It’s the end of the day and the whole family is exhausted. You and your partner just want your kids to GO TO BED so that you can get on with your own evening and down time.
But no one is getting ready and your partner is starting to lose it. You can hear them threatening, “If you don’t get into your pajamas RIGHT NOW no iPad for a week!”
You run in and start telling your partner that they shouldn’t say that and tell them what they should do or say instead.
Your partner gets even MORE upset and yells, “Fine! You put them to bed then!” and storms off.
This scenario is REALLY tough. What do you do when your partner is not on board with peaceful parenting?
It is very challenging when your partner wants to use the conventional parenting practices that you are working so hard to move away from.
Disclaimer: I am not talking about physical or emotional abuse in this article. If you or your children are experiencing abuse, please contact a mental health professional.
It is very tempting to try and teach your partner what they should be doing instead by intervening to correct them in front of the kids.
Instead of helping, this can cause your partner to feel a lot of shame.
You are the person that they love the most in the world (other than the kids!)
When you correct them, it can unconsciously seem like they only have two options- accept the perceived shame and the belief that they are not worthy and lovable OR reject what you have suggested.
This is really important to remember: Your partner isn’t rejecting your suggestion. They are rejecting the feeling of being unworthy and unlovable.
In other words, when you correct your partner their negative reaction is coming from their perception that you think they are a bad parent.
What do you do instead? Here are the three “big ideas” to help get your partner on board with peaceful parenting:
Big Idea #1: Focus on yourself.
Work on yourself and DON’T try to change your partner!
Focus on your own self-regulation.
Focus on your relationship with your kids.
Focus on using kind, firm, limits without punishment.
I have heard from many of my clients that it usually takes about a year of their partner observing them to realize that peaceful parenting works, and to see what a great relationship you have with the kids.
Big Idea #2: Work on your relationship with your partner.
If you have a close and connected relationship with your partner, then they are going to be more open to learning from you and practicing peaceful parenting.
You can achieve this by using all of the peaceful parenting tools with your partner. The tools aren’t just for kids. They are relationship tools!
Special Time: you don’t have to do a big “Date Night” each week! Just as 15 minutes a day can transform your relationship with your kids, making 15 minutes a day to connect with your partner can improve your relationship.
Laughter: Get laughing with your partner! Watch funny things together, reminisce about when your first started dating.
Connection: Delight in your partner! Smile when they walk in the room and tell them that you’re glad to see them.
Compassion and Empathy: This can be super hard when your partner is acting badly or having a grownup tantrum. We have to remember “They’re not giving us a hard time, they’re having a hard time” just like we try to do with our kids.
It can feel unfair that our partners are having such a hard time when we need their help. Most likely your partner is acting this way because they don’t have emotional resilience and self-regulation skills. They probably weren’t raised with peaceful parenting.
Always acknowledge your partner’s feelings, even when you don’t agree.
Dig deep and try to find compassion for your partner when they’re having a hard time. Your partner is actually doing the best they can in that moment- just like our kids are when they’re acting out.
This is really an important part of working on your relationship so that your partner feels heard and understood.
When we work on our relationship, we have more influence. (Again, just like with our children!)
Big Idea #3: Intervene in a non-confrontational way when your partner is having a hard time with the kids.
The worst thing you can do is go over and tell them they are doing everything wrong.
Let’s revisit the scene from the start of this article: Your five-year-old is not getting ready for bed and refusing to put on their pajamas and your partner is losing their temper.
The first step is to use Stop, Drop, and Breathe to calm yourself. You won’t be able to help your partner or your child if you are also upset.
The second step is to find compassion for your partner. Remind yourself that they are doing the best they can.
The third step is to offer help. You might say “Oh my goodness, it looks like you and Daddy/Mommy are having a really hard time here. Daddy/Mommy wants you to put your pajamas on, and you’re not, how can I help?”
The fourth step is to model a peaceful parenting alternative. Try to make a game out of your child getting their pajamas on or starting to brush their teeth
Try to support both of them.
Don’t use that time to talk about what they did wrong. You can revisit the situation when you are feeling calm and connected.
Bonus Idea: Trigger Agreement
Once you have worked through everything else suggested in this article so far and your partnership is feeling supportive and trusting, you can try using a “Trigger Agreement.”
A Trigger Agreement is agreeing ahead of time to take over for each other when somebody else is triggered.
It takes a really trusting relationship to accept someone gently saying, “Hey, you need to step out. I’m going to take over here.” If you feel that things are going pretty well and your partner is open to it, this can be a great tool for both of you.
You really don’t want to try to get your partner on board if they’re not interested. And they will perceive any sort of teaching or telling them a different way to do it, especially in the moment, as a shame trigger. That often leads to resistance to a new way of doing things.
Instead, focus on yourself and all of the things that you’re trying to learn. Work on your relationship and use all of the peaceful parenting tools on your partner because they’re really relationship tools. Give your partner compassion and empathy, because they’re really having a hard time. If they weren’t struggling, they wouldn’t be yelling at your five-year-old and they wouldn’t be threatening consequences. Intervene calmly by offering to help and modeling the peaceful parenting tools.
Finally, be patient. You’ve got this!
Sarah Rosensweet is a certified peaceful parenting coach, speaker, and educator. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three big kids (ages 15, 18, and 21). Peaceful parenting is a non-punitive, connection-based approach that uses firm limits with lots of empathy. Sarah works one-on-one virtually with parents all over the world to help them go from frustrated and overwhelmed to, “We’ve got this!”
Read more at: www.sarahrosensweet.com