This was first published on the Dove Parenting Blog (minus the faith perspective, which I will include here.)
When our son was in elementary school, I walked down to the basement to find him snuggled on the couch next to Daddy, watching a war movie. “What are you doing?” I asked my husband in exasperated tones, “He’ll have nightmares for weeks!”
My husband disagreed. Since it was a Civil War movie, he argued that kids our son’s age were there, watching the battles in their own communities. Snatching the remote from my husband’s hand, I said, “Well, if we had a war in our town, I’d be focused on protecting our kids; not entertaining them with it!”
Ten years later, my perspective on little kids’ watching war movies has not changed, but my perspective on parenting has.
In many marriages, one parent is more protective than the other. That happens to be me, in ours. And even though our kids are now teens, this hasn’t changed. My husband is still the one who shrugs and says, “Sure,” when the kids want to go running after dark or drive long distances alone. And I’m still the one who says, “No way!”—especially when it comes to questionable entertainment.
As two parents, who completely disagree on what our kids should be allowed to do, how can we operate as a united force? And as two Christians, trying to build a godly home, how can we embrace our roles as husband (loving leader) and wife (submissive helper) when we disagree?
Here are three guidelines that help me, when I disagree with my husband on parenting choices:
1. It’s okay that we disagree.
Two parents who both love the same set of kids can provide a checks and balance system to parenting. We’re probably both more right together than we are on our own. So it’s okay that we disagree, as long as we’re willing to work toward a decision that we mutually agree upon.
If couples never disagreed, we would need no instruction for wives to submit and husbands to lead. (Eph. 5:22-23) There is no sin in disagreeing, or seeing things differently. The sin comes when we neglect our roles; when a wife insists on bullheadedly taking control, or when a husband deflects his responsibility to protect his family with good decisions.
Disagreements should be expected, especially in parenting. It’s our response to disagreements that is key. Will we selfishly insist on our own perspective? Or will we operate as partners, and help each other grow?
2. Welcome my marriage partner’s input.
I meet many wives who complain that their husbands are too passive. But often times, these same wives are the ones who admit that they have control issues. When a wife marches in and clicks off the TV in the middle of whatever movie Dad just rented for the kids, it doesn’t invite his future input. And when a husband brushes off his wife’s concerns and takes his teens to see the rated R movie she was protesting, it doesn’t invite her input, either.
Husbands and wives, we are better together. If our kids are blessed with two capable, loving parents, this is to their advantage! We should invite input, rather than veto each other without discussion.
3. Be respectful.
Without respect, a parenting discussion (which should happen privately, by the way) is sure to go sideways—especially over something as emotionally charged as protecting our kids. Respect is displayed through tone of voice, letting the other person finish a thought, and truly listening. (Not snatching the remote and saying, “No way!”)
Validate that your spouse loves your kids as much as you do. Admit that you might be too lenient or too protective. Talk about how to compromise, and pray together for wisdom. Then respect your spouse enough to stick with whatever you agreed upon.
We probably won’t get every decision right, as parents. But we’ll do a far better job of parenting in a balanced, thoughtful way if we do it with a partner. God designed it to work that way.