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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How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
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But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
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When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
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But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
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What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
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In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
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#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare
Separation anxiety has an important job to do - it’s designed to keep children safe by driving them to stay close to their important adults. Gosh it can feel brutal sometimes though.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person there will be anxiety unless there are two things: attachment with another trusted, loving adult; and a felt sense of you holding on, even when you aren't beside them. Putting these in place will help soften anxiety.

As long as children are are in the loving care of a trusted adult, there's no need to avoid separation. We'll need to remind ourselves of this so we can hold on to ourselves when our own anxiety is rising in response to theirs. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it's more than an adult being present. It needs an adult who, through their strong, warm, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for that child, and their joy in doing so. This can be helped along by showing that you trust the adult to love that child big in our absence. 'I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.'

To help your young one feel held on to by you, even in absence, let them know you'll be thinking of them and can't wait to see them. Bolster this by giving them something of yours to hold while you're gone - a scarf, a note - anything that will be felt as 'you'.

They know you are the one who makes sure their world is safe, so they’ll be looking to you for signs of safety: 'Do you think we'll be okay if we aren't together?' First, validate: 'You really want to stay with me, don't you. I wish I could stay with you too! It's hard being away from your special people isn't it.' Then, be their brave. Let it be big enough to wrap around them so they can rest in the safety and strength of it: 'I know you can do this, love. We can do hard things can't we.'

Part of growing up brave is learning that the presence of anxiety doesn't always mean something is wrong. Sometimes it means they are on the edge of brave - and being away from you for a while counts as brave.
Even the most loving, emotionally available adult might feel frustration, anger, helplessness or distress in response to a child’s big feelings. This is how it’s meant to work. 

Their distress (fight/flight) will raise distress in us. The purpose is to move us to protect or support or them, but of course it doesn’t always work this way. When their big feelings recruit ours it can drive us more to fight (anger, blame), or to flee (avoid, ignore, separate them from us) which can steal our capacity to support them. It will happen to all of us from time to time. 

Kids and teens can’t learn to manage big feelings on their own until they’ve done it plenty of times with a calm, loving adult. This is where co-regulation comes in. It helps build the vital neural pathways between big feelings and calm. They can’t build those pathways on their own. 

It’s like driving a car. We can tell them how to drive as much as we like, but ‘talking about’ won’t mean they’re ready to hit the road by themselves. Instead we sit with them in the front seat for hours, driving ‘with’ until they can do it on their own. Feelings are the same. We feel ‘with’, over and over, until they can do it on their own. 

What can help is pausing for a moment to see the behaviour for what it is - a call for support. It’s NOT bad behaviour or bad parenting. It’s not that.

Our own feelings can give us a clue to what our children are feeling. It’s a normal, healthy, adaptive way for them to share an emotional load they weren’t meant to carry on their own. Self-regulation makes space for us to hold those feelings with them until those big feelings ease. 

Self-regulation can happen in micro moments. First, see the feelings or behaviour for what it is - a call for support. Then breathe. This will calm your nervous system, so you can calm theirs. In the same way we will catch their distress, they will also catch ours - but they can also catch our calm. Breathe, validate, and be ‘with’. And you don’t need to do more than that.
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.

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