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Becoming a United Front:
A ‘Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting’ strategy to get 2021 off to a positive start
Photo by Crew on Unsplash

Family life can be very stressful if you don’t have a United Front. Unresolved problems allow resentments to build up and fester. Even with the best will in the world, each parent is likely to start blaming the other. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When you agree on how your children and teens need to behave, and when you also agree on how to teach and train your children to behave that way, then you are effectively presenting a United Front to your children.

Is this your situation?

  • You are highly organised and detail-oriented and your partner is more laid-back.
  • Your focus is generally on the big picture, you don’t always notice or remember which rules have been bent or broken, while your partner pays a lot more attention to these details.
  • You feel as though you know what the solution is, but you worry about the reaction from your partner, your children, or the other adults around you when you broach the ideas you have.
  • Maybe you’re worried that your partner will blame you for causing the problem in the first place.
  • Maybe you’re blaming yourself.

In the following article Noël will explain:

  • What she means by the term ‘becoming a United Front’
  • The importance of parents becoming a United Front.
  • Some of the challenges when trying to get united with your partner
  • Her four practical and effective strategies for becoming a United Front

Consider this:

When you and your partner become a United Front you can minimise many of your parenting problems and resentments and instead develop a consistent approach to finding solutions that work for your family.

Read on to find out from Noël about how you can become a United Front to create a calmer, easier, happier home life.

All parents have goals for their children. Their goals naturally include the habits and skills and values that they want for their children and from their children.

As a learning and behaviour specialist I often talk about the link between habits, skills and values: when parents focus on creating sensible habits, this leads to improved skills, and then, with time and maturity, to strong values.

In my work with families, I regularly ask parents what habits they want their children to develop. Over the years, the same five habits keep coming up in parents’ responses: they want their children and teens to be more cooperative, confident, motivated, self-reliant and considerate. I call these habits the Big Five.

Of course, there are other habits that parents want for their children, such as honesty, creativity, courage, etc. I have found, time and again, that focusing first on the Big Five will make all other good habits much easier to achieve.

Almost everyone would agree that children need to learn these important Big Five habits. But ‘opposites attract’, so it’s very likely that you and your partner, if you have one, will at times have quite different opinions about how to guide your children and teens to develop these habits.

In even the most loving, most harmonious household, there will always be some parenting issues on which the couple disagree. These might be only minor disagreements, little niggles that parents have decided they can live with.

But differences in parenting styles can lead to unresolved problems; over time initial frustration can turn into full-blown resentment. It’s rather like having a tiny pebble in your shoe. At first you hardly notice the pebble; after a while it feels uncomfortable but not bad enough for you to take the time to do anything about it. But eventually that tiny pebble is so uncomfortable that it’s all you can think about.

Parents may assume that as long as they’re not arguing or contradicting each other in front of the children, the home environment is still OK for their children. Unfortunately, that’s often not the case. When there are unresolved issues between parents, the atmosphere can become strained; there is less and less smiling and affection and humour between the parents, more snapping at each other (and at the children), more uncomfortable silences, possibly more sarcasm.

Children living in this strained atmosphere absorb the tension, without understanding what is causing it. Sadly, children often assume that they are to blame. They don’t have the vocabulary to explain how they feel so they often become more irritable; behaviour often deteriorates; siblings become more aggressive (either verbally or physically) with one another. Children turn to screens more and more, and teens hole up in their bedrooms to escape the tension.

Thankfully, it is possible for parents with very different points of view or personalities or temperaments to become united in their approach to parenting.

Is this the way things are in your family?

One parent may be highly organised and detail-oriented, while the other parent is more laid-back, more inclined to be spontaneous and flexible. One parent is a lot more bothered by misbehaviour, while the other parent’s focus is generally on the big picture, often not noticing or remembering which rules have been bent or broken. These differences can lead to heated arguments between parents, or to stony silence.

Does this sound familiar?

