Written by Chelsea Kunde
This post was written to contribute to the topic of Personal and Relationships for the What Lola Likes blog by Chelsea Kunde of Building Blocks AZ. All facts, opinions, and professional tips are Chelsea’s.
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage. But what happens after that? Before I begin this blog article, I want to address something. I am using the word marriage because I believe it is a term that is widely used and understood by most. I am also a Marriage and Family Therapist, so I use this term often. With that being said, I know not everyone is married who has children. I know that everyone has a different definition of marriage. I know that significant other, partner, teammate are also terms I use often and frequently to describe relationships. I realize that the term marriage doesn’t encompass everyone but that we can all understand what I mean when I say marriage. I also know that the song I quoted above, the one we all sang on the playground in elementary school, is whack. Yes, whack. Many of our experiences do not happen in that particular order. Many homes and families are created in a different way. I want this article to encompass every kind of family, every kind of relationship, all partnerships, all the people that are helping you raise your children. Marriage is just an easy term to use and catches the attention for a blog post in a simple phrase, so I have used it here in my title.
It Takes a Village…
Family. Caregivers. Significant others. Partners. There are many names for a similar idea. Anyone who helps to raise your children is your village, your team, your family. These people were also raised by their own village and one that is separate from your own. So how are two people, three people, a village who were raised differently and brought up to value certain things, gel and become united to raise a little human, together, consistently and well? This is HARD! This can be challenging and incredibly hard to navigate. What is the right way? If we disagree, how can we come to a shared conclusion? How do we compromise on a subject as important as parenting? As important as raising tiny humans to be great adults?!
Be a United Front…
If I could give any relationship, marriage, village a tip. One piece of advice in how to raise children together, I would say, practice being a United Front. I capitalized this because I want that phrase to stand out. I want that to be a way of being not just a symbolic term. Does this mean you have to agree all the time? Certainly not. That would also be whack of me to say. What it does mean, is practice, every day, in front of the kid(s), to be a United Front. Think of a pyramid, the caregivers need to be at the top, standing side by side, holding hands, being one. One consistent voice with consistent actions. Kids pick up quickly who is the weak link. Kids know when their parents disagree and like any savvy being, they will use this to their advantage. This is not them being manipulative, this is them being smart.
Practice Makes Perfect…
So, who is the boss in your house? We used to joke with our oldest, “who is the boss of the house?” And we quickly realized we didn’t want her to answer that. My husband and I are both the bosses. We both call the shots, we both discipline. We are a United Front. Are we different? Sure! Do we do things differently? Absolutely! However, we try to be a United Front in our parenting approach. If we disagree with how one person handled a situation, we reserve that discussion not in front of the kids. Wait until after bedtime or during nap. Discuss your feelings, frustrations, and concerns. Have a constructive conversation (this is easier said than done). This is because parenting is emotional. Try to remember that everyone has good intentions and mainly the same goals. Practice. Practice discussing parenting with one another. Carve out time to have adult only family meetings. Reserve a space to be completely honest and open. Reserve a safe space to be able to express yourself. Because guys, we are all learning. We are learning as we go. Mistakes will be made. Trial and error happens. Regrouping, reserving a space to problem solve together, that creates a successful United Front. You don’t always have to agree, I actually think disagreeing is healthy and having an open discussion to come to a compromise and successful conclusion is key!
Those Village Chats…
Reserve a time to talk. Build in a time to discuss what is going well in parenting and what needs work. What has been helpful that you have tried with the kid(s) and what hasn’t worked as well. Admit when you need help. Lean on one another. Ask about how the other was raised. Discuss what is important to you in terms of discipline. Talk about what you want to repeat from your childhood and what you want to leave behind. Carve out a time to have these discussions so it doesn’t feel exhausting. Maybe 1-3x a month you check in with one another. Once you carve out the time and practice, this becomes second nature and happens more organically (without having to schedule it).
An exercise you could do as a couple to help open this discussion is to both take out a sheet of paper. Envision your child at age 20, 25, 30. How would you want people to describe them? List 10-15 adjectives. Share with one another. I bet you will be surprised how much overlap there is. Once you share, now, how do we get there? How do we achieve these goals or wishes for our children? It is a nice and simple way to open up a healthy discussion.
Top of the Pyramid…
Be a United Front. Take time to tell you partner what they are doing that you appreciate. Reinforce the good behavior! 😉 Remember, raising children together is hard. We all come from our own backgrounds. Our own upbringing and baggage. We have to work together and work often to make sure we stay united, to make sure we stay on track, to make sure we feel supported. So, build it in. Start today! Think of ways you can be united. One simple way is to support the other in parenting. Even if you might not have done something in that certain way and it bothers you. Take a deep breath, support your partner, and have the discussion later. It is important in the moment, that your kid(s) see you working together and supporting each other.
Does this mean never disagree in front of kids? NO! I think it is healthy for children to not only see conflict but conflict resolution. My point is, with discipline, make sure that your children see you as a United Front. You two are the top of the pyramid. They are under it. That is healthy and okay. It is incredibly impactful to tell them, we are a team and we both are the bosses. We both are the leader of the house. We both are united.
A Healthy Discussion…
Here are a few question starters you can use. Personally, my husband and I on our Anniversary each year share with one another the good from the year and what we want to work on individually to better our relationship. This is on top of our parenting meetings but it has been very helpful for our marriage, for our partnership, for our United Front! So practice, slowly chip away, start small. Below are some questions to help get you started. Good luck! Relationships are not easy but worth it!
- What is something you are doing that is working well with the kids?
- What areas are you struggling with?
- Where can you ask for help? And ask for it!
- What is something you love that your partner does with parenting?
- How were you disciplined? What happened if you didn’t listen to your parents?
- What do you want to do the same as your parents? What do you want to do differently?
- Who was the boss in your house growing up? How did you know that?
- What is the best way for you to communicate (writing things down, text message, open discussion?)
- If you disagree, how can you bring it up in a safe way? Code word for family meeting?
- Do you believe in time out? Grounding? Allowance? etc.
- What is one thing you can work on to better your marriage and/or be a United Front?
- What is your favorite thing about parenting?
- What is the hardest thing about parenting?
Chelsea currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and two kids, Harper and Reese. She created Building Blocks, where she works exclusively with children, families, and couples with parenting skills and/or training. Her passions are in healthy sleep habits, consistent routines, and logical and loving discipline. She has her Bachelors of Art in Psychology from The University of Arizona and her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from The University of San Diego.
VISIT HER PAGE.