Same Page Parenting

Same Page Parenting

Parenting young children is hard.  It is even harder if you and your partner are not aligned in your child-rearing strategies. Same Page Parenting can go a long way to removing the obstacles that create stress, conflict, and anxiety.

Significant differences in parenting create inconsistencies that send mixed signals to kids when they misbehave. Many couples take my Childproof Parenting Course or come to me for family coaching seeking ways to be more coordinated in their parenting.  Inadvertently, one parent will try to counter the style of the other and this inconsistency creates stress for everyone.  For example, one parent’s style is kind, loving and lenient, while the other is strict, firm and takes a “tough love” approach.  Other times both parents may vacillate between both styles reacting to their children, but that typically results in parents feeling guilty, ineffective and helpless.  My role is to help parents step out of these patterns to find the right blend that sets respectful boundaries for the parent-child relationship.

There are three critical steps to becoming a Same Page Parenting team: 1) Define your long-term goals for your child and family 2) Prioritize near-term areas of improvement and 3) Take action.  Get clear on your parenting philosophy, as well as tools and responses needed for working with your child(ren).

1.  Define Your Long Term Goals for Your Child and Family

The best place to start is to chart a vision of what it is that you are trying to achieve as a parent and what you wish for your child(ren).  The process is surprisingly easy and can take as little as 5-10 minutes to answer some thought provoking questions and then sharing them with your partner.  What you will likely find is that your values and goals are quite well aligned.  This exercise alone will serve as an anchor that you can return to often to reestablish just how on the same page you really are and want to be.

2.  Prioritize Near Term Areas of Improvement

With family values and long-term goals now in place, it’s time to focus on the specific high-stress situations and behaviors that are creating the most friction in the home. Yes, this might be a long list but get it out there.  Include everything from bedtime struggles, to not listening, setting limits on technology, getting out the door, or even whining.  Agree with your partner on what are the most urgent items to address and pick a few.  Focus on really making an impact on a few issues rather than trying to boil the ocean.

3.  Take Action

Once you are clear on the near-term areas of improvement then it’s time to take action.  Just knowing your shared values and areas of focus are a huge weight off for most parents.  But where to begin?  This is where things get tricky because there is no one size fits all Same Page Parenting manual.  We are inundated with parenting advice but here are three areas worth exploring:

a)    Consult with a professional (e.g. paediatrician, family coach, or behavioral specialist),

b)    Access community resources.   Take a parenting class or workshop together.  Most communities have frequent events and it provides a great way to promote discussion among partners.

c)    Read a parenting book.  There are some amazing resources out there from authors like Alfie Kohn (Unconditional Parenting), Jane Nelson (Positive Discipline), and John Gottman (Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child)

No matter what tools or strategies you choose, finding that blend of kindness and firmness will be paramount to any successful Same Page strategy.

Taking the time to have Same Page Parenting conversations early in your parenting process will be an invaluable investment in your family.  Getting clear on your long-term goals as parents will set the stage for your near-term planning.  Tackle two or three issues at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed and can measure progress.  Take action by getting knowledgeable about resources available to equip you with the skills you will need to successful.  Same Page Parenting is the journey. Knowing why and where you want to get to is the necessary roadmap. Isn’t it time you and your partner sat down to get on the same page?  

      DOWNLOAD GUIDE TO SETTING INTENTIONS

About the Author: Melissa Benaroya


Melissa Benaroya, LICSW, is a Seattle-based parent coach, speaker and author in the Seattle area (MelissaBenaroya.com). She created the Childproof Parenting online course and is the co-founder of GROW Parenting and Mommy Matters, and the co-author of The Childproof Parent. Melissa provides parents with the tools and support they need to raise healthy children and find more joy in parenting. Melissa offers parent coaching and classes and frequently speaks at area schools and businesses. Check out Melissa’s blog for more great tips on common parenting issues and Facebook for the latest news in parent education.

