Co-parenting isn’t easy. It’s actually quite a chore. When neither parent is willing to negotiate or communicate, the child has the job of transitioning from one parenting style to the other. As a parent educator and family therapist, I have seen many anxious and confused children affected by their parents’ inconsistent rules and styles. Sometimes children do this under the same roof and sometimes under two, but the bottom line is that it is the parents’ responsibility to create a balance.
Parenting skills vary much like personalities. The differences can be as subtle as the setting of bedtimes to as serious as choosing consequences for bad behavior. The bottom line is adults have a number of motivations for parenting. For instance, they might try to do better than their parents. Thus, we attempt to find new and effective strategies to raise good kids. These ambitions can be difficult enough. Now add the challenge of joining forces with another adult who was raised by different parents and who may be select different strategies.
So how do parents, married or divorced, stay clear and consistent, raise confident children, and feel influential as parents? They learn how to work together and become better co-parents! Here are several successful co-parenting steps.
- Identify your personal style and motivations. Your first job in becoming a successful co-parent is to figure out your general style and motivations. If it were all up to you, how would you parent? How would you motivate your children? How would you use punishment and encouragement? What are the top 10 values you would like to teach your kids? Now ask yourself WHY? Why would your style be that way? What is your motivation? How did your parents parent you? Are you attempting to repeat their upbringing or compensate for it?
- Share your parenting style and motivation with your co-parent. I understand that you might feel vulnerable sharing your style and motivation. Your style may be different than your spouse’s style. In order for you and your partner to co-parent successfully, you both need to appreciate and support the ideas you bring to the table. When you listen to where the other parent is coming from, it will allow you to join forces.
- Before deciding on a parenting style and direction, consult parenting books and classes. Now that you have looked at each other’s parenting style, take a look together at good parenting books and the current research. Report back to each other and consider how your styles measure up.
- Decide on a mutual parenting style. You now have several examples of parenting strategies and philosophies. Its time to blend what you believe with what your co-parent believes and what the experts say. This is the ultimate in negotiation but remember that if you do not negotiate at the adult level, it leaves your child to figure it out. Once you’ve decided, then write down the basics and embrace your new co-parenting style.
- Implement your new co-parenting style. Now you parent! Both parents are on the same page. Children are clear on what is expected of them and what the consequences are if they do not follow the family expectations. Thus, it lessens the occasions of arguing between the parents and the opportunities for manipulation by the children.
- Hold weekly co-parenting meetings with your spouse. Since you are the CEOs of your family and are business partners in a very real way, you must stay in constant communication. The success or failure of your family rests in your capable hands. Thus, co-parenting meetings are a must! These meetings should include finances, home maintenance, parenting, and relationship issues. Meetings should be held weekly with schedule book, meeting journal and budget book in hand. Continue to review your parenting style. You may find that one child thrives under your new system while another loses balance. Good co-parents always re-evaluate and restructure when necessary.
We are busy parents today. It is difficult to take the time to evaluate our parenting styles but the payoff is big for you as a parenting unit as well as for your child. Co-parenting takes the pressure off our children and the conflict out of our lives.
Laura Doerflinger, a licensed mental health counselor, is the Executive Director of the Parent Education Group at [http://www.familyauthority.com] and the author of the audio book, Emotionally Balanced Parenting [http://familyauthority.com/audiobooks/ebp].
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