Any parent knows that as beautiful as the journey of raising a child is, it's certainly not without conflict.
A recent survey of more than 100 YourTango Experts revealed that, from an expert standpoint, the topics parents most commonly fight with each other about are money, followed by parenting/discipline, domestic responsibilities and feeling neglected.
Here, our Experts have tackled 13 common parent-parent and parent-child conflicts. Read on for expert advice on how to manage and overcome disagreements about discipline, domesticity and 12 other common arguments:
1. Punishment. Whether young or old, children are always testing limits and playing one parent against the other. Avoid such conflict by sitting down together during a quiet time to establish six to eight key family rules that you then explain in a calm, affirmative manner to your kids. Expect them to repeatedly test whether you are serious about those rules, but respond by telling them firmly "you know what the rules are."
2. Temper tantrums. Whether it is a toddler temper tantrum or an adolescent fit, your child's underlying message is that you are denying him what he wants. Dealing with tantrums can often cause one parent to feel guilty or sympathetic and give in, while the other parent gets defiant and angry.
What you need to do is balance sympathy with the educational message that life is full of frustrations because no one gets what they want all the time. Convey to your child the message that it is his/her own problem to overcome, but you will be there to help if he/she wants some advice. Remember that your child is entitled to get from you everything he needs, and a little of what he wants, too.
3. Attention-demanding children. Working parents are often overwhelmed when they come home and immediately have to deal with attention-demanding children. Whichever parent gets home first is eager for the other parent to come home so the kids can be dumped on someone else. The best approach to this kind of situation is to teach your kids that you have a life of your own, and they are capable of doing things on their own.
4. Mess. When parents try to get children to pick up their stuff around the house, they usually use one of two unproductive approaches—nagging the kids, or picking up after them. Instead, when items are not picked up, try "ransoming" the items by putting the items in a box the child can't access.
The child then has to do a small chore, like taking out the garbage or clearing the dinner table, befitting of the value of the item they want back. Keep collecting and ransoming items until your child understands that they have a responsibility to the larger community in which they live.
5. Miscommunication. A lot of tangled communication happens when your child expresses and "tests" out ideas and feelings quite different from your own. When your child says something that sets off alarm bells in your head, resist the natural impulse to point out the flaws in their thinking.
Ask a couple of questions before stating your reaction, but the effectiveness of your questions will depend on how curious and respectful you really are. Your child will know by the tone of your voice and your facial expressions, and if they don't feel like they are on the witness stand, there is a much better chance that they will listen to your viewpoints.
6. Lack of gratitude. A common yet toxic belief among partners is that they shouldn't have to thank each other for doing chores since they should do them. At the dinner table, in front of the children, express appreciation for something your partner did. You'll be modeling great values for your kids and helping the marital connection—all at the same time.
7. Lack of sleep. When children wake up throughout the night, exhausted parents argue about the best way to get their child back to sleep. Focus on working together in the beginning of the night while you are alert to create consistent nightly rituals for your child that are soothing and loving and that gradually lead to your child falling asleep independently, without you in the room. This way, if he/she wakes up during the night, you know he/she already has the skills to self-soothe.
8. Feeling ignored. Couples catering to the hectic demands of raising children often wind up feeling ignored by each other. To avoid drifting apart, make a daily ritual of holding one another for one minute, no strings attached! This is not always easy when you are feeling hurt or wounded, but researchers say this act alone can release some feel-good hormones that will enhance the good feelings between the two of you.
9. Picky eating. Getting children to eat healthy meals can trigger all sorts of feelings in parents around food, leaving it as ripe territory for couples to argue about. As a rule of thumb, make mealtime a chance to chat and share pleasant experiences with your family.
As long as there is one healthy food choice on the table that you know your child will eat, there is no need to push, bribe, coerce or short-order cook. Keeping mealtime a positive experience will give you and your partner time to enjoy each other, and it will eventually set the stage for your fussy one to try new foods, without the indigestion that arguing about food can cause.
10. Consequences. Parents often argue about an appropriate consequence to give a child who has misbehaved. Creating consequences is an appropriate form of discipline, but you don't have to clobber a child with a big one in order for it to be effective.
The main idea is to make sure it's age-appropriate and to follow through with what you said. Then, when it's over, make sure you let your child try again with a clean slate. No holding grudges!
11. Co-sleeping. Some families are committed to sleeping in one bed when a baby needs to nurse frequently or a toddler has trouble going to sleep alone. But what happens when one parent objects and resorts to sleeping on the sofa in order to get a good night's rest?
If this happens, then it is time to reconsider sleeping arrangements for baby or toddler. Most babies give up the middle-of-the-night nursing at about six months and will sleep through the night if placed in a crib nearby. Toddlers and parents alike will get a more well-rested night's sleep if the night ritual is firm, kind and consistent.
12. Discipline. To end a discipline war, it is necessary to stop the power struggles and create an atmosphere of mutual respect. In order for discipline to be an effective learning experience it needs to have a natural or logical consequence.
A natural consequence is anything that happens naturally without any adult interference or stepping in to solve your child's problems. So, if you forget your coat, you get cold. If you don't do your homework, you get a bad grade.
A logical consequence is one that is designed to teach a lesson or provide a helpful learning experience. For example, if a child continues to hit another child, he is placed in time out.
13. Whining and crying. As a parent educator, this is the number-one complaint of parents. It is especially troubling when one parent gives in, and the other tries to be consistent in firm but kind discipline.
This confuses the child about whether you are serious about the rule. By being inconsistent, you are also teaching your child to become manipulative and devious to try to get their own way. Try stating every time: "I am sorry, my ears can't hear and understand whiny or screaming words. Calm down and talk to me in your respectful voice and I will listen." This assumes, of course, that you have taught and modeled what a respectful voice sounds like.