How to Revolutionize Your Parenting Negotiations
You are a Parental Partner.
Maybe you've spent a few years single-parenting — making all your own decisions. But now, parenting is a two person job. You've got a partner that's part of the equation.
Or maybe you've never had kids, but you've been thrust into becoming a step-parent. You've got a valuable role to play.
Being effective Parental Partners in a stepfamily is complex. Anything that impacts our kids becomes a heart issue. Therefore, parenting can be emotionally charged.
Kim and I have been pulled apart by parenting countless times over the years. She felt defensive when we didn't see eye to eye. She wanted me to "butt out". At times, she wanted to make decisions for her daughter on her own. That would keep me stuck on the outside, feeling rejected and angry.
You may have experienced some of these feelings too.
Every step-couple can be successful Parental Partners when parents equip themselves with Courage and Curiosity and step-parents practice Patience and Prudence.
Parents — Courage & Curiosity
Many single parents get excited when the prospect of a new partner comes along. Parenting is hard without help. But, they tend to discover pretty quickly that blended family parenting can be more complicated than single parenting!
With a new partner on the scene, parenting becomes a negotiation. These negotiations can lead to conflict.
The best way for a parent to minimize that conflict is to start with courage.
Parents — it takes courage to really listen. When your partner has a perspective that you don't agree with, you've got to muster up the courage to fight off defensiveness. Your parental partner wants good things for you and for your kids. That means you need to invite their perspective even when you know it will differ from yours.
The best way to hold onto that courage is to get curious.
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Ask questions. Strive to see the value of their perspective. Try to understand what the underlying reason for their perspective is. There are times where parents are blinded by subjectivity. A more objective step-parent might be your greatest advocate in teaching your child something new and valuable.
Once you've found the courage to listen well and the curiosity to really understand, then move forward working toward a good compromise. Thank your partner for their input and take some time to think about it. Evaluate all the perspectives and then work together to talk about the options. If you choose not to take your partner's advice, tell them why and ask for their support.
Your goal is to make the best decision you can for your child AND ensure your partner is a valued part of that process.
Step-Parents — Patience & Prudence
As step-parents, we offer objective insights and uncover parental blind spots. But we sabotage ourselves when we try to force our perspective or demand our advice be taken.
Step-parents who are most effective approach parenting discussions with patience.
When you have an insight to share with your partner, ask yourself if they are ready to hear it. Kim has always shared that one of the most difficult things for a parent to hear is criticism about their parenting. I learned that I needed to wait to share my perspective. Sometimes a few hours, other times a few days.
Once you feel good about the timing, ask permission to share. Start by saying something like this: "I was thinking about what happened with Johnny the other night and I have some thoughts to share, is now a good time to talk about that?". If it's not a good time, then ask when it would be good to follow up.
The best way to offer your insight as a step-parent starts with patience and then when you do get to share — share with prudence.
Prudence simply means to be cautious and wise. Choose your words wisely, keeping your tone and body language inviting. Remember that parenting is a heart issue and it's sometimes hard for your partner to hear. They may interpret your message as a disapproval of their parenting regardless of your intentions.
And don't hold a hard line. As the step-parent in your parental partnership, you're in the support role. Your partner has the final say with their kids and you must learn to support them. Over the years, when I shared my parenting perspective with Kim, I would end with something like "…that's my take on it, now you decide what you think is best and I'll support whatever you decide."
Parental Partners in Training
It may help if you both think of yourselves as Parental Partners in Training. Communicating effectively about parenting in a blended family takes practice.
Parents need to muster their courage and strengthen their curiosity. Step-parents must exercise their patience and build their prudence.
When step-couples train with these principles in mind, they discover how great their partnership can be!
QUESTION: Which aspect of parental partnership is your biggest challenge — courage, curiosity, patience or prudence? Leave a comment below…