Let’s celebrate Father’s Day by looking at a common complaint:
Derailed bedtime peace when daddy comes home late and wants to play.
The Question: How do we get our husbands on board to support our efforts?
The Frustration: When describing the situation, mothers use words like: burden, job, work, and nag.
At some point in every parenting program I conduct, a father’s role in parenting comes up. Here’s how it usually goes:
Lorraine: What would need to be missing from your husband’s mind for him to engage as you would like?
Group: Distractions, a need to please the child, a need to be liked by the child, and his selfishness.
Lorraine: What about things like: an absence of judgment (yours of him), survival fears (pressure to provide), and unmet needs (love and appreciation)?
Everything changes from here.
A new territory of thinking
The line between peace and chaos is thin; one false move and you’re back to square one. At the end of a long day, anyone who threatens your opportunity to sit down and relax is seen as the enemy. Defensiveness just adds to the chaos. You’ll tip the balance back to peace by simply changing the question.
Chaos question: How do I get him to stop disrupting things?
Peace question: What’s preventing him from supporting me?
The Games in Play
You and your husband must agree about long game objectives—you know the ultimate outcome when you’ve delivered on all your parenting promises. Then you need agreement about how all the short games support the ultimate outcome—you know how rowdy wrestling at 8:30 PM figures into the parenting promises. BTW: I think it does much of the time.
Play to your strengths
With general understanding of the games in play, figure out what you are good at and what your husband is good at and allow each other the freedom to play to your strengths. The benefit to you is relief!
- Relief from having all family matters you’re sole domain.
- Confidence in your husband.
- Partnership with someone who is experienced in your child so that you have his informed help when you’re not sure about something.
Simple ain’t always easy
The process of changing the habits you and your husband have developed over the years will take time. Just holding your ultimate outcome in mind takes more effort than you might think. You’ll also need to be conscious of the trust-building process. Remember, one of the things that needed to be missing was your harsh judgment so try adopting an unconditionally constructive approach when talking about his role in the bedtime ritual. Try asking a positive question like, “How does this support the long game we want?” That way you’re helping to keep everyone’s eyes on the prize without pointing fingers. Psst: If you have trouble asking your husband a question like this, try asking yourself how NOT asking it supports the long game. (wink)
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