This Post: My Husband and I Fight Over How to Raise Our Teen: 10 Things We’re Doing to Get On the Same Page
Written By: Marybeth Bock
I went into my kids’ teen years with my eyes (relatively) wide open. I knew they’d likely pull away, that they’d fight me tooth and nail for independence, and that it wouldn’t always be smooth sailing.
I spent hours talking with and getting the lowdown from other (more seasoned) parents who had weathered the storm of their kids’ teen years and, let’s face it, I was a teenager once and I remember what I put my parents through. You might say I braced myself…
As (semi) prepared as I was when my kids became teens, what I wasn’t prepared for was how much my husband and I would disagree on how to actually raise our teens.
Sure, we saw eye-to-eye on some things, but there were plenty of things we butted heads on. In fact, I found myself shaking my head in full disbelief over some of the things my husband thought were “perfectly okay” for our teenagers to do and we’ve gotten into numerous heated debates over everything from ground rules, discipline, and dating to curfews, consequences and chores.
If you feel like you and your husband or wife are constantly butting heads about the best way to parent your teen, I’m here to tell you you’re definitely not alone.
Why DO Parents Struggle to Find a Common Ground When Parenting Their Teens?
Actually, the list is pretty long, but here are a few of the top reasons you might be battling out those parenting decisions with your spouse.
According to research, there are distinct differences between how mothers vs. fathers raise their kids. According to the Huffington Post, it’s especially apparent when our kids become teenagers, “Both mothers and fathers are capable of being strict disciplinarians, but it perhaps comes more naturally to the father, if only because moms are typically the chief caregiver and nurturer. Mothers may prioritize comfort and security for their kids and are sometimes viewed by dads as being “too soft” on children.”
Difference of Opinion on Freedom Given and Risk-Taking
Perhaps your husband drank alcohol in high school and is fine with your teen hosting an after-prom party where alcohol is allowed. Maybe he thinks it’s okay for your newly licensed teen to drive to a concert two hours away with friends. And, perhaps you’re freaking out about both. Hence, sparks fly. It’s just a fact that moms tend to worry more than dads do about health and safety issues which can make it challenging to find a common ground.
Response to Teen’s Changing Needs
Each parent may respond differently when their teen pulls away, starts spending more time with their friends or in their bedroom, or when they don’t come to them with their problems or value their opinions as much as they once did. And, the major shifts in their teen’s hormones certainly don’t help matters.
One parent may roll with the punches understanding that it’s all very normal and necessary, whereas the other parent might crack down on their teen’s behavior or take it personally triggering conflict, resentment, or anger.
Different Academic Expectations
If one spouse thinks getting into a top college is the only road to success in life, for instance, and the other feels alternatives to college should be considered, there are bound to be a few heated arguments, especially during the high school years.
So, is it even possible to find parental consensus when it comes to raising teenagers?
With plenty of open, honest communication, you absolutely can establish a common ground with your spouse. Here’s how to get on the same parenting page as your spouse and decrease the stress in your family.
1. Define Your Core Values
Sit down with your spouse and clearly articulate your core parenting values to each other. When you can identify the principles and values that are most important to both of you, it’ll make approaching decisions about your teen that much easier.
2. Map Out Your Parenting Goals
Talk about your long-term parenting goals. Have discussions about the kind of individual you want your teen to become and the skills and values you want to instill in them. Once you have this knowledge you can work together as a team to create a goal list you can both agree with and strive toward.
3. Listen to Each Other’s Perspectives
Every single parent comes to the “parenting table” with their own ideas and perspectives on the best way to raise their children. The trick is to listen to one another and then find a way to meet in the middle if you don’t fully agree.
4. Establish the Steadfast Rules
What’s really important to you? What WON’T you tolerate no matter what? Where do you feel you HAVE to draw the line? Establish steadfast and consistent rules and consequences that are fair and reasonable for your teen’s behaviors and ensure that you both agree and enforce them. Even though your teen might gripe about your rules, that consistency and transparency give them a sense of security knowing exactly where you stand on key issues.
5. Have Regular Check-Ins with Your Spouse
Schedule regular (weekly or monthly) check-ins to discuss any parenting issues you might be facing. They may not always be easy conversations, but make them fun (or perhaps less combative) by having those chats over appetizers and a glass of wine or early in the morning over a cup of coffee. These regular talks will help ensure you stay connected and address issues proactively. (My husband and I called these our “Whine & Wine” sessions.)
6. Educate Yourselves
There are so many helpful resources available for parents of teens. Read parenting articles and books, attend workshops or presentations at your teen’s school, and listen to podcasts or TED talks together. Together, gather as much “expert advice” as you can to draw from and then pave your own parenting path. (Trust your parenting instincts – you know your child best.)
7. Maintain a United Front
Even if you disagree privately, it’s important to (try) to show a unified front in front of your teen to maintain authority and prevent confusion.
It’s fine to admit that you have differing opinions about how to handle a particular situation, but that you’ve reached a compromise on how to deal with a situation and you’re both sticking to it.
8. Be Open to Compromise
Having said that, you both have to recognize that compromise is often necessary. A “My way or the highway” attitude is never helpful.
9. Be Willing to Revisit and Adjust Your Rules
As your teen grows, matures, and becomes more capable, your parenting style needs to evolve right alongside your teen. The rules, boundaries, and expectations that applied when your teen was 14, certainly won’t apply when they’re 17. Talk to your spouse about when and where it’s best to loosen your grip so you’re on the same page.
10. Seek Professional Guidance, If Needed
If you and your spouse find yourselves at a standoff, consider seeking the guidance of a family therapist or counselor. So many therapists have telehealth appointments now that make it easier to attend sessions, even if you and your spouse are in a different location. A neutral third party can provide valuable insights and help you mediate discussions.
A Final Thought…
Before you argue in front of your teen, remember this…
According to Greater Good Magazine (a science-based magazine), “Conflict is a normal part of everyday life, so it’s not whether parents fight that is important,” says Mark Cummings, a psychologist at Notre Dame University. “It’s how the conflict is expressed and resolved, and especially how it makes children feel, that has important consequences for children.” When parents are destructive, the collateral damage to kids can last a lifetime.
Parenting is an ongoing, ever-changing journey. Be sure to give yourself, your spouse, AND your teen plenty of grace along the way. No one has this parenting gig all figured out. We’re all just doing the best we can!
About Marybeth Bock:
Marybeth Bock, MPH, is a Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
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