Parenting: How To Be A Better Parent

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How To Build A Positive Parenting Relationship

BY DR SARAH HUGHES

There are so many ways to get parenting wrong. Thankfully, for the most part kids are pretty resilient and unless you consistently get it wrong, they’re going to turn out ok. Ironically though often it’s our drive to be a good parent that leads us to make the wrong parenting decisions.

Even if you and your partner share the same parenting philosophy, there were always be instances where you disagree. The dilemma then is this –

Your child or your parenting relationship?

Your child or your parenting relationship?

When you see your partner interacting with your child in a way you disagree with, do you step in to help your child or do you prioritise your parenting relationship and back your partner even though you think they’re wrong?

Most parents will step in to defend their child, but while this might intuitively feel like the right choice it has a number of negative consequences.

Say your child has just done something they shouldn’t – like spoken in a disrespectful way to their other parent. It makes your partner angry and they react by coming on a little strong and yelling at your child in a way that isn’t necessarily warranted. You sense the situation is escalating and you step in with – ‘Ok, ok. That’s enough. You don’t need to yell at her like that’ or you wait for the moment to pass and then go to your child’s room to comfort them afterwards.

And here’s where things get messy.

The ripple effect of your action is this. Your partner feels betrayed, hurt, and annoyed that you undermined them in front of your child. A wedge is driven between your child and your partner. Your child learns that they don’t have to listen to what mum/dad says, because you’ve inadvertently reinforced that mum/dad is wrong. But the biggest ripple really is this – your child learns that you and your partner are not a unified parenting team and this paves the way for all kinds of problems further down the track.

So is the solution to go along with your partner even when you think they’re wrong? Of course not. But your child needs to be protected against your differences of opinion so they can have a positive relationship with both parents, and so you maintain a positive relationship with your partner.

Discuss your concerns with your partner in private and avoid stepping in unless it’s really necessary. If you’re unsure, ask yourself this – Is my instinct to protect my child preventing me from seeing the longer-term consequences of my actions? What will I be teaching my child if I step in? How will my partner feel? How will this impact our parenting in the future?

Dr. Sarah Hughes is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and challenging behaviour.


 

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