You may feel that you know what a good solution to a family problem might be, but you’re worried about what the reaction from your partner, or from your children, might be if you were to suggest your solution. Maybe you’re worried that your partner would blame you for causing the problem in the first place. Maybe you’re blaming yourself.

We often avoid facing what’s not working well in our family because it all feels hopelessly complicated: everything impacts everything else, so we don’t know where to begin. Stressed parents may be tempted to conclude that their problems are impossible to solve because the parents’ personalities and opinions are so different. They may start thinking that perhaps separating is the only way forward.

But over the years I have found that the four strategies outlined below have brought many couples back from the brink of separation.

So if you would like to have less stress in your couple relationship and you’re wondering where to start, I recommend that you begin by committing to becoming a United Front. When you and your partner put your focus on becoming more united, it’s possible to clear up even long-standing issues and resentments. Read on to find out how.

What I mean by a United Front

As a parent, you have a right and also a responsibility to pass your values on to your children. And the way you want your children to behave reflects your values.

When you and your partner agree about how your children and teens should behave, and when you agree on how to teach and train your children to behave that way, this is what I call a United Front.

I make a distinction between ‘teaching’ and ‘training’. Teaching is everything we do that results in a child knowing how to do something, e.g. the skill of making their bed or the skill of sharing their toys or the skill of saying how they feel instead of swearing when things don’t go their way. Training is everything we do that results in a child being in the habit of doing those things, without needing reminders most of the time.

Ideally all the adults who care for your child would also teach and train in the same way, whether that’s grandparents, aunts and uncles, child-minders, teachers. This ideal is unlikely to be achieved, but agreement between parents is definitely achievable.

Family life runs more smoothly when both parents have:

  • the same expectations about their children’s behaviour (their habits)
  • the same ways of reinforcing these behaviours
  • the same ways of dealing with misbehaviour

That’s why one of the first things I coach parents on is how to be a United Front.

Why becoming a United Front is so important

Children thrive on consistency. Consistent rules and routines and follow-through enable your child to feel comfortable because his environment is predictable and therefore emotionally safe.

When rules and routines and follow-through are consistent, children and teens know what will happen as a result of their actions. So they spend less and less time negotiating, arguing, whingeing, pleading, and bending the rules to see what will happen this time. A child who is surrounded by high levels of consistency at home will absorb your values more easily and more quickly; she will want to behave more sensibly.

There are two kinds of consistency in parenting. One is consistency between the parents; that’s what I call a United Front. The other kind is consistency over time within each parent, for example following through today the same way you did yesterday, even though today you may not be having such a great day.

Consistency over time is mostly a product of a parent’s state of wellbeing. And because becoming a United Front enhances the wellbeing of both parents, consistency over time is an indirect, but very important, result of being a United Front.

Unfortunately, when children get inconsistent responses too often, it brings out the worst in them. They are likely to cooperate less and misbehave more, or they may nag and whinge to get what they want. Children assume, based on their past experience, that a parent will eventually give in. For example, your child may ask one parent for something, get a ‘No’ and then ask the other parent. This annoying scenario may be all too familiar to you.

Consistency is something that all children need, but it is especially important for any of your children who are more than usually sensitive, intense, impulsive, inflexible or immature. Their natural rhythms are often quite inconsistent and unpredictable; they need your help to get on an even keel and to stay there. The child who is constantly pestering you for an exception is the very child who cannot handle exceptions well. He stores the inconsistencies in his long-term memory and uses them at a later date as ammunition to try and get you to change your mind. This is the child who parents call a ‘budding lawyer’ or the child who feels compelled to have the last word or the child who is hooked on trying to get away with minor rule-breaking.

When you and your partner become a United Front, you will be providing the consistency that guides your children to do their best and to feel their best. And life will become calmer, easier, and happier for the whole family.

A United Front means that you both contribute equally to deciding on the rules, routines, and follow-through. Then together you explain your expectations to your children. You both follow through consistently on these rules, routines, rewards and consequences.

Single parents do not, of course, have this problem of needing to maintain a United Front. But single parents still need to focus on consistency over time.