5 Comments

Lisa

I am going to invest in all three books you mentioned , I was thinking ok I need to address these (all kinds in my head muddling round) , so this is given me the starting point , great reading

Reply
Melissa Benaroya

Hi Lisa
I’m so glad to hear that you have found this piece helpful. But please don’t bite off more than you can chew. (Unless you are a speed reader of course) I would suggest just getting one to start. I am sure you are a busy parent and sometimes having 3 parenting books staring at you on your nightstand can make parenting feel more stressful. I hope you enjoy the reading and I would love to hear your thoughts after you have read ONE of them! : )
Yours in parenting,
Melissa

Reply
Susie

I was instantly drawn to the title of this article. This topic is exponentially more difficult with blended families. My second husband and I each have a daughter from a previous marriage (ages 13 and 14), and the girls are with us about 50% of the time (they are both at our house at the same time).
My husband and I greatly differ on our parenting strategies and philosophies; with me being much more strict and involved in decisions, and him being much more laid back. This causes a lot of stress, as I often feel like I’m “the bad guy”, and it leaves my daughter asking, “how come I can’t do what she is doing?” My husband and I have tried to have discussions about this topic, but it usually ends up with us feeling like someone is being judged/criticized, and there has never been any resolution. Any thoughts/suggestions? Thanks!

Reply
Nadine

I hear you Susie! It’s exactly the same in our household, just with a 13 year old boy each…..
My husband has a “stick my head in the sand” approach which clearly speaks for itself, so any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Reply
Melissa Benaroya

Hi Susie

This is a tough topic! I think about 80% of the families in my private family coaching practice come to me for this very reason. Just last week I had a divorced blended family come in to talk about this with me- dad, mom, and dad’s live-in girlfriend. So please know that you are not alone.

It’s hard to make changes to your parenting when you have been practicing it for 13+ years. I think having a 3rd party work with a family to get closer to “same page” can be helpful when you are feeling stuck. Have you taken a parenting class together? That is always a great option because the “advice” is usually evidence based and coming from a 3rd party.

In order to get to “same page” it also requires that both parties feel it is a priority and are invested in making a change. A one-sided investment will unfortunately always fail.

If you want to start small I might also suggest having family meetings to discuss current challenges so that you all might brainstorm solutions together. Having these weekly chats can help you to avoid future challenges because the expectations have been clearly set and the girls both know how to manage themselves.

If you are interested I am happy to write a blog post on this topic. Let me know and I will add it to my priority list of future topics.

Yours in parenting,
Melissa

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When things feel hard or the world feels big, children will be looking to their important adults for signs of safety. They will be asking, ‘Do you think I'm safe?' 'Do you think I can do this?' With everything in us, we have to send the message, ‘Yes! Yes love, this is hard and you are safe. You can do hard things.'

Even if we believe they are up to the challenge, it can be difficult to communicate this with absolute confidence. We love them, and when they're distressed, we're going to feel it. Inadvertently, we can align with their fear and send signals of danger, especially through nonverbals. 

What they need is for us to align with their 'brave' - that part of them that wants to do hard things and has the courage to do them. It might be small but it will be there. Like a muscle, courage strengthens with use - little by little, but the potential is always there.

First, let them feel you inside their world, not outside of it. This lets their anxious brain know that support is here - that you see what they see and you get it. This happens through validation. It doesn't mean you agree. It means that you see what they see, and feel what they feel. Meet the intensity of their emotion, so they can feel you with them. It can come off as insincere if your nonverbals are overly calm in the face of their distress. (Think a zen-like low, monotone voice and neutral face - both can be read as threat by an anxious brain). Try:

'This is big for you isn't it!' 
'It's awful having to do things you haven't done before. What you are feeling makes so much sense. I'd feel the same!

Once they really feel you there with them, then they can trust what comes next, which is your felt belief that they will be safe, and that they can do hard things. 

Even if things don't go to plan, you know they will cope. This can be hard, especially because it is so easy to 'catch' their anxiety. When it feels like anxiety is drawing you both in, take a moment, breathe, and ask, 'Do I believe in them, or their anxiety?' Let your answer guide you, because you know your young one was built for big, beautiful things. It's in them. Anxiety is part of their move towards brave, not the end of it.
Sometimes we all just need space to talk to someone who will listen without giving advice, or problem solving, or lecturing. Someone who will let us talk, and who can handle our experiences and words and feelings without having to smooth out the wrinkles or tidy the frayed edges. 

Our kids need this too, but as their important adults, it can be hard to hush without needing to fix things, or gather up their experience and bundle it into a learning that will grow them. We do this because we love them, but it can also mean that they choose not to let us in for the wrong reasons. 

We can’t help them if we don’t know what’s happening in their world, and entry will be on their terms - even more as they get older. As they grow, they won’t trust us with the big things if we don’t give them the opportunity to learn that we can handle the little things (which might feel seismic to them). They won’t let us in to their world unless we make it safe for them to.

