Help: My Spouse and I are Not on the Same Page

“I am trying to apply the principles I have learned from Conscious Discipline to my parenting practices and impart the same tools to my children. The problem is that my spouse disagrees with me and thinks that more harsh and authoritarian tactics are the correct tools of discipline. What do I do?”

BREATHE. As with all parenting frustrations, the first step is always to breathe. The skill of composure helps us to turn off the negative responses to our situations and refocus our energy in a positive direction. Before addressing any stressful issue with your spouse, take a moment to breathe deeply and calm yourself.

TIME IT RIGHT. Be cautious to not speak your mind about your spouse’s discipline tools in the heat of a discipline moment or in front of your children. Wait until after the moment has passed and the children are elsewhere…even if your spouse is doing something you completely disagree with. If you do it in the moment or in front of the kids (1) it will likely fuel an angry response from your spouse and diminish the chances that they will ever see things from your point of view and (2) it will demonstrate to your children that their parents are not on the same page and they will learn how to manipulate the situation. They will also learn to favor one parent and not the other. It damages relationships all around and won’t turn out well. For now, let your spouse do it his/her way and you do it yours.

OPEN DIALOGUE. In a time of “calm” (remember…not directly after a discipline moment) let your spouse know that you would like to talk about some things you’ve learned. You might say, “Hey, I’m learning about a different way to handle __________” and I’d like to share it with you. Would now be a good time to talk about it?” If “now” isn’t a good time, pick a time that you both agree on and come back to the conversation then.

STAY POSITIVE. When you talk to your spouse about discipline, avoid blaming statements or other statements that may cause them to put up their defenses. You want to keep the conversation positive and encouraging so that everyone stays in the higher centers of their brain. The last thing you need to do is say something that causes a brain-stem or emotional response to you because then you’ve lost the battle before you’ve begun. Actually, try not to even think of it as a “battle.” Think of it as a journey. On your journey, you will each learn and try new things and you can offer that newly acquired wisdom to your partner, just as they can off theirs to you. In your conversations, you can say things like, “I’ve been using ____XZY Tool___ with the kids and it seems to really be working. I think it could really work to help strengthen them and our family if we handle these behaviors this way. What do you think?” Open up the dialogue in a non-threatening way, in a moment of little to no stress. Allow them to respond…even disagree…and hear their reasoning. Always point your conversation to positive discipline, building relationships and tie it back to the BrainSmart principles of Conscious Discipline.

REMAIN PATIENT. Remember that your spouse is simply speaking his or her first language of discipline, just as you did before you learned a different way. Attribute positive intent and see their discipline tactics as a lack of skills, rather than a threat to your preferred method of parenting. Accept the moment as it is. Instead of stressing on the fact that your spouse is using tools that you don’t like or agree with, shift your focus to what you can control, and that is you. Continue adding new tools as conscious responses to behavior and keep the conversation open with your spouse. Don’t expect change to occur overnight. Over time, the more consistent and supportive you are of them learning a new way, the more you will see their old tools die off as they are no longer needed. As always, I wish you well!