What This Is Like from The “Criticizer’s” Perspective

Often a parent who is with kids all day long is exhausted, overwhelmed, and has created certain parenting routines to make the day go easier.

So that parent may…

…have a specific bedtime routine

…expect the kids’ homework to be done a certain way

…have the kids to their chores at a certain time of the day

These routines allow them to make it through the long, difficult day when they are often trying to get so many things done.

What This Is Like for the Other Spouse

Often a parent who is not with the kids as much will offer to help, but will be criticized for doing things the “wrong way”

…They’re told that they are not following the correct routine

…They receive eye rolls when they try to do thinks a different way

…The other spouse may even “take over” because it’s just easier that way

So they stop trying to help out because they’re tired of being judged and criticized, especially when their own lives outside of the home are stressful as well.


How It Usually Goes When One Spouse

Criticizes the Other for Parenting the Wrong Way

Scenario: Jennifer has asked her husband Todd to get the kids to clean up the family room so she can get other things done around the house. When Jennifer comes in, the family room has barely been touched. 

Jennifer: Todd! What are you doing? I asked you to get them to clean!

Todd: We are cleaning! We’re just making a game out of it.

Jennifer: A game? We don’t have time for that! They have soccer practice soon.

Todd: I know! I’ve thought about that. But we can fit everything in.

Jennifer: But if you make this into a game now, they’ll always expect it to be a game. I don’t have time to do that with them!

Todd: Jenn, you need to have a little more fun…

Jennifer: Fun? I’d love to have fun! But how will things get done around the house?

Todd: Trust me, I know. I have to get a lot done at work every day too.

Jennifer: At least you get out of the house!

Todd: I’d rather stay home.

Jennifer: You wouldn’t if you had to clean up after everyone all the time…

Todd and Jennifer continue to bicker, each pointing out how much they do. 

How It Could Go When One Spouse

Criticizes the Other for Parenting the Wrong Way

Jennifer: Todd! What are you doing? I asked you to get them to clean!

Todd: We are cleaning…We’re just making a game out of it.

Jennifer (feels exasperated. She takes a breath and reminds herself that Todd must have a reason for making it into a game): A game?

Todd (feeling criticized, he pauses. He knows that if Jennifer is getting upset, there must be a reason): Yeah. Does that bother you?


Both Jennifer and Todd are frustrated with each other. They remind themselves that if they see the other person as an “enemy,” they will become defensive and the situation will spiral out of control quickly.

So each remembers that although they might not agree with what they other person is saying, they do have a valid perspective that matters to THEM.

Jennifer (wanting to remind him that she doesn’t have time to play “games” every time the kids have to clean): Yes, I just don’t want to set this habit. When you’re not around I can’t play games with them.

Todd (wanting to be able to play games with the kids, but also wanting to respect Jennifer): I know. When I’m not around, it’s exhausting. You’re trying to run the entire house and wouldn’t be able to stop to do this.

Jennifer (appreciating the recognition, which makes her want to see Todd’s perspective): Right. I feel overwhelmed when you’re gone. But I realize you don’t get as much time with them as I do, and you like to have fun with them.


Although they each want the other to understand their perspective, both Todd and Jennifer make an effort to recognize the other person’s perspective.

Instead of putting energy into defending themselves, they put that energy into seeing the other’s point of view. That way, they act as a “linked” team that can work through the problem.

Todd: Yeah.

Jennifer: I wish I had more time for fun with them! It’s hard having to do everything around here.

Todd (feeling criticized again but recognizing how tired Jennifer is): What about this? I can use a game to make cleanup happen more quickly… and then the kids and I will go out to the park to give you some time to relax?

Jennifer: I can’t relax… There’s too much to do.

Todd (nods): I know. You do a lot. And I think we need to get the kids doing more when I’m not here. Let’s all talk about that at dinner time, OK?

Jennifer: Yeah. Thanks. Go ahead and do the game. Maybe I can learn something from you, because you do get the kids to clean up more quickly than I do.


Because they are not in Yuck — and instinctively trying to protect themselves — they are able to come up with a solution that works for both of them.


Todd and Jennifer used the Calm, Connect, Correct strategy in the moment. However, proactive deposits will make all of the difference in how this situation will play out. 

If you want to be able to find solutions when you and your spouse disagree, remember: 


You will only be able to stay calm when talking to your spouse 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)

b.) you recognize and respect that your spouse has a different perspective than you do, and theirs is valid to them

When you make sure your own needs are met and you set realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, you are more likely to be able to stay calm.


You will be able to connect if

a.) you assume that your spouse is usually doing what they think is best for your children and

b.) you understand that your spouse is more likely to see your perspective if you see theirs


You will be able to resolve the disagreement with less arguing if you make deposits into your relationship so that you each WANT to be considerate of the other’s perspective in the moment