My clients come to me a lot, asking me how we as parents both get on the same page. It sometimes appears that couples, partners, husbands and wives spend more time thinking about the weekly shop than about parenting their children in a cohesive manner. So here are my tips to get you both quickly thinking along the same lines.
1. Get clear on the outcome.
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I know this might sound obvious, but you would be surprised sometimes how partners can differ in what they want for their own children. One may want their child to grow up free and happy; the other may want them to grow up respectful and disciplined. These two things would require very different parenting approaches, so sit down together, discuss the qualities you are trying to instil most in your children and agree on them. Then look at your parenting and what may need to change.
2. Once you have got clear on the outcomes you want for your children – what are the qualities you want to instil in them as adults - set yourself what I call the Top Five list. This list is the top five things that you both believe you must do to reach your end game. For example, my husband and I want to raise our children to be courageous, so one of our top five things is that we never jump in and save or do things for them when they feel slightly scared or uncomfortable. This Top Five list will help you get clear what is and isn’t important to you as parents.
3. Pick your battles; look at the everyday things your family bicker about. Decide which of those really matter in terms of achieving your outcomes and focus on solving them. As parents, we can often bicker about things that we think we should be instilling in our children, rather than what is important to us. For example, in my home we seemed to spend a long time arguing over elbows on the dining table, until we sat down and decided that it wasn’t important – it wasn’t even near our list. There is something very freeing about deciding that you won’t just follow the crowd and be robotic, but will instead beat your own drum.
4. Finally, decide together and as a family how you will spend time working on the relationships between you all; how you will have fun and how you will enjoy the experience of being a family. We can take it so seriously sometimes and the one thing I can guarantee is that to get where you want to, you will need to have great relationships with your children above all else.
5. Create a family motto. This is a great thing to do, a bonding experience that will keep you all heading in the same direction. I often work with families and call this a branding exercise, with a big piece of paper or an old sheet and spray paint. The family come up with their own logo and slogan, something that gets across what they want to achieve as a family. Then when things are not going well, family members can remind others of their slogan and put things back on track.
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