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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The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️
For our kids and teens, the new year will bring new adults into their orbit. With this, comes new opportunities to be brave and grow their courage - but it will also bring anxiety. For some kiddos, this anxiety will feel so big, but we can help them feel bigger.

The antidote to a felt sense of threat is a felt sense of safety. As long as they are actually safe, we can facilitate this by nurturing their relationship with the important adults who will be caring for them, whether that’s a co-parent, a stepparent, a teacher, a coach. 

There are a number of ways we can facilitate this:

- Use the name of their other adult (such as a teacher) regularly, and let it sound loving and playful on your voice.
- Let them see that you have an open, willing heart in relation to the other adult.
- Show them you trust the other adult to care for them (‘I know Mrs Smith is going to take such good care of you.’)
- Facilitate familiarity. As much as you can, hand your child to the same person when you drop them off.

It’s about helping expand their village of loving adults. The wider this village, the bigger their world in which they can feel brave enough. 

For centuries before us, it was the village that raised children. Parenting was never meant to be done by one or two adults on their own, yet our modern world means that this is how it is for so many of us. 

We can bring the village back though - and we must - by helping our kiddos feel safe, known, and held by the adults around them. We need this for each other too.

The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains that block our way.♥️

That power of felt safety matters for all relationships - parent and child; other adult and child; parent and other adult. It all matters. 

A teacher, or any important adult in the life of a child, can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child (and their parent) so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, I care about you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
Approval, independence, autonomy, are valid needs for all of us. When a need is hungry enough we will be driven to meet it however we can. For our children, this might look like turning away from us and towards others who might be more ready to meet the need, or just taking.

If they don’t feel they can rest in our love, leadership, approval, they will seek this more from peers. There is no problem with this, but we don’t want them solely reliant on peers for these. It can make them vulnerable to making bad decisions, so as not to lose the approval or ‘everythingness’ of those peers.

If we don’t give enough freedom, they might take that freedom through defiance, secrecy, the forbidden. If we control them, they might seek more to control others, or to let others make the decisions that should be theirs.

All kids will mess up, take risks, keep secrets, and do things that baffle us sometimes. What’s important is, ‘Do they turn to us when they need to, enough?’ The ‘turning to’ starts with trusting that we are interested in supporting all their needs, not just the ones that suit us. Of course this doesn’t mean we will meet every need. It means we’ve shown them that their needs are important to us too, even though sometimes ours will be bigger (such as our need to keep them safe).

They will learn safe and healthy ways to meet their needs, by first having them met by us. This doesn’t mean granting full independence, full freedom, and full approval. What it means is holding them safely while also letting them feel enough of our approval, our willingness to support their independence, freedom, autonomy, and be heard on things that matter to them.

There’s no clear line with this. Some days they’ll want independence. Some days they won’t. Some days they’ll seek our approval. Some days they won’t care for it at all, especially if it means compromising the approval of peers. The challenge for us is knowing when to hold them closer and when to give space, when to hold the boundary and when to release it a little, when to collide and when to step out of the way. If we watch and listen, they will show us. And just like them, we won’t need to get it right all the time.♥️

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