Common Ground Parenting

May 21, 2021

I’m often asked how to get partner’s on the same page, and I feel it really important to openly, kindly and courageously talked about it. Firstly it's important to have this disclaimer, I am not a relationship counsellor or coach. That's important to know. I come from a wellbeing perspective where connection, values, mindset and mindfulness is the pathway to my work. So here goes...

It can be a bone of contention and drive couples further apart. I wanted to give you some tools to drive you closer together, to stay connected and find some common ground for each other and your family.

Given my experience and frustration with wanting that for myself and our family, I have come to discover a few thingsIn my observations, same page parenting is what every couple dream of and I'm not even sure if it even exists. 

The thing is; each of us are different, and individually come with our culture, parenting beliefs, upbringing, personal values, family values passed down and self-beliefs.  Most of us did not have the ‘How will we discipline, guide and parent our child’ when our baby was held in our arms.  To support you in parenting together mission, I highly recommend the book “Becoming Us” by Elly Taylor.

Coming together on the ‘same page’!

I want to start encouraging the renaming of it to Common Ground Parenting. It takes the pressure off straight away and the expectation that as a co-parenting partner you don't have to go against yourself to fit into someone's ideas and ideals. You can find some common ground in your parenting to help you bring out the best in each other. 

In the early years of our son’s life I longed, if not begged for my husband to parent just like me.  You see, I way back then (almost 20 years ago), thought I was the superior parent by far. I truly felt like I had all the commitment, skills and heart!  I felt my husband lacked awareness in certain areas of guiding children’s behaviour and this angered and frustrated me and of course it went both ways! My lack of awareness in certain areas that were important to my husband frustrated him to no end.  I certainly did take the high ground back then when in the parenting role, after all I was the positive parent, childhood educator and wellbeing coach.  I have since realised after much disconnection that our individual unique parenting styles have contributed to the fabric of our son’s character and emotional and mental resilience. 

What we did, was we chose to come together with common things that are ‘not negotiable’ for either of us. 

Tips to help with Common Ground Parenting.

Talk together: Have a conversation on how you want to speak to and with your baby or child. This is really important. Communicating with each other is what fosters positive relationships. Speaking is a large portion of how we discipline and guide children. You can talk about things like; tone, body language, the words you use to encourage and nurture the life-skills and inner qualities you want for your child.

Share with each other 3 Values:  Talk about the things that matter to you. Talk in an open hearted way. Your values help inspire you both. Share 3 that are important to you as a person and 3 Values that you highly value as a family.  The Harmony Cards for Kids and The Little Book of Harmony were written for this very reason – to have values in the home; there are 30 virtues within each resource to support children, parents and teachers in discovering and exploring virtues and values.

Make a Not Negotiables List. For me it was:  No punishing, yelling, shaming, blaming, sarcasm, etc.; Choosing a Choice Guidance Approach to discipline.

For my husband:  It was food, nourishment and health related.  Being mindful of sugar, getting exercise, sleeping well.

It became easier for us to respect each other’s Non Negotiables once we had shared and discussed them together and we could back each other up on them when the time came to hold firm our common ground; our boundaries.

Work on things together:  Share what is working for you already! Appreciation and celebrate those things.  Then share what you would like to work on together. If your partner is not so keen straight up, relax into it, and share more clarity as you experience the strategy yourself.  Sometimes we need to see and feel what it looks like in action before we come on board.  It may not be as important to your partner as it is to you and if that is the case, talk about it.

Be the change:  Don’t wait until you have approval.  If it fits within your values, and no one is going to be hurt, go for it.  Try the parenting strategy yourself and be the model of how it works and the outcome it brings.   Then, for yourself you can choose whether you want to involve your partner or not.

Stresses and Blesses:  Ask the question what stresses you and what blesses you in parenting?  Doing this list together, helps you both to see more clearly the things that may trigger you individually and as a couple.  It brings awareness towards each other’s needs and desires that you may never have noticed before.  Work towards a compromise with the stresses and do more of what blesses!

If you are a single parent, this is a beautiful exercise to do for yourself!  It is powerful to bring more clarity in what needs to go and what needs to stay as it helps you put in your personal boundaries to honour your health, happiness and wellbeing.

Common Ground Parenting has many benefits as well as a newfound energy that comes from taking a more positive approach to communicating your needs and values with each other.   

Your renewed enthusiasm and desire for a more connected, harmonious family life will reap benefits far beyond being better able to deal with the small petty bickering that builds up to resentment and anger.  

 

You might find it helpful to:

  • Choose one or two strategies to practice for a few weeks.

 

  • Reflect on your current challenge and choose a couple of the strategies you think are suited. Then commit to being consistent with their use for a period of time together. It might be 10-14 days. Come together at the end of that time and check in with how each of you went. What you noticed, what changed, what didn’t.

 

  • Buddy up: Share the experience with a friend. Discuss what strategies, tools and behaviour guidance is working for their family; the challenges, the transformations and ideas you want to work on or need extra feedback with to support each other.

 

  • If you practice Choice Guidance, go print out the wheel and put it on the fridge. You can pass the Choice and Connection Wheel over to your teenagers, they are old enough to practice the strategies for themselves.

 

Things to be mindful of:

Things take time and may not work first go. Don’t give up when you can see that the strategy aligns with your parenting values (especially the Phraseology and Values Talk).  At first you may feel and sound like it is all a little unnatural, though over time and with practice, you will find your groove with it and the way you choose to speak or the phrases you choose, will flow with a great sense of timing.  Verbal skills are a practiced skill.

Give yourself permission to go easy on yourself. Common Ground Parenting requires coming to a common ground first. Be open hearted, gentle and connected when you first start.

Don’t expect your partner to jump on board a strategy or parenting idea you have straight away. Talk about it, share what you are up to and encourage them to join you.  If they aren’t interested, lead the way yourself ‘be the change YOU want to see in YOUR world’ and be mindful that any change can bring resistance.  While ‘common ground parenting’ is what every couple dreams of, it is not always a natural process to get to that space.  Love each other through it.

Kerry Spina

Author | Wellbeing Educator | Behaviour Support Coach

 

Helping you to raise the next generation to be the resilient, kind and connected generation. 

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