Some Parenting Perspective- Getting on the Same Page

Written by: Karen Jacobson

When my children were younger and I was a stay at home mom, my husband worked long hours.  Every morning, he would kiss the boys goodbye and lovingly say, “Be good for Mommy.”  Then he was off, returning after bedtime.  For him, his exit was helpful and thoughtful.  For me, his words were like nails on a chalkboard. A million thoughts would run through my mind: “What did ’be good for Mommy’ mean?” “Wasn’t it unrealistic to think that little boys could be ’good’ all day?” “Was he telling them that I couldn’t handle it if they misbehaved?” “Am I just over reacting?”

As I began to define my parenting style and examine how our words and actions impacted our boys, I decided that “Be good for Mommy” was not a message I wanted to send.  I wanted them to know that we loved them unconditionally, even when they misbehaved.  I did not want to place emphasis on looking or acting “good” but wanted them to act in ways that made them feel good inside.  I wanted them to know that  they were free to make mistakes. 

I decided to talk with my husband about using a different phrase to say when he left each morning.  My first attempt at this conversation was a disaster.  Despite my best efforts, he felt attacked and misunderstood.  I was accused of reading too much into his words.

I am happy to report my second attempt at this conversation was a success!  The following tips can help:

  1. Make time for a conversation.  Sit down and minimize distractions.  Get yourself in a calm and loving state before starting the conversation.  Set an intention for understanding and solving the problem together rather than winning or proving your point.
  2. Talk about your shared parenting goals and values. Typically, parents agree on what they want for their child, but disagree on how to achieve it. Parents need to feel connected and know that they are on the same page before attempting to problem solve.  Acknowledge all of the positive parenting your partner does.
  3. Identify your concern.  Do not accuse.  Let your him know that you are the one with a problem or concern.
  4. Listen and be open.  Put aside your own feelings while your partner is talking.  Remain open & neutral and avoid predisposed conclusions.  Appreciate your partner for who he is while he is speaking. Your appreciation offers a safe zone for your partner to express uncomfortable feelings.  Listen to his words, feelings, and intentions without interruption.  There is usually a good reason for parenting choices.
  5. Empathize. Once you understand the essence of what your partner is feeling, put yourself in his shoes and see life from his perspective.  You don’t have to agree or feel the same way, but you can understand and mirror back the actual meaning of what he’s saying.
  6. Be willing to apologizeif you realize that you’ve hurt your partner.
  7. Together brainstorm ideasabout how to solve the problem. Talk about possible solutions and agree on a plan you are both comfortable with. Another option is to agree on a plan try for a limited time.
  8. Express gratitude– Parenting with a partner and resolving differences can be challenging. Take the time to get on the same page to deepen your connection and create a sense of security and togetherness for all family members.

Karen Jacobson, MA, LCPC, LMFT, is  a family therapist and co-founder of PARENTING PERSPECTIVES  which provides parent workshops, parent coaching, an amazing parent course, “Becoming A Conscious Parent: Tools for Parenting from the Heart,” and other services designed to support parents and create healthy families. She is a mom to two boys and has been a member of NPN since 2003.  Her practice is in Lincoln Park.  Learn more at  or 312-330-3194.

Posted on September 16, 2011 at 7:00 AM