When my own kids were small, we had a rule that when I picked them up from school they could tell me anything, and when we drove into the driveway, the conversation would be finished if they wanted it to be. They only put this rule into play a few times, but it was enough for them to learn that it was safe to talk about anything, and for me to hear what was happening in that part of their world that happened without me. My gosh though, there were times that the end of the conversation would be jarring and breathtaking and so unfinished for me, but every time they would come back when they were ready and we would finish the chat. As it turned out, I had to trust them as much as I wanted them to trust me. But that’s how parenting is really isn’t it.

Of course there will always be lessons in their experiences we will want to hear straight up, but we also need them to learn that we are safe to come to.  We need them to know that there isn’t anything about them or their life we can’t handle, and when the world feels hard or uncertain, it’s safe here. By building safety, we build our connection and influence. It’s just how it seems to work.♥️
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#parenting #parenthood #mindfulparenting
Words can be hard sometimes. The right words can be orbital and unconquerable and hard to grab hold of. Feelings though - they’ll always make themselves known, with or without the ‘why’. 

Kids and teens are no different to the rest of us. Their feelings can feel bigger than words - unfathomable and messy and too much to be lassoed into language. If we tap into our own experience, we can sometimes (not all the time) get an idea of what they might need. 

It’s completely understandable that new things or hard things (such as going back to school) might drive thoughts of falls and fails and missteps. When this happens, it’s not so much the hard thing or the new thing that drives avoidance, but thoughts of failing or not being good enough. The more meaningful the ‘thing’ is, the more this is likely to happen. If you can look behind the words, and through to the intention - to avoid failure more than the new or difficult experience, it can be easier to give them what they need. 

Often, ‘I can’t’ means, ‘What if I can’t?’ or, ‘Do you think I can?’, or, ‘Will you still think I’m brave, strong, and capable of I fail?’ They need to know that the outcome won’t make any difference at all to how much you adore them, and how capable and exceptional you think they are. By focusing on process, (the courage to give it a go), we clear the runway so they can feel safer to crawl, then walk, then run, then fly. 

It takes time to reach full flight in anything, but in the meantime the stumbling can make even the strongest of hearts feel vulnerable. The more we focus on process over outcome (their courage to try over the result), and who they are over what they do (their courage, tenacity, curiosity over the outcome), the safer they will feel to try new things or hard things. We know they can do hard things, and the beauty and expansion comes first in the willingness to try. 
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#parenting #mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparent
Never in the history of forever has there been such a  lavish opportunity for a year to be better than the last. Not to be grabby, but you know what I’d love this year? Less opportunities that come in the name of ‘resilience’. I’m ready for joy, or adventure, or connection, or gratitude, or courage - anything else but resilience really. Opportunities for resilience have a place, but 2020 has been relentless with its servings, and it’s time for an out breath. Here’s hoping 2021 will be a year that wraps its loving arms around us. I’m ready for that. x
The holidays are a wonderland of everything that can lead to hyped up, exhausted, cranky, excited, happy kids (and adults). Sometimes they’ll cycle through all of these within ten minutes. Sugar will constantly pry their little mouths wide open and jump inside, routines will laugh at you from a distance, there will be gatherings and parties, and everything will feel a little bit different to usual. And a bit like magic. 

Know that whatever happens, it’s all part of what the holidays are meant to look like. They aren’t meant to be pristine and orderly and exactly as planned. They were never meant to be that. Christmas is about people, your favourite ones, not tasks. If focusing on the people means some of the tasks fall down, let that be okay, because that’s what Christmas is. It’s about you and your people. It’s not about proving your parenting stamina, or that you’ve raised perfectly well-behaved humans, or that your family can polish up like the catalog ones any day of the week, or that you can create restaurant quality meals and decorate the table like you were born doing it. Christmas is messy and ridiculous and exhausting and there will be plenty of frayed edges. And plenty of magic. The magic will happen the way it always happens. Not with the decorations or the trimmings or the food or the polish, but by being with the ones you love, and the ones who love you right back.

When it all starts to feel too important, too necessary and too ‘un-let-go-able’, be guided by the bigger truth, which is that more than anything, you will all remember how you all felt – as in how happy they felt, how loved they felt were, how noticed they felt. They won’t care about the instagram-worthy meals on the table, the cleanliness of the floors, how many relatives they visited, or how impressed other grown-ups were with their clean faces and darling smiles. It’s easy to forget sometimes, that what matters most at Christmas isn’t the tasks, but the people – the ones who would give up pretty much anything just to have the day with you.

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