Parents who are separated or divorced often ask me how important it is to have a United Front with the other parent. Of course, from the point of view of consistency, it would be preferable if parents living in different houses had the same rules and expectations, the same rewards and consequences, the same values. But that is often too much to expect.

Thankfully, consistency between separated parents is not necessary. That’s because children learn very early to compartmentalise what is expected of them. They soon realise that different behaviours are acceptable in different places. School, grandparents’ house, place of worship, friends’ homes, after-school classes, etc. – all these different places have different rules. Children can take this in their stride. What is confusing for children is different expectations in the same location. That’s why it’s so important for parents to become a United Front.

The challenges of becoming a United Front

We’ve all heard the old saying, ‘Opposites attract’. In my experience, this doesn’t quite say it all! Over my many years of working with families, I’ve amended this statement to, ‘Opposites attract – at first. Then you have children, and opposites start to annoy each other’.

Quite often mothers tell me that even when they do make a point of sitting down with their partner and agreeing together on a rule, the husband soon forgets and therefore doesn’t follow through. One reason this happens is that often what seemed to be an agreement was not actually a true agreement between the parents.

What I am about to describe may seem like a hopelessly old-fashioned scenario, but it still happens in many households, and more often than we may realise: Imagine that the father is trying to relax after work, maybe half-watching the news. The mother sits down on the sofa next to him and starts complaining about a problem that she’s been dealing with on and off all day. The father is only half-listening because he hasn’t really disengaged from whatever he’s doing or thinking about. The mother says what she thinks should be the solution, and the father says some version of, ‘Yes dear, OK, that sounds like a good idea’. The mother assumes that this is a mutually agreed upon solution, but you can see that it isn’t really.

Coming up with solutions together requires the full attention of both you and your partner, with no distractions. Interestingly, what is not needed is complete agreement on what the problem is or why the problem developed. What is needed is total commitment to finding a solution that both of you can live with happily, and this is likely to involve compromise.

To become a United Front, compromise is usually necessary. Compromise never means that you have to give up what you want and do it the way your partner wants. That type of ‘solution’ always breaks down sooner or later. Whichever one of you gives in will probably not be very motivated to stick to the plan. Whoever it is, you may forget to follow through or, if it’s your partner who doesn’t believe in the plan, they may even forget the details of the plan. When that happens, one of you is going to be understandably upset. After all, you both agreed to the plan (or so it seemed at the time), and now your partner doesn’t seem to be taking it seriously.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Rather than trying to get your partner to agree with you, you both need to accept the fact that you each have a right to your perception of the situation, no matter how misguided that may seem to each of you. Only then can you hope to reach a true compromise. My definition of a compromise is that both parents get enough of what they want so they feel satisfied, but usually they have to give up some of what they want so that the other person also feels satisfied.

You may feel that becoming a United Front seems to difficult to achieve. Possibly you’re feeling that you don’t know how or where to start. But by using the key strategies that I explain below, I know that you can become a United Front more easily than you realise.

Strategy One for achieving and maintaining a United Front:

Solution Talks

The most basic aspect of presenting a United Front is not arguing in front of your children. Each parent needs to be responsible for not responding negatively if the other parent starts to bicker or complain or criticise.

This is easier said than done. It’s so tempting to set the other person straight, forgetting that you’ve probably tried that many times in the past and no good came of it, or at least not for long.

So how do you become united on an issue when you don’t see eye to eye?

To start with, make sure that you and your partner really do share the same values. This is not usually a problem; it’s often the case that parents agree about their fundamental values but don’t agree about how to convey them to their children.

Be warned: you and your partner could wax eloquent about any family problem because you know it so well. You could explore every nuance of the issue; you could probe into every little nook and cranny. But you’ve probably noticed that talking at length about problems usually just makes you more upset, which makes it harder to think constructively about solutions. And the more you talk about a problem, the more likely you are to blame someone – either your partner, your child, the school, yourself, or ‘society’. Even if you’re not blaming, your partner may feel blamed and may become defensive, which then makes it difficult to listen to each other and to think positively.

