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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Whenever the brain registers threat, it organises the body to fight the danger, flee from it, or hide from it. 

Here’s the rub. ‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually dangerous, but about what the brain perceives. It also isn’t always obvious. For a strong, powerful, magnificent, protective brain, ‘threat’ might count as anything that comes with even the teeniest potential of making a mistake, failure, humiliation, judgement, shame, separation from important adults, exclusion, unfamiliarity, unpredictability. They’re the things that can make any of us feel vulnerable.

Once the brain registers threat the body will respond. This can drive all sorts of behaviour. Some will be obvious and some won’t be. The responses can be ones that make them bigger (aggression, tantrums) or ones that make them smaller (going quiet or still, shrinking, withdrawing). All are attempts to get the body to safety. None are about misbehaviour, misintent, or disrespect. 

One of the ways bodies stay safe is by hiding, or by getting small. When children are in distress, they might look calm, but unless there is a felt sense of safety, the body will be surging with neurochemicals that make it impossible for that young brain to learn or connect. 

We all have our things that can send us there. These things are different for all of us, and often below our awareness. The responses to these ‘things’ are automatic and instinctive, and we won’t always know what has sent us there. 

We just need to be mindful that sometimes it’s when children seem like no trouble at all that they need our help the most. The signs can include a wilted body, sad or distant eyes, making the body smaller, wriggly bodies, a heavy head. 

It can also look as though they are ignoring you or being quietly defiant. They aren’t - their bodies are trying to keep them safe. A  body in flight or flight can’t hear words as well as it can when it’s calm.

What they need (what all kids need) are big signs of safety from the adult in the room - loving, warm, voices and faces that are communicating clear intent: ‘I’m here, I see you and I’ve got you. You are safe, and you can do this. I’m with you.’♥️
I’d love to invite you to an online webinar:
‘Thriving in a Stressful World: Practical Ways to Help Ourselves and Our Children Feel Secure And Calm’

As we emerge from the pandemic, stressors are heightened, and anxiety is an ever more common experience. We know from research that the important adults in the life of a child or teen have enormous capacity to help their world feel again, and to bring a felt sense of calm and safety to those young ones. This felt sense of security is essential for learning, regulation, and general well-being. 

I’m thrilled to be joining @marc.brackett and Dr Farah Schroder to explore the role of emotion regulation and the function of anxiety in our lives. Participants will learn ways to help express and regulate their own, and their children’s, emotions, even when our world may feel a little scary and stressful. We will also share practical and holistic strategies that can be most effective in fostering well-being for both ourselves and children. 

In this webinar, hosted by @dalailamacenter you will have the opportunity to learn creative, evidence-informed takeaways to help you and the children in your care build resilience and foster a sense of security and calmness. Join us for this 1 ½ hour session, including a dynamic Q&A period.
 
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The link to register is in my story.♥️
So much of what our kids and teens are going through isn’t normal - online school, extended separation from their loved people, lockdowns, masks. Even if what they are going through isn’t ‘normal’, their response will be completely understandable. Not all children will respond the same way if course, but whatever they feel will be understandable, relatable, and ‘normal’. 

Whether they feel anxious, confused, frustrated, angry, or nothing at all, it’s important that their response is normalised. Research has found that children are more likely to struggle with traumatic events if they believe their response isn’t normal. This is because they tend to be more likely to interpret their response as a sign of breakage. 

Try, ‘What’s happening is scary. There’s no ‘right’ way to feel and different people will feel different things. It’s okay to feel whatever you feel.’

Any message you can give them that you can handle all their feelings and all their words will help them feel safer, and their world feel steadier.♥️
We need to change the way we think about discipline. It’s true that traditional ‘discipline’ (separation, shame, consequences/punishment that don’t make sense) might bring compliant children, but what happens when the fear of punishment or separation isn’t there? Or when they learn that the best way to avoid punishment is to keep you out of the loop?

Our greatest parenting ‘tool’ is our use of self - our wisdom, modelling, conversations, but for any of this to have influence we need access to their ‘thinking’ brain - the prefrontal cortex - the part that can learn, think through consequences, plan, make deliberate decisions. During stress this part switches off. It is this way for all of us. None of us are up for lectures or learning (or adorable behaviour) when we’re stressed.

The greatest stress for young brains is a felt sense of separation from their important people. It’s why time-outs, shame, calm down corners/chairs/spaces which insist on separation just don’t work. They create compliance, but a compliant child doesn’t mean a calm child. As long as a child doesn’t feel calm and safe, we have no access to the part of the brain that can learn and be influenced by us.

Behind all behaviour is a need - power,  influence, independence, attention (connection), to belong, sleep - to name a few). The need will be valid. Children are still figuring out the world (aren’t we all) and their way of meeting a need won’t always make sense. Sometimes it will make us furious. (And sometimes because of that we’ll also lose our thinking brains and say or do things that aren’t great.)

So what do we do when they get it wrong? The same thing we hope our people will do when we get things wrong. First, we recognise that the behaviour is not a sign of a bad child or a bad parent, but their best attempt to meet a need with limited available resources. Then we collect them - we calm ourselves so we can bring calm to them. Breathe, be with. Then we connect through validation. Finally, when their bodies are calm and their thinking brain is back, talk about what’s happened, what they can do differently next time, and how they can put things right. Collect, connect, redirect.
Our nervous systems are talking to each other every minute of every day. We will catch what our children are feeling and they will catch ours. We feel their distress, and this can feed their distress. Our capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

Children create their distress in us as a way to recruit support to help them carry the emotional load. It’s how it’s meant to be. Whatever you are feeling is likely to be a reflection what your children are feeling. If you are frustrated, angry, helpless, scared, it’s likely that they are feeling that way too. Every response in you and in them is relevant. 

You don’t need to fix their feelings. Let their feelings come, so they can go. The healing is in the happening. 

In that moment of big feelings it’s more about who you are than what you do. Feel what they feel with a strong, steady heart. They will feel you there with them. They will feel it in you that you get them, that you can handle whatever they are feeling, and that you are there. This will help calm them more than anything. We feel safest when we are ‘with’. Feel the feeling, breathe, and be with - and you don’t need to do more than that. 
There will be a time for teaching, learning, redirecting, but the middle of a storm is not that time.♥️

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