"Unified parenting with multiple kids" 2012/8/7 - KL pending
When you have multiple kids, there always seems to be this unspoken competition between moms and dads over who will handle each child. You know what I mean. You smell the presence of a dirty diaper, but you hold your tongue hoping your spouse will notice. We all know the unspoken rule that the first one to smell it is responsible, right? Or maybe you face the daily issue of who manages kids while the other cleans the kitchen. On one hand, you hate cleaning the mountain of dishes and pots and pans, yet on the other hand, there is no telling what chaos will ensue if you accept the responsibility for managing kids. And let's not forget the midnight cry for a drink or water. Worse yet, the midnight cry of a wet bed! You lay there motionless, praying your spouse will make the first move. You are free from all responsibility if they move...after all, you were "asleep."
These silent debates happen all the time in family life. I for one can say honestly that I often feel slighted when the duty to clean the kitchen falls to me. Except when the dirty diaper is discovered minutes after I start scrubbing those dishes! Suddenly, kitchen duty seems like the better lot. The most common frustration I feel is when my boys want me to do the bedtime routine after a long hard day. Sometimes I just want to sit down. Of course, my wife wants exactly the same thing! So what do we do?
At some point, couples with multiple kids must decide what value system will rule the way they do the job of parenting together. Many couples have yet to reach this point. So, they continue to parent as if they are islands. This only causes frustration to mount against the marriage, not to mention the kids, suffer in the crossfire.
I can't tell you how many parents come to me wondering how they and their spouse can get on the same page in their parenting. The answer is rarely simple and never perfect. Yet there are steps couples can take to ease tension and increase unity in parenting kids.
1. Admit your selfishness. Goodness gracious, we are all selfish. The more we allow our selfishness to go unchecked, the worse things get. Sure there will always be times when our selfishness gets the best of us; however, if you take the initiative to admit you are selfish, you are a huge step closer to building unity. Imagine starting a conversation with your spouse that goes something like this, "Honey, sometimes I avoid doing what is best for our kids because I'm tired, frustrated, and just plain selfish...and I'm sorry." See, if we can be open about our weaknesses and shortcomings, we end up breeding grace in our marriages. Once you admit your selfishness you can then discuss a workable plan for handling the issue at hand.
2. Leverage strengths. Couples should discuss where each of you are particularly strong in your parenting. I happen to be very good at handling the gross stuff. You know, the diaper explosions, throw up and the occasional dirty pull-up flung across the room that slides down the door (yes, that happened)! As often as possible, leverage your strengths. Don't wait for an invitation - if the situation demands your particular strength, jump in! When you do, you will be a blessing to your spouse and frankly, you will do it better!
3. Manage weaknesses.
Yes, we all have weaknesses in parenting. However, we are not always able to avoid the areas where we have weakness. So, you must manage it. If your spouse can leverage strength in the area of your weakness, enjoy that blessing. Just remember that there will be many times as you raise your kids that you will need to act in the area of your weakness. That's called parenting! Never let weaknesses be an excuse to be an absent or negligent parent.
4. Wave the rare white flag. The keyword here is "rare." There are times when our kids push us to the limit. It's like every child's superpower. When it happens (notice I didnt say "if"), wave the white flag with your spouse. Obviously, this requires advanced agreement that when one of you waves the white flag of distress, you move to their aid. You must be careful lest you abuse this privilege. So far in our eight years of parenting, Amanda has called me only once or twice at work with a white flag cry for help. My response was to immediately gather my things and go home. You may not have the same freedom to leave your work like I do, but you get the idea. When we come to the aid of our spouse, we galvanize our unity as parents.
5. Plan ahead. Families with multiple kids are often victims of a simple lack of planning. I urge couples to carve out time each week to discuss the variety of details it takes to maintain a handle on life. Layout a plan for discipline, morning and evening routines, manage sport and/or school schedules, plan time to prioritize and protect your romance as a married couple. Your commitment to plan ahead will pay huge dividends in building a more unified front as you raise your kids.
I would love to hear your thoughts on unified parenting. What works in your life? What challenges do you face that I've overlooked here?
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