Kids cause conflicts in many marriages. How these issues get resolved has important consequences not only for your children but for the health of your marriage.
Disagreements about child rearing are not only inevitable but healthy. Discussion and debate can result in new insights and help you think about issues in a different way. Parents shouldn’t be reluctant to respectfully challenge their partner’s perspective. I like George Patton’s comment that, “if everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”
Parental conflicts are usually ones of strategy and, typically, are easy to resolve. In these situations, both parents agree on the goal but have very different paths to get there.
Amy’s parents rearranged their busy schedule to have dinner together almost every night. Four-year-old Amy was not always the most cooperative. Mom reported that several times a month Amy would cry during dinner for no apparent reason and crawl into her lap.
This was fine with Amy’s mom, who felt that her daughter simply needed some reassurance and security. Since this happened so infrequently, she just didn’t understand her husband’s overreaction. Dad felt that Amy was being manipulative and this behavior ruined dinner “almost every night.”
Since the parents had the same goals, the only question had to do with strategy. What’s the best way to get Amy to have dinner with her family without crying? After the parents described the situation, they turned to me for the correct approach. I had no idea what to do, but I could guide them how to find the answer.
After a bit of pressure from me, Dad agreed not to bring up this problem for the next three weeks. The parents totally adopted mom’s approach and allowed Amy to crawl into her mom’s lap during dinner. In return, mom agreed to keep track of how often this occurred. At our next session, mom reported that Amy had cried during dinner on 12 of the previous 21 days. Both parents now agreed to try something different.
For the next three weeks, the parents implemented a time-out procedure whenever Amy cried. Not surprisingly, the frequency and intensity of the problem actually increased for the first week, and then stopped completely.
Disagreements about strategy are generally easy to resolve if you follow the following steps.
- Clearly define the problem you want to change, and figure out a simple way to measure how often it is happening.
- Consistently follow the same approach for three weeks and determine if the frequency of the problem is decreasing. The key word in that sentence is “consistently!”
- If your approach isn’t demonstrating any improvement, then try something different.
- Sometimes parents have disagreements because they have different goals for their kids. These are tougher problems to resolve, which will be addressed in next week’s column.
Gregory Ramey, Ph.D., is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at the Children’s Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit www.childrensdayton.org/ramey and join Dr. Ramey on facebook at www.facebook.com/drgregramey. Dr Ramey has been a guest contributor to the Ohio Family Law Blog since 2007.
[Reprinted by permission from the November 24, 2012, edition of the Dayton Daily News, “Fighting over the kids: Resolving issues of strategy,”Family Wise, Gregory Ramey, PhD]
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Guest Contributor Gregory Ramey, PhD, Child Psychologist and Dayton Daily News Columnist
Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a nationally recognized child psychologist and columnist who has worked at Dayton Children’s Hospital since 1979. In addition to his weekly column in the Dayton Daily News about effective parenting, Ramey has conducted more than 200 workshops and has recently been quoted in articles in Redbook, Parenting, Ladies Home Journal as well as columns distributed by the New York Times Wire Service.