Brandon’s mom is pretty strict when it comes to sweets. She’s a health-food nut and a vocal opponent of sugar and processed foods. She only lets Brandon have sugary treats on special occasions and she never lets him have fast food.
Brandon’s dad, however, believes in eating well most of the time, but likes to spoil his son with Happy Meals after swimming and ice-cream cones after karate.
When Brandon’s mom challenges her husband about being consistent when it comes to food, he says he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with giving his son a treat after a long day.
This leads to ongoing arguments, anger and one confused little boy, who eventually might try to hide what he’s doing with his dad so he doesn’t have to face the fallout from his mom.
So what to do?
I believe both parents must have an equal voice in how the child is raised. And in this case, they both have good points: yes, sugar is bad, but yes, kids deserve treats sometimes.
Disagreements between couples happen all the time. Compromising and finding middle ground are cornerstones of a good marriage, but what if one parent flat-out refuse to give in?
Here are my tips on how to deal with conflicting parenting styles:
1. Always discuss the issue away from the children. In the case of Brandon’s parents, this means Brandon’s mother would have to bite her cheeks when Brandon comes in with chocolate ice cream on his face. She would wait to talk to his dad after Brandon has gone to bed.
2. Stay calm and try to focus in on the specific issue. Don’t resort to the “you never” and “you always” traps, i.e. “You never listen to me!” or “You always disrespect my rules!”
3. Come up with a solid plan. In the case of Brandon, this might mean discussing how both parties could get what they want. For example, maybe Brandon’s dad could take Brandon out for hot chocolate, but agree not to go to fast food restaurants.
4. As with any relationship, give and take is important. You might not like every idea your partner comes up with, but compromising will go a long way.
5. Try to support your position with research or facts. This way it looks like you’re educated about the topic and you might have better luck convincing your partner to try it your way. Brandon’s mom could provide his dad with some research about the dangers of fast foods, and Brandon’s dad could show her an article about how worry and anxiety about food can cause problems too.
6. Make a commitment to give the plan a solid try for 3 weeks before throwing in the towel. This will give you each a target to focus on and a plan for evaluating your success.
7. If the problem still persists after 3 weeks, plan to meet again and come up with some new ideas. Were any aspects of the plan working, or do you need to start from scratch? Try to avoid “I told you so” statements, even if you’re thinking them! :)
Now, I’d like to know how YOU deal with these kinds of conflicts in your family! Share your advice in the ‘Comments’ section below.
I’ll choose one commenter to win a FREE copy of Kids: The Manual, which is a great resource for solving these kinds of problems! ;)
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