Since having children together, my husband and I have grown in many ways and discovered delightful new things about each other. Having children has brought us closer together. However, becoming parents has also brought about some tense moments of conflict.
An emotional moment when our second child was a newborn comes to mind.
As I sat feeding the baby, my husband attempted to feed our 20-month-old daughter dinner. It was a tasty lasagne delivered by friends from church. The roblem was our daughter didn’t like lasagne. I thought my husband should just give her something she would eat. He thought it was a good time to start enforcing a “take it or leave it” rule for dinner.
My daughter – tired and hungry – was crying. I – a mess of postpartum hormones – was also crying. And the lasagne – cold and ignored – probably would have been crying too, were it a sentient being.
Still, it feels overly simplistic to say that wives should submit to their husbands in areas of parenting discord, and leave it there. Wifely submission is a good part of God’s design for marriage, but it is meant to be a pathway to unity, not a substitute.
Let’s look at some strategies for handling these disagreements. My husband and I still need to grow in this area, but these are some steps we go through when conflict comes up:
- Examine your heart. Think about why you disagree with your spouse on this issue. Is it a matter of pride? Are you reacting out of fear? If I’m honest, most of our parenting conflicts arise because I assume that, as the full-time parent, I know what is best for our children. If I can admit this is the root cause, we’re halfway to a unified position!
- Remember that you and your spouse both want the same thing, even if you have different ideas about what that looks like. You both want to be loving parents and do the best thing for your kids. It is too easy to assume that your spouse is being selfish or deliberately difficult when you have a different perspective. But if you assume good intentions on their part, it takes the heat out of the disagreement, and gets you working together for a solution.
- Embrace your differences. Often conflict can arise out of differences in personality, rather than one person being right and the other wrong. God’s design for families is two parents who complement each other. God didn’t put you with your spouse by accident – he chose you to be together and balance each other out. When we view parenting from God’s perspective, we embrace our differences in parenting for the benefit of our children.
- If you feel like you and your spouse are butting heads over parenting issues regularly, it might be worth finding some time to sit down together and working out your long term vision and goals for your children.
- Pray about it – both together and separately. DON’T SKIP OVER THIS POINT! Praying can feel like the obvious answer, but here’s what it comes down to: your marriage includes God. As the author of marriage, his desire is for you and your spouse to be united. When you pour your heart out to him, asking him to unify you, he will listen! The scary thing about praying is that it just might be you he changes, and not your spouse.
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