My husband and I disagree on how to raise our children. We argue about almost everything to do with them. I am a little more laid back about my rules – my husband is very strict. Too strict, I feel. What impact would this have on our kids?
When we become parents, we bring with us issues from our own past and from the way we were raised. For example, if your father used to insist on strict rules being followed at the dining table, you may swing the other way and loosen the structure completely, or you may insist on rules for everything, because that’s how you were raised.
The problem arises when both parents give different messages to the children. Family values provide strength and support, and act as a reference point for children as they grow. It’s up to both of you to consciously design a set of values that will support your family through good and bad times.
Consistency and following through is more important than ‘perfect parenting’. It’s alright for two parents to disagree occasionally but it’s key to come together to support each other on really core issues. Otherwise your children will quickly learn to manipulate you both, which could lead to other problems.
Worse, kids will feel insecure if they don’t have clear-cut boundaries. Parent as a team, even if you may not agree with each other. Hear each other’s point of view – maybe your leniency and soft approach is encouraging the kids to get away with chores or responsibilities.
Allow your husband to instil a few rules, say for homework or mealtimes, and then assess if the change is hurting or helping the children. Small changes help to bridge the most irreconcilable differences. It’s OK for one parent to play the ‘good guy’ and the other one ‘the bad guy’ so long as you don’t contradict each other in front of the kids. Back each other up and remember its always better to argue in private.
Onita Nakra is an author and counsellor at the American School of Dubai