Raising Children With Your Wife When You Disagree

“You know it’s really hard to parent with you.” My wife and I were struggling to get on the same page about how to deal with some behaviors in our teenager that were concerning, and, in a moment of frustration, these words came out of my wife’s mouth. To be honest, in the moment I was hurt. But over time, I’ve realized that she was, in fact, just stating what was true.

Learning to parent together has been the biggest challenge of our marriage because, despite our love for each other, we often see things very differently and have different expectations. Maybe you can relate? Perhaps you’ve struggled to see eye to eye with your wife and frequently find yourselves at an impasse in parenting decisions. Here are 5 important things to do while you’re learning to parent together but you disagree about how to do it.

1. Decide on core values.

It’s easy to get lost in the weeds with every argument. Do we say “yes” to the sleepover or not? Do we restrict screen time to an hour a day or three? But it’s helpful to agree on what the “main things” are. As one of the pastors at our church recently said, “Identify the felonies.” Where do you draw strong lines with your kids? Is it lying? Being respectful? Looking out for others? Figure out with your wife some basic places for agreement. This will make it easier to feel like you’re together, even when you don’t see eye to eye all the time.

2. Choose your battles.

When learning to parent together, especially early on, every decision feels consequential. But the truth is, many of them are not. We make hundreds of decisions every day, many of them for our children. Decide right now that you don’t need to agree on everything. There will certainly be critical decisions, but most of the day-to-day ones don’t fall into that category. The exact makeup of your child’s lunch, for example, as long as some general health standards are agreed upon, matters little now and won’t matter at all in a year. Don’t make everything an argument.

3. Argue well.

When you do argue, argue well. We can get dramatic about our kids because we love them but also because we mistakenly think that if we do everything right (whatever that means) our kids will turn out to be amazing human beings and everyone will know what awesome parents we are. This is, of course, patently false. But it can raise the stakes on our arguments around learning to parent together, resulting in personal attacks. Regardless of your disagreements, you and your wife want the same thing for your kids. You both love them deeply and are doing your best to help them navigate a complicated world. Treat your wife with respect. Don’t make things personal. Offer her the benefit of the doubt. Listen well and be willing to compromise.

4. Hold your ideas with humility.

Sometimes you’re wrong. Of course you know this. The problem is, you never know in the moment. If you did, you would make different decisions. But if we can hold onto this knowledge that we might in fact be mistaken, it can help us parent with curiosity and grace together instead of dogmatic certainty. This doesn’t mean your opinion doesn’t matter, only that it’s just that, your opinion. So hold your ideas with humility, especially when they fall outside the “core value” realm.

5. Honor her in front of your child.

You will often find yourself in situations where you have to make a decision and your wife isn’t there. If she’s already communicated an expectation to your child, honor it. If she hasn’t, do your best to consider what your wife would want even if you make a decision that you know she’d disagree with. And no matter what, never speak poorly about your wife in front of your kids. Don’t roll your eyes or make a face that communicates disrespect. She is still their mom, and you are teaching them how to treat her and showing them your character in ways they’ll remember long after they leave home.

Sound off: Learning to parent together can be challenging. What other suggestions can you add to this list?

Huddle up with your wife and ask, “What are the three things most important to you about raising our kids?”