This newsletter is designed especially for YOU if:
- You have met someone and are wondering if s/he is the "Love of Your
- You are about to get married and want to co-create a fulfilling life partnership
- You have a good relationship and want to make it great!
Co-parenting Our Children
This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your questions
to Linda@relationshipcoachinginstitute.com who
will forward them to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish
a few answers from our RCI coaches.
My husband travels a lot and most of the time I’m at home alone with
our pre-school children. I’m discovering we have very different approaches
to parenting. When one of the children does something wrong, I take a gentle
approach. I try to find out if they know they’ve done something wrong.
Once that’s established and I can see some evidence of remorse, I comfort
them while at the same time emphasizing what they did was clearly wrong. Then,
together, we clean up the mess or right the wrong.
My husband takes a much more stern approach, using a gruff tone of voice and
harshly involving them in righting the wrong or cleaning up the mess. I am concerned
about this, especially since he isn't around a lot. I am afraid the children
will experience fear in his presence. I can see the look of fear in their eyes
when this is happening. One of the children seems tenser when he comes home.
I’ve tried talking to him about this, but I don't think he understands
how scary this is for them and for me. Do you have any suggestions about how
I could approach him more effectively?
A Concerned Mother
Frankie responds …
As parents, you need to define jointly the approach you and your husband consistently
will take regarding discipline and all other aspects of parenting.
Then you both need to follow through with the rules and processes that you’ve
agreed upon -- without variance. This demonstration of teamwork (togetherness)
will help your children understand that the two of you are one parenting unit.
This will help them understand that boundaries and consequences are consistent,
and, most importantly, it will make them feel safe.
Your goal is to achieve mutual agreement with your husband that this approach
is a win/win for the entire family and that it removes him from the role of bad
guy. Approach him from this standpoint. Ask his help to co-create and implement
the guidelines that will help your children grow into fine adults.
Frankie Doiron | www.frankiedoiron.com
email@example.com | 905.453.7451
Sandra responds …
No one should have to live in fear, not your children, and not you! Controlling
through fear is emotional abuse, which is every bit as damaging to the personality
as physical abuse.
If he has ever hit you, or if you feel that you or your children are in physical
danger, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233
or 1-800-787 for assistance.
In any event, it’s time for you to reach out for help. You might start
by talking with your clergyman, or by finding a marriage counselor to help you
address this situation with your husband. Meeting with a counselor, together
as a couple, may help your husband see just how destructive his behavior is,
both to you and your children. If your husband won’t attend with you, there’s
still great benefit to you if you seek out professional help. All the best.
Sandra Rohr | SDRohr@aol.com
Linda responds …
Here are some things to consider regarding the tasks couples face in creating
a sustainable and fulfilling marriage.
After the glow of romantic love wears off, every couple’s challenge is
learning to deal with differences. So, you and your husband have differences
in parenting styles. It’s not uncommon for the mother to have a gentler
approach, and the father a more firm one. Both approaches are needed. If your
husband’s approach is abusive, that’s not what I’m talking
It’s important that couples communicate their differences to each other
in a respectful way, letting go of needing to be right. It’s important
to make an effort to understand each other’s perspective, and then to find
ways that will work for both of you and which are in the best interests of the
It’s important to include your husband, when he’s present, in his
parenting role. An important task for all couples is creating a safe haven for
the expression of differences, anger, and conflict. A parenting or relationship
coach can help you with this.
Another task is embracing the daunting roles of mother and father. A baby’s
dramatic entrance makes a huge impact on a relationship. After the birth of a
baby, it is normal for a woman’s libido to decrease. This biological change
happens so that women care for their infants instead of trying to produce another
If this has happened in your relationship, you may want to have an honest dialogue
with your husband and give attention to his thoughts and feelings. At the same
time you’re both absorbing this enormous change, it’s vital you both
work to protect your own privacy and your own adult lives. These usually suffer,
as attending to an infant’s needs becomes a priority for a while. It is
important to be conscious of this. Perhaps your husband is feeling neglected
and that may be unconsciously contributing to his harsh manner. I hope this helps.
Best to you, your husband, and your children.
Linda A. Marshall, M.Div. | 937.684.2245
RCI Director of Couple’s Programs
www.radiantrelating.com | Linda@radiantrelating.com
I agree with Linda that men and women often have differences in their approach
to parenting. It is common for mothers to have a softer, nurturing, more feeling-oriented
approach to parenting, and for fathers to have a firmer, authoritative, results-oriented
approach to parenting.
I also agree with Frankie and Jeff (see article below) on the importance of
proactively discussing and planning your co-parenting together. While your personality
and styles will be different, you need to accept and appreciate your differences
and be on the same page about expectations, consequences, etc.
And I agree with Sandra on the need for professional support in this situation.
So if I agree with what's been said so far, why am I adding my two cents?
Because I'd like to point out the role of fear and belief or judgment. If you
believe or judge that your husband's approach is harming your child then you
will be fearful for him/her, which s/he will pick up upon and mirror. His/her
fear may not really be of his/her Dad, s/he may be mirroring your fear for him/her.
Read your question through and pick out the judgment in your language. For
example, what you see as "stern," "gruff," and
"harsh" might simply be firm and authoritative. A father is not a male
mother. He has a deeper voice that often gets children's attention more effectively,
which can be interpreted negatively by the soft-spoken, nurturing mother. If
he travels a lot and doesn't deal with the kids everyday like you, he might have
less patience, be more easily frustrated by their behavior, and be compensating
for his own judgment that you are too soft.
