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Communicating With Your Partner About the Kids

Raising your children is the most important task you and your partner will ever share. As parents, you have the responsibility of making decisions about your children's education, healthcare, and countless other vital aspects of life. Parents don't always agree on how to raise their kids, and this can sometimes lead to tension in the family. Differing parenting styles tend to be the culprit in most instances. Everyone has their own way of relating to their loved ones, and parents are no different.

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Kids tend to bring out gut-level emotional reactions in us. We love them more than anything on earth, and we want to make the best decisions for them. Parenting also brings up old emotions connected to our own childhoods.

There are plenty of kid-related things a couple can find themselves at loggerheads about, but some of the most common include:

  • Discipline - You're a softie who gives in to the umpteenth request for "5 more minutes" of play before bed; he's the unmoveable mountain who sticks to the rules come what may...or vice versa. Discipline styles vary, and when two differing styles try to handle the same child in the same situation, look out. Kids can add to the trouble when they get old enough to notice your disagreement. They'll try and get their way by using the old divide and conquer technique, and it usually works.
  • Child-Related Expenses - Money and the kids are both high on the list of things partners fight about, so putting the two together comes naturally. You might disagree about whether to raise an allowance, plop down a ton of money for sports equipment, or just about any other child-expense scenario you can think of. Accusations of spoiling tend to crop up during these disagreements. {relatedarticles}
  • Food - Food can be a hot-button issue in some households, particularly in families that have experience with weight problems or eating disorders and those in which one partner is a vegetarian/vegan and the other is not.
  • Dating/Socializing - While parents of young children get to avoid this emotionally fraught topic for another few years, parents of pre-teens are right in the thick of it. You may argue about the dating age, curfews, which friends to disallow, you name it.

Some couples talk about their vision for parenting before they have a child; sometimes even before the wedding. Other couples just decide to wing it and handle things as they come.

Even though you and your spouse may have talked about how to handle the major child-rearing issues before you even had kids, you're bound to encounter a scenario you hadn't planned for.
Communication is key when it comes to the workings of a family, and partners who can have open, honest dialogue about their children have a much better chance of coming to liveable agreements that benefit everyone.

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Communication Basics

Almost anyone can make small talk, but genuine communication can be difficult to master. When it comes to topics in which we're invested emotionally, it can be hard to slow down, use logic and hear the other person's side. Difficulty with communication can be attributed to many factors, many of which can be traced back to our own childhoods. People who grew up in families where discussing feelings was directly or indirectly discouraged, or who witnessed "discussions" that were actually full-blown fights might not have had any exposure to what healthy communication should sound like.

Men, in general, communicate in different ways than we do. They tend to want to fast forward to a solution, while women prefer to take the time to talk things through. There are also differences in body language, for example, a woman may nod frequently while listening to her partner speak to show that she's paying attention, while a man may stay still while listening. This can lead to some confusion, with a woman left thinking the man wasn't paying attention, and the man assuming he'd received agreement from the woman instead of simple acknowledgement.

While these gender communication differences don't apply 100% to all men and women, they should be kept in mind when discussing the kids with your spouse.

While an article can't tell you specifically how to handle your particular child-rearing disagreement, you'd do well to use some basic skills for communication and negotiation.

  • Respect each other. You're both adults and you have the right to your own ideas and opinions. Try to remember one another's value as people. Try not use accusatory or demeaning language toward one another. {relatedarticles}
  • Keep it private. Most experts agree that arguing in front of the kids, especially about the kids, is a bad idea. Children may either feel guilty for causing a disagreement, or may use your divided state to their benefit. Either way, nobody wins.
  • Stay calm. When you're about to discuss something that you probably will disagree about, it's easy to go in ready for a fight. Try instead to remain calm and ready to negotiate.
  • Stay on track. If you're discussing an important issue, stay on it. Don't go off about other problems or things that happened between you in the past. That will just breed negative feelings and won't resolve anything.
  • Hear each other out. Bringing some open-mindedness to the conversation can go a long way and allow you to resolve things more quickly. You and your spouse might both come up with inventive compromises for the problem you're facing, but neither of you will get to benefit from the other's ideas if you're both too busy trying to talk over one another and get your own way. {relatedarticles}
  • Write it down. If you plan to have a conversation about an important issue, write down your points. Some people find this makes it easier to lay out their side of the discussion in an organized way. It also helps you stay on track. Then, when you both come to a decision, it might help to write it down. That way you both have tangible evidence of your agreement to use as a point of reference for the future.
Communicating with your partner about the kids will create a more balanced, peaceful household, and best of all, it can lead to happy, well-adjusted kids.