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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Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

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