What you see as your child "tensing up" when his father comes home
may simply be culture shock. S/he's been alone with you for long periods and
used to your soft approach and then suddently has to adjust to another parent
with a different approach.
Now if s/he really has reason to fear his/her Dad (ie. verbal, emotional, physical
abuse) then that is a serious problem that requires professional support. But
please make sure your own fear and judgment of your husband's parenting isn't
creating a "good guy/bad guy" problem.
Irregardless, please seek professional support with your husband to deal with
this situation. It is not likely you will be able to resolve this on your own.
You need an expert opinion to assuage (or confirm) your fear that your child
might be harmed, and a neutral third party to help you and your husband come
together as co-parents and learn to accept, appreciate, and resolve your differences.
David Steele, MA, LMFT
Founder and CEO, Relationship Coaching Institute
relationshipcoachinginstitute.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
How to Get Both Parents on the Same Page
By Jeff Herring
As parents raising children, you’ve probably come across this issue (more
than once) …
“My spouse and I cannot agree on how to raise our kids. I think
my spouse is too strict and my spouse thinks I am too lenient. Meanwhile, the
kids are getting away with everything. What can we do?”
This is an excellent and all-too-common question. In typical therapist fashion,
I'm going to begin my answer with a question…
Where in the world did we get the idea that two parents have to agree
on every aspect of parenting?
Somehow, we are supposed to believe that two separate individuals, who grew up
with different models of how to parent, different life experiences and probably
different temperaments, are now going to come together and agree on every facet
of the complicated task of parenting? Sorry, I just don't buy it.
Not only is this an unworkable notion in the real world, it can be a damaging
one as well. The optimal goal, of course, would be for these two different people
to combine their respective parenting styles into a well-functioning and supportive
parenting team. This is difficult, although it can and does happen. Nevertheless,
when people believe the lie about always having to agree, a power struggle can
be set up between the two adults.
We all like to be right and we tend to fight for our positions. In too many situations,
instead of coming together as a team, parents grow farther and farther apart,
rigidly adhering to their own styles.
A person with a more strict style has something to learn from the person with
a more lenient style, and vice versa. Instead of learning from each other, the
strict one becomes stricter and the lenient one becomes more lenient. This creates,
at best, criticism, resentment, and a gap big enough for a child to drive a truck
through. The children suffer, and the parents cancel each other out.
The Parent Trap
It also sets up what I call the “parent trap.” Picture the face of
a clock. At 12 o'clock is the word “angry,” at four o’clock
the word “sympathy,” and at eight o’clock the phrase “taken
The trap begins when a child misbehaves, does something wrong or gets in to trouble.
The parent starts at the top of the clock, becomes “angry”
and says something like, “OK, that does it, you’re grounded for life!” or
some equally unrealistic statement.
After a while, the parent moves on down the clock to “sympathy,”
and lets the child off the hook.
Sure enough, the child takes advantage, and repeats the same action or something
equally frustrating. This moves the parent over to feeling “taken advantage
The parent doesn't feel this way for too long before thinking or saying,
“How could you do this after all I've done for you?!” The parent
quickly returns to the top of the clock -- to “anger.”
Do you see the vicious circle this sets up? In the middle is the child -- running
Now let's complicate this process even more, with our two different parenting
Imagine having one parent stuck on anger and the other one stuck on sympathy,
or some equally damaging combination. There again is that hole you can drive
a truck through.
Getting Out of the Parent Trap
One of the simplest ways to get out of the “parent trap” is called
the odd/even schedule.
Here's how it works: On odd-numbered days, one parent will be in charge of parenting.
That means that all discipline, privileges, discussions, etc., go through that
parent for that particular day. The other parent is to stand by and merely observe
(unless there is blood or some other legitimate emergency).
The parent who is “on call” for that day can consult with the other
parent if he or she so chooses. Otherwise, the “off duty”
parent is required to “sit on their wisdom” for the day. The following
day, on the even day, the roles are simply reversed. The parent who was in charge
is now off duty, and the parent who was off duty is now in charge.
This plan can benefit the family in several ways:
• The parents come together to agree to follow the plan
• Each parent has the opportunity to observe the other in action to see
that he or she can parent
• Each parent gets to practice his or her own parenting skills
• The children get to see each parent in charge
• The door is open for the parents to come together as a team
This doesn't have to be long-term, but can help diffuse the power struggle
and get both parents on the same page. The task of parenting is difficult enough
without it becoming a power struggle between the two adults. It's crucial to
remember that the goal is to form an effective team, with both parents drawing
on their own unique skills and learning from each other. In this way, the entire
Jeff Herring, MS, LMFT
www.SecretsofGreatRelationships.com and www.ConsciousDatingAtlanta.com
email@example.com | 850.580.5333
“Wisdom is knowing what to do next; virtue is doing it.”
~David Starr Jordan
"Having your way is a lot easier when you have more than one way."
~Jennifer James, as quoted in “Chocolate for a Woman's Soul”
“A perfect parent is a person with excellent child-rearing theories
and no actual children.”
“Most of the time we don’t communicate, we just take turns
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Linda Marshall, M.Div. | Director of Couples Programs Linda@relationshipcoachinginstitute.com
Tara Kachaturoff | Editor, PartnersInLife.org Couples News Tara@relationshipcoachinginstitute.com
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