Complaining about your child or about your partner is at best a waste of time: it brings you no closer to a solution. At worst, complaining can actually be damaging to the parent-child relationship or the couple relationship. It erodes trust and good will. If you feel you need to vent to get resentments off your chest, complain to a trusted friend, but not to your partner!

Instead, together you need to plan how both of you will teach and train the skills and habits that will lead to the values you consider important. You need to decide which rules and routines you’ll introduce and how you will follow through with rewards and consequences.

In my experience, the most effective approach to achieving this agreement, and therefore to becoming a United Front, is a strategy I teach called the fifteen-minute Solution Talk.

A Solution Talk is one of the ‘Preparing for Success’ strategies that helps family life to run much more smoothly. The aim of a Solution Talk is for you and your partner to reach a workable compromise that both of you are happy with.

A Solution Talk has specific guidelines; it isn’t an ordinary conversation or discussion or an attempt to get your partner to see the error of their ways. A Solution Talk never lasts more than fifteen minutes, so the prospect of doing it won’t fill you with dread.

In a Solution Talk no time whatsoever is wasted on assigning fault or blame; no time is wasted on thinking about what someone should have done differently; no time is wasted on moaning or complaining. As the name indicates, the focus is entirely on finding a solution.

Use the fifteen minutes of your Solution Talk to either decide on a new rule or decide to recommit to an existing rule that has been neglected, and then whatever you decide you plan how to follow through consistently.

You may find this hard to believe: even a thorny issue that’s been causing upset and resentment on and off for years can often be resolved in fifteen minutes. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to reach an agreement when you’re both committed to not complaining, not criticising, not arguing, and not trying to convince each other that you’re right and your partner is wrong. When those time-wasters are banned, all that’s left to do is come up with possible solutions.

How to do a Solution Talk

Choose a neutral time

By neutral time I mean a time when neither you nor your partner is annoyed about anything or in a rush or in front of a screen. Make sure that all screens and phones are off or on silent, and that they’re out of sight.

Don’t start the solution talk after 9:00 p.m. When you’re tired, it’s easy to get irritated and to start complaining, and it’s harder to stay focused on the positive.

Don’t do the Solution Talk where your children might be able to overhear you. If you’re worrying about that, you won’t be able to focus your full attention on the process.

Don’t start the Solution Talk when either of you is hungry.

Set aside fifteen minutes

Set a timer so that you don’t have to keep checking how much time is left, as that would be distracting.

Don’t be tempted to go over the allotted time. Any longer than fifteen minutes and your focus is likely to drift away from solutions and onto talking about the problem.

When parents are in different locations, you can do your Solution Talks via phone, Skype, Zoom, Facetime, etc.

Take turns

Alternate which parent starts first, choosing an issue to tackle. This could be a big problem or a very small one.

The parent who starts will say one sentence, and one sentence only, about an issue that is troubling or annoying them and that they want to find a solution for. It doesn’t matter whether the other parent feels the same way; a problem for one parent always becomes a problem for the couple.

Here are some real-life examples of how some parents summarised their issue in one sentence:

  • ‘I want to talk about how we can get Nadia to start her homework early enough so that she goes to bed on time.’
  • ‘I don’t want the children having endless biscuits for tea any more.’
  • 'We need to do something about the kids bickering so much – it’s driving me mad!’
  • ‘I caught Harry texting under the covers last night.’

For the rest of the fifteen minutes, you and your partner will alternate coming up with proposals for possible solutions that you can both live with happily.

Each of you needs to state your proposal in one sentence only, with no explanation of why you want this solution, and no attempt to persuade your partner that this is the right solution. (Remember: you’ve said all that before, and it didn’t get you what you want.)

Because you must take turns, and because each person can only say one sentence during their turn, it’s impossible for one parent to monopolise the process while the other parent remains silent and passive, and possibly sceptical and resentful.

