What This Is Like from Your Perspective

You spend so much time and energy being a parent. You put everything into it. So when your spouse criticizes or tries to change how you parent

…When they tell you you’re being “too strict” or “too permissive” or doing something else wrong

…When they won’t enforce the rules or boundaries you’ve set

…When they refuse to listen to the suggestions you make (that you’re pretty confident will work)

You feel exasperated and lose your cool, especially when it seems that they won’t budge even an inch.


What This Is Like from Your Spouse’s Perspective


Just like you, your spouse may have pretty strong views about the way the world works. And when it comes to topics that make us emotional (like parenting!), we all tend to look for evidence that proves that our perspective is “right.”

Often a spouse will not change their behavior because:

they have different experiences, and they’ve seen strategies “work” that might be different than the ones you’re using or suggesting

…they are afraid that doing something different than what they know may have negative consequences

…they’re tired and know that making changes will take energy they just don’t have

So they dig in their heels and potentially even criticize or undermine what you’re doing. Although it’s difficult for you, it often makes them feel more comfortable. 



How It Usually Goes (In Your Head)

When Your Spouse Doesn’t Support You in Parenting

(That Prevents You From Staying Calm)


Scenario: Lindsay knows that her son Ryan needs to go to bed by 8:00 or he’s miserable the next day. One night she leaves Ryan with her husband Nick, and when she comes home after 8:30, she sees that Nick doesn’t have Ryan in bed yet. 

Lindsay (thinks): Seriously? It’s after 8:30, and Ryan is still AWAKE? I TOLD Nick to put him down by 8.
Lindsay (says, as soon as she walks in the door): Nick!! It’s after 8:30! Why isn’t Ryan in BED??

Nick (defensive): We’re getting there…

Lindsay (thinks): Getting there? No. He needed to be in.bed.by.8!! At the rate they’re going, he won’t be asleep until almost 9:00!
Lindsay: What do you mean, you’re “getting there”? His teeth aren’t even brushed yet!

Nick (annoyed at being criticized): My goodness, Lindsay, lighten UP! Not everything has to run on such a specific time table. Ryan and I were having fun.

Lindsay (thinks): Oh great, you get to have fun with him tonight. I get to deal with him tomorrow when he’s a monster!
Lindsay (says): I’m glad YOU’RE having fun. And what about tomorrow? When you’re not around? Then I have to deal with him then.

Nick (thinks): Deal with him? He’s not THAT hard to deal with. He listens to me when I ask him to do things.

Lindsay (thinks): Yeah, he listens to me too when he’s not exhausted!
Lindsay (angry): It’s not the listening… it’s the meltdowns that happen when he’s tired from STAYING UP LATE.

Nick: So don’t let them bother you. I don’t want him to grow up so uptight because we can’t ever be flexible and be fun.

Lindsay (thinks): I’d BE more flexible if I could do that and still get everything done around the house…Ugh, I’m never going to get through to Nick!

Lindsay picks up Ryan and gets him ready for bed, resentful that she has to do everything herself.


How It Could Go (In Your Head)

When Your Spouse Doesn’t Support You in Parenting

(That Helps You Stay Calm)


Scenario: Lindsay knows that her son Ryan needs to go to bed by 8:00 or he’s miserable the next day. One night she leaves Ryan with her husband Nick, and when she comes home after 8:30, she sees that Nick doesn’t have Ryan in bed yet. 


Lindsay (thinks): Oh boy. Ryan is still up. Nick hasn’t put him to bed. Ugh…. This is REALLY frustrating. And I know if I go in there right now, I’m going to freak out on Nick… which will upset Ryan and bedtime will be even later. I need to take a minute.
Lindsay (after calming herself down, she focuses on speaking slowly and calmly): Nick? Ryan’s still up?

Nick (slightly defensive): Yeah…

Lindsay (thinks): OK, he realizes I’m a little upset. There’s no need for me to rub in his face how wrong I think he is.
Lindsay (trying to sound curious): How come?

Nick: Oh, we were playing…

Lindsay (thinks): OK… but Nick’s playing means I’ll have a worse day tomorrow…. But… I have to stop seeing Nick as the enemy or this will NOT go well. 
Lindsay: I’m glad you’re playing. That’s great. What did you play?

Nick: We read books and made a fort. Want to see it?

Lindsay (thinks): NO, I don’t want to see it! I want Ryan to go to bed…
Lindsay: No thanks. Not now. Would you mind taking Ryan to bed? It’s important to me that he go to sleep now. And then maybe we can talk more after?

Nick (appreciating that Lindsay is trying to stay calm): Sure.

He returns a few minutes later, without Ryan.

Lindsay (thinks): OK, if I want this conversation to work, I need to be on the same team with Nick. We can have different opinions and still be on the same team. I need to start by connecting. 
Lindsay: I think it’s great that you and Ryan were hanging out like that. I know he loves playing with you.

Nick: Yeah, we had a good time.

Lindsay (thinks): OK… I’m going to tell him how I feel  — WITHOUT attacking him. 
Lindsay: Is it OK if I tell you why I was a upset when I came home and he wasn’t asleep?

Nick: Sure.

Lindsay (thinks): OK, he’s not defensive. I can do this… I just CAN’T attack him.
Lindsay: When Ryan doesn’t get enough sleep, the next day with him is tough for me.

Nick: Yeah. I guess I wasn’t thinking about that. I got wrapped up in what we were doing.

Lindsay (thinks): I can’t expect him to think of me all the time. I need to ask Nick for what I need, and I can do it respectfully.
Lindsay: I get that. You two don’t get a ton of time to play. Let me ask you this.. If you had another time you knew you could play together, would you feel better about putting him to bed earlier?

Nick: That could work. But I have an idea too…

Lindsay and Nick are able to find solutions that work for both of them because they each take time to respect the other’s perspective without attacking (or needing to be defensive).



What YOU NEED (Proactively)

For This To Work Better In the Moment




Proactive actions will make so much difference in whether you are able to stay calm in the moment.

You will only be able to stay calm if:

a.) your own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are met (otherwise you won’t have a reserve to draw from and you’ll immediately go into Yuck) and

b.) you and your spouse make enough deposits into your relationship that you WANT to be on the same team

When you make sure your own needs are met and you make the time to WANT to work with your spouse, you are more likely to be able to stay calm even when you disagree.