If you’ve been feeling like there’s a growing tension and deepening chasm between you and your partner about how to discipline your teen, you’re not alone. Many couples experience this and it can be incredibly stressful even if you had multiple conversations about how you were going to raise your children.
Don’t worry, I’ve got some insights and solutions for you.
The discipline disconnect
When your teenager starts acting out or withdrawing, you step in as their parent to get ahead of these changes and be their trusted advisor and voice of reason. So, what happens when what your partner had in mind was very different or totally the opposite of what you felt was needed?
4 Signs Your Teenager is Dividing You:
- Constant Arguments: You and your spouse can’t agree on how to handle your teen’s behavior and what’s needed to create change.
- Blame Game: One of you blames the other for stress in your home because they aren’t doing handling things ‘the right way’ with your teen.
- Avoidance: Conversations about your disciplining your teenager become so heated that you start avoiding them altogether.
- Compensation: Neither of you are parenting in a way that feels good because you’re constantly trying to counterbalance what the other is doing.
Why does this feel so hard?
You and your partner were likely raised in very different environments with varying levels of emotional connection and behavioral correction which are at odds now that you’re the parents. When one or both of you are stressed or triggered about your teen, it’s easy to for tension to build and familiar parenting strategies to take over with the assumption that your way is right. This happens unconsciously and quickly without conversations to understand where you’re both coming from and decide on the best course of action for this situation.
Although your parenting styles didn’t seem that different when your teen was younger, that gap may feel more like the Grand Canyon now. There isn’t time to discuss everything in advance as the speed your teen throws up new challenges so navigating your differences before your teen exploits them is key.
Key discussion points
- Burnout: Parenting a teen can feel like a 24/7 game of Whack-a-Mole and the mental and emotional exhaustion is wearing. Even if you come at the challenge with different perspectives, it’s important to find ways of sharing the load.
- Expectations: Articulating the parenting norms you bring from your past is critical to creating agreements over being right. What assumptions and expectations do you have of yourself, your partner, and your teen that are impacting the way you approach discipline? Are those underlying beliefs serving you now and are they aligned with your values rather than what worked for someone else in a very different time?
- Good Cop/Bad Cop: When you don’t address the conversation in #2 regularly (it’s not a one and done thing) you fall into naturally opposing roles, creating confusion where little changes, and your teen exploits your differences to get what they want. This creates a power imbalance where your teen in charge because you and your partner are focused on fighting each other, rather than working together.
- Embrace differences: Aiming for perfect alignment on parenting strategies is a pipe dream so let it go. When your teen grows up seeing you and your partner parent in your own unique style under basic agreements, they get to know who you really are, not who you’re pretending to be. This models vulnerability and authenticity for your teen and deepens connection and trust.
- Take a pause: It’s ok not to know how to respond to everything your teen does, like creating consequences when boundaries are consistently broken. Take a breath, check in with your partner when possible and then come back with what feels good for both of you. This models emotional regulation and responding over reacting.
Remember this one thing…
A united front doesn’t mean you completely agree. It means you’re willing to back each other in front of your teen to create clarity and less gaps to manipulate, even though you privately discuss how to handle that situation differently next time. This strengthens your relationship with greater emotional safety and meaningful conversations, provides a stable environment for your teen (even when they don’t agree), and models a healthy relationship dynamic of mutual respect. It’s a win-win-win situation!
Parenting a teenager is hard, but it doesn’t need to come at the cost of your marriage. By recognizing the signs and taking proactive steps, you can prevent your teenager from dividing your partnership and creating more stress and resentment.
Ready for More?
Dealing with parenting differences is normal, and one of the top ways I support parents to connect with their teens to create lasting change. If you found this article helpful and want to dive deeper into creating a more balanced parenting dynamic,…
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