When “agreeing to disagree” is NOT an option:
Raising kids is a monumental challenge. Raising kids with behavior problems adds an extra layer of “OMG”. Raising kids with behavior challenges when you and your co-parent disagree about the nature of the problem and/or how to treat the problem is an epically monumental “OMG” situation. This is possibly the only parenting scenario in which it is absolutely unequivocally not okay for co-parents to “agree to disagree”. Yet this seems to be the case more often than not.
Seeing your child’s problem through the same lens can be incredibly difficult. It is also, however, incredibly important. In fact, it can be argued that it is the single most important variable contributing to behavior change in a family. Absent this shared understanding of what is going on with your child, finding durable solutions is literally impossible. Whether intentional or not, there can be finger-pointing, indirect blaming and just a total disparity between parenting styles. When “she needs to learn the hard way” meets “we need to get to the underlying cause of the problem”, parents usually end up in a locked horns situation. Behavior will never, never, NEVER improve without a shared understanding of the nature of your child’s challenges. Imagine, for example, that you visit the doctor due to chest pain. Doctor X believes your pain is resulting from heartburn and maps out a treatment plan for you based on his understanding of the problem. Doctor Y disagrees and believes the cause of your chest pain to be stemming from underlying heart disease. He creates an entirely different course of treatment based on his understanding of your problem. How will you proceed? How can you possibly treat the problem until you have more information and a clearly defined understanding of your health issue that all can agree is accurate?
If you want to develop a cohesive parenting roadmap for how to manage your child’s problem behavior, step 1 is “Get on the same page!”
How do I get on the same page with my co-parent?
- First, make a commitment. To your child and to yourself. Your child and entire family deserve peace and that can only be achieved collaboratively and with an open mind.
- Second, check your ego at the door. This work isn’t about being right. It isn’t about proving your point. This work is about helping your child. Period.
- Next, determine your objective. What is your end game? Why are you even “working on this” in the first place? The chances are better than good that you and your co-parent want the same thing (a peaceful home, a better relationship with your kid, a brighter future for your child).
- Finally, consult a professional such as a Behavior Analyst. You can disagree all you want and find all sorts of online “information” to support your position but nothing will replace the guidance of a professional. Selecting someone who specializes in helping parents demystify their child’s challenges and works with them to come to a shared understanding is likely going to be necessary. This professional can also help you create a blueprint for lasting change.
Accepting our children’s challenges can be incredibly difficult and is usually quite confusing. By keeping your eye on the objectives you have for your child and family, you will be better positioned to do what is necessary to come to an agreement with your co-parent about what the heck is really going on.
- It is imperative that you and your co-parent agree that disagreeing about your child’s challenges is not an option.
- Remember, this isn’t about finger pointing or being right. There are ways to uncover the true nature of your child’s issues. Access the professional resources rather than trying to battle it out with your co-parent.
- Undefined problems can’t be solved. It’s that simple. Until you understand and define your child’s challenges the same way, you will be stuck in a holding pattern that will benefit no one, least of all your child.