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What to do When You Parent Differently

A smiling wife and husband laughing with their three children.

Have you and your spouse ever been on different pages when it comes to your preferred parenting techniques? One of the biggest marriage triggers occurs when a husband and wife parent differently. Best-selling author and teacher Amber Lia outlines two practical changes to unify your parenting approach.

Sarah cringed inwardly as her husband sternly scolded their 8-year-old son. She had been working on more gentle approaches in her parenting technique and had seen a positive difference in her relationship with her son. However, it was becoming more and more apparent that she and her husband were not parenting on the same page. 

In my many years of working with parents who struggle with anger and frustration, one of the biggest triggers is when a husband and wife parent differently. Usually, one spouse is stricter than the other, creating division and frustration between couples. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Just like Sarah, I realized that my husband and I were not united in our discipline or reactions to conflict with our kids when I began to open my heart to a gentler biblical approach to parenting. We decided to make some changes.

First, set aside time to come together to make a better plan. 

That initial request for a conversation can sound like this: 

“Honey, I’m seeing some positive changes in myself and our kids from small changes I’ve been making in parenting lately, but I need your help. Could we have coffee together on Sunday afternoon and talk about ways we can work together on this? I’d be so grateful!”

God gives us a good attitude to put on when we think about parenting as a team. 1 Peter 3:8 says, 

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” 

The couple that uses a biblical mindset during these conversations is setting themselves up for blessings and a more peaceful home. When you come together, focus on what you can do to be on the same page as opposed to pointing fingers at each other or focusing on areas you see as faults in your spouse. 

Second, choose one thing to work on together as a team. 

For example, you may agree that yelling and raising your voice is not helping anyone and may even be a sin issue. Commit to a new and improved approach. Perhaps you will agree to stop and take five deep breaths when you feel like yelling in order to calm yourselves. My husband and I call this a “holy pause” which gives us a few moments to settle our nerves and think more clearly. You may also decide to say a specific parenting script to your kids in the heat of the moment: 

 “Son, I think we need a break to cool down. Please go outside to play for a few minutes and I will join you to talk about this a little later when we are both calm.” 

The key here is be proactive, so that when an issue arises, you are not reactive. Don’t be afraid that you don’t know the best way to handle kids who talk back, defuse sibling rivalry, or address whining and complaining. God longs to help us in our times of need and remove our feelings of inadequacy. In James 1:5, God assures us of His help:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

Don’t underestimate the power of prayer, asking God to give you both wisdom and creativity to parent on the same page. He will give you what you need, generously, when you ask Him. That’s a prayer and a promise that God longs to answer. Trust Him to help you!

In our book, Marriage Triggers, my husband Guy writes: 

“Families are fodder for blessings. A wonderful heritage, meant to bring you and your spouse together, not tear you apart. Parenting in the aftermath of issues only breeds anger and frustration, but when you come together with a plan, offensively instead of operating defensively, you are much more apt to enjoy the blessing of your children and your partnership with your spouse.”

Parenting as a team can become one of the greatest blessings of your husband-wife relationship. When you and your spouse are on the same page, it sets an example of unity and self-control for your kids to follow when they have families of their own.