Eight Scary Reasons Why You Should Stop Fighting Over Parenting Issues!
Make no mistake, our bickering does impact our kids. In fact, just last week the New York Times published an article on how parents these days are less likely to spank their kids, but are more likely to yell. Studies at the University of Rochester revealed just how our fights do negatively affect our kids–far more than we may be aware.Next to financial issues, parents are most likely to bicker about how to raise their kids.
So before your next blow-out, I urge you to spend a little time considering those big problems that can result from fighting over your kids. Here are my eight reasons to curb the bickering over the kids:
1. Inconsistency. When kids receive conflicting information, whether it is instructions from parents, expectations, or disciplinary measures, it confuses them and creates a situation that makes it impossible for them to learn what the rules are.
2. Your kids will lose their confidence…in you. Parents are the main source of stability for kids, and when that stability is threatened it can have disastrous effects. Not only will inconsistency make it harder to discipline your child, it can also make it much harder for parents to soothe a child who is upset or worried. If children can’t trust in the stability that their parents should provide, it can really rock their worlds, and yours.
3. It leaves you susceptible to trend-based parenting (which is a big no-no). Nobody likes conflict, especially when it’s with your parenting partner. So it’s no surprise that many parents who disagree are looking for fast solutions to their problems. Not only do they want to help their kids-they want to stop fighting with their spouses, too! In turn, they’ll be more willing to accept trend-based parenting: quick and simple fixes to their kids’ problems. The trouble is that these solutions are rarely (if ever) effective, and they only temporarily solve the issues at hand. Grasping at trendy solutions can lead to what I call ‘Extreme Parenting. One minute parents are letting kids have free reign, and the next they are cracking down and afraid to let go. Not only are the mixed signals confusing and frustrating for kids, when the problems end up resurfacing down the road, so do the arguments with your spouse.
4. It zaps what little energy you have left. If you are a parent (or if you know someone who is), then you know how much energy it takes to raise children-not to mention running a household and holding down a job at the same time. When parenting arguments ensue, the fighting quickly drains what little energy you have left at the end of each day. This continued conflict depletes the parental energy source so that very little, if anything at all, gets accomplished.
5. It makes you feel powerless. Parents who feel unsupported by their spouse or co-parent can often experience a dramatic sense of hopelessness and powerlessness. Not only do they feel incapable of solving problems with their children, they are also lacking the support of their parenting partner, which Borba says can lead to many parents feeling too overwhelmed to move forward with finding solutions.
6. It leads to harmful alliances between parent and child.When you and your spouse don’t see eye to eye, particularly over an issue like an extended curfew or getting an allowance, it can be a natural tendency for one parent to ally him or herself with the child, instead of with his or her parenting partner. Don’t do it. Building an alliance with your child is a common, yet dangerous parenting mistake. Doing so not only undermines the authority of the ‘opposing’ parent, it sets up a dynamic that encourages the kids to play you and your spouse against one another in the future.
7. It makes the institution of marriage even more challenging. Marriage is tough enough on its own: it takes a lot of hard work and negotiating to make it work. And when parents disagree about their children, it creates another marital conflict that has to be overcome. Worse, arguing about your kids is sure to be more emotionally charged than your average marital bickering. Borba explains that when a couple can’t compromise and problem-solve in an effective way, it can put a heavy strain on their marriage-a ramification that’s unhealthy for every member of the family.
8. You’re more likely to get outsiders involved (which might only make the problems worse!). Whether parents are turning to their own parents, friends, or co-workers for advice, be wary of bringing in a third wheel. People have a natural tendency to turn to those whom they know will be their allies, and will assure them that their stance is right. That often means calling your own mom or dad; after all, you’ve gotten the majority of your parenting skills from them, so chances are good that they won’t shoot you down. But involving anyone outside your relationship can cause your co-parent to feel betrayed and defensive. And it may cause an even bigger conflict between your spouse and your family and friends.
Michele Borba is an educational psychologist and author of 22 parenting books. Her latest book is The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries. For more information visit her website, Michele Borba or follow her on twitter @MicheleBorba.