As parents, we’ve all been there: we’re faced with an ‘issue’ relating to one of our kids (or more), and because you and your spouse are two very different people, there can be very different perspectives on how these ‘issues’ with our kids should be handled. And so, when there is an ‘issue’ with your kids and you’re faced with a lack of alignment as to how things should be handled, suddenly you’re faced with 2 challenges that can present themselves within a matter of minutes or even seconds. This can be particularly challenging with new parents who are trying to ‘feel out’ what it means to be a care-giver, and in the midst of the care not annihilate your spouse. And often times new parents have elevated stress levels as it is, without compounding your parental challenges with marital ones. What’s the solution? Parental alignment.
Now, before you say “Well, duh”, take a moment and reflect on what parental alignment could/could not mean. Parental alignment means that:
- when we find our child screaming at the top of his lungs in a grocery store, we’re in alignment as to what steps we’re going to take.
- when our schedule has not allowed junior to take a nap, we have agreement as to what the necessary steps should be.
- when we receive advice from in-laws, the internet, and everyone in between, we agree with what the steps should be in light of the information we’ve received.
But is it even possible, that 2 adults can be faced with hundreds of possible scenarios and yet there is alignment with what our parental processes should be? I believe so – and I’d like to share with you some things my wife and I have learned over the years:
1 – Leadership/Mutual-Submission
For sure, the Bible says that I as the husband have the responsibility of leadership in the home. But leadership doesn’t mean dictation. It means that the final call in the home rests on my shoulders. Its an awesome and sobering responsibility. But the husband has to realize that God wants me putting the needs of my wife ahead of my own and to listen to her the way that I would want to be listened to. This also doesn’t negate the reality that Christ wants leadership/order in every area of life (government, church, society and particularly the family). So – a Biblical husband wife duo has to be committed to the man making the final calls, but the man has to be 100% committed to putting the needs of his wife/family ahead of his own. That’s 2 sides of the same ‘unity’ coin: leadership and mutual-submission. I can’t stress how important this is. This doesn’t mean the man is making all the decisions (for most of us that would equal a meltdown in our homes) – in fact I think a strong Biblical case can be made for God wanting wives to be the household managers (1 Tim. 5:14). Any serious steps towards parental alignment must begin with both the husband and wife agreeing on and exercising God’s plan for domestic order.
- Have my wife and I talked about our roles in the home? Are we in agreement? If not – is there an older godly couple we can talk to, to help us clearly define expectations?
2 – The Heart of the Matter
If parents do not agree as to the “why” of the actions they’re seeing their child demonstrate, there will never be alignment. If ‘parent A’ believes that the root cause of their child’s mall-meltdown is ancestral DNA, but ‘parent B’ believes it’s because their heart is desperately wicked, then there will never be alignment. If ‘parent A’ believes that behaviour modification is the best approach to child correction but ‘parent B’ believes behaviour stems from the heart and the heart must be dealt with first, then you will never have alignment.
Thus, your philosophy behind human behaviour greatly impacts your ability to be aligned as parents. If you haven’t done so already, buy the book ‘Shepherding a Child’s Heart’ by Tedd Tripp. Tripp does an incredible job of outlining why a child’s heart should be the focus of all parental guiding, NOT their behaviour. It’s because from the heart flows behaviour, not vice versa (Prov. 4:23). Parents must have agreement on this foundational issue- because this one issue is the foundation for all child correction.
- Have my spouse and I talked about the ‘why’ of what we’re seeing with our kids? Do we have agreement?
- In your upbringing, were your decisions handled at the ‘behavioural’ level or the ‘heart’? In what ways is that impacting your parenting today
3. Double Honour
My wife and I (personally in our marriage) and almost every parent I have spoken to about parent/child issues have had discussions about this very important family dynamic: the level of respect that the child is to have for BOTH parents. This is so critical to parental alignment. Ephesians 6:2 makes it very clear that the child is to respect both Mom AND Dad. However, this can be a real challenge for parents, particularly if parents are creating conditions in the home where it’s optional for a child to have quick response times for ‘parent A’ but not ‘parent B’. Kids pick up on this type of stuff fast – and with parents it can subtly creep in completely unnoticed.
In our home, obeying me quickly but obeying Rachel slowly was not acceptable to me, because in God’s eyes Rachel’s instructions are just as important as mine. And I needed my boys to know that. If we are allowing our kids to have two completely different responses based on which parent is giving direction, parental alignment will be a real challenge. This takes hard work, but we have seen it pay off. Let me talk to the guys for a second: you love and cherish your wife more than any woman in the world (and rightfully so) – so then why would you allow your kids to not treat her with dignity, honour and respect seen in how quickly they obey and the state of their heart when they obey? As guys, if we allow our kids to respond casually to our wife’s direction, then we are actually teaching them that Mom’s instruction is less important than yours and that she is not worthy of the same respect you are. Ouch. And that can cause issues in your marriage. The aligned parents understand that even though a child may hear their Mom’s voice more frequently (for whatever reason), that doesn’t mean they’re permitted to tune her out or treat her more casually. And Mom’s may not pick up on the fact that it’s happening, so we as Dad’s need to be watching and listening for it. And when we see it, it’s a good opportunity for us to teach our kids the importance of co-respect and co-honour for Mom and Dad.
- Have you noticed slower response times from your children for a particular parent? Take the time as soon as possible to discuss with your spouse what you’re seeing and in what circumstances
- Sometimes a lack of attention to honour and respect seen in responses isn’t because of apathy (though it could be) – sometimes it’s because of fatigue or other issues. Again, this is a great opportunity to discuss what we’re facing as adults and re-align our parental philosophy.
In what ways have you created parental alignment that I didn’t mention? In what ways have the things I mentioned been a challenge for you, and how did you overcome? I invite you to leave your comments below so we can all learn together!