of the united front, but the discussion about sweets would continue behind the scenes between you and your partner. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be in 100% agree at all times, but it does require open communication, consistency, and presenting as one.
Fostering Open Communication
Effective communication may seem like it should come naturally. But more often than not, it is something that must be learned and practiced. It is not uncommon to say one thing, and the other person hears something else. As parents, it is important that you are able to openly and effectively communicate with both your partner and your child(ren). Do you feel strongly about a certain discipline technique? Discuss this. Is there a big decision that needs to be made that will impact the family? That’s right, it’s time to talk about it. Let’s say your teen has asked for a car. The first steps will involve you hearing out your child, discussing your thoughts with your partner, and then presenting your decision as one. This example is simplified, of course, but lays out the important skills: active listening, giving feedback, making a decision, and presenting this decision to your child as a united front.
Developing effective communication skills will benefit both your relationship with your partner (or co-parenting partner) and will help you model these healthy skills for your children. Know that it is okay to disagree and that decisions may not be made after one conversation with your partner. Conversations surrounding parenting should be ongoing. Parents are human too, and it is okay to have a disagreement in front of your child. If this occurs, it is important that you and your partner also work to resolve the disagreement in front of your child.
A United Front Requires Consistency
Now that we have effective communication “down,” it is important that we tackle consistency. Let’s go back to that sugar situation, shall we? In that scenario, one parent was against sweet treats completely, while the other had a different opinion. We will assume they have had a discussion together and agreed that they will not allow their child to have sugary treats. If this is communicated to the child, but one parent provides treats anyway, all of that work is undone. In short, it is important that consistent expectations are agreed upon and communicated to your child, and then followed through.
Presenting as One – A United Front
When someone mentions parenting as a united front, it is often described as “presenting as one.” In some ways this is true, as it is important that messages are consistent to avoid triangulation and one parent feeling undermined. When possible, it is important to handle big decisions and consequences together. Having family meetings can help to avoid triangulation (splitting) and can promote “oneness.”
For more information, or support to help you and your partner remain a united front as you traverse parenting, feel free to schedule an appointment with one of our trained and licensed therapists (https://northshorefamilyservices.com). We can help you and your partner gain the skills discussed above.
Amber is a licensed clinical social worker who earned her Master of Social Work degree from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She also holds a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Applied Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Amber has six years of experience working with children, teens, young adults and their families in a variety of settings, including residential, juvenile probation and outpatient therapy.
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