Keep alternating coming up with proposals until together you reach a compromise you can both accept or until the fifteen minutes are up.

Any proposal that you both accept becomes part of the solution.

Solution Talk Ground rules

Both parents should write down all the proposals. Write each proposal down exactly the way the sentence was said, using exactly the same words. That way there can be no room for misinterpretation.

If you don’t like your partner’s proposal, you are not allowed to reject it or argue about it. Instead, you have to make a counter-proposal. Here’s an example:

  • Father: ‘Let’s take their phones away at bedtime so they can’t keep texting under the covers.’
  • Mother: ‘Instead of us taking them physically, let’s have the children put their phones in our room to charge overnight. That way they’ll be learning self-reliance.’

Most of the time you will find that you can reach an agreement about what to do about a problem even before the fifteen minutes is up. You’ll get clear on the specifics of who, what, when, where, and how, so you’ll both feel that you’re on solid ground. As a result, you will feel less defensive or apologetic or nervous when you explain to your children about a new rule or routine. You will be able to explain the new plan clearly and calmly. You’ll be feeling much more confident that you can persevere and insist.

Of course, the rules and routines you come up with together will be a work in progress. No matter how carefully you think things through in advance, there are bound to be some little wrinkles that didn’t occur to you when you were doing the Solution Talk, or some unusual circumstances that pop up unexpectedly.

As real life rears its complicated and messy head, you may find that one of you wants to revise or tweak the rules and routines you’ve both agreed on. Even if you’re tempted to unilaterally make new rules (or threaten dire consequences), don’t! Instead, do another Solution Talk to iron out those details together so that you can maintain your United Front.

Occasionally when the timer rings at the end of fifteen minutes you won’t have come up with an agreed solution. But you still need to stop at the end of the fifteen minutes. Then the next day you simply carry on the Solution Talk from where you got to the day before. Use your verbatim notes of who said what so that you can easily pick up where you left off.

A Solution Talk example

One couple, who attended a ‘Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting’ course, recorded one of their first Solution Talks:

  • Mother: ‘Let’s talk about breakfast.’
  • Father: ‘What’s the problem? Don’t make a problem when there isn’t one.’
  • Mother: ‘There is a problem for me, because I’m here. They’re too busy watching cartoons to eat properly. Tom takes forever to finish, and then he plays when he should be getting dressed. And Wendy…’
  • Father: ‘Wait. No more problems! Let’s just solve what you said. We can talk about the other stuff tomorrow.’
  • Mother: ‘OK. Solutions. Umm . . . Really I know we should keep the TV off while they’re eating.’
  • Father: ‘Why do they need to watch it at all in the morning? I would be happy if the TV didn’t go on at all in the morning. Then you could actually have a conversation.’
  • Mother: ‘But, but . . . OK. They’ll make a fuss . . . but I guess they’ll get used to it.’
  • Father: ‘And then they can concentrate on their cereal.’
  • Mother: ‘One mum in the class said that now she makes her children get completely dressed before breakfast. Even put their backpacks by the door. And hair brushed.’
  • Mother: ‘Stay positive!'
  • Father: (Groans) ‘OK. Positive... Let‘s try it.’
  • Mother: ‘For how long? Two weeks?’
  • Father: ‘Yeah. Two weeks. What if they don’t finish eating and it’s time to leave?’
  • Mother: ‘I’ll get them up ten minutes earlier.’
  • Father: ‘OK. But let’s tell them first. Otherwise it’s not fair.’
  • Mother: ‘Let’s give them a countdown that it’ll start on Wednesday. So they have two more days of morning TV. Then no more.’
  • Father: ‘Hey, time’s up! We stayed positive!’

The idea of Solution Talks was still new to this couple; you can see that they didn’t follow the format exactly. But they still came up with a set of compromises in record time. That’s because they (mostly) reined in their usual habits of complaining, arguing, going off on a tangent, and trying to persuade each other.

Take heart from the above example; you don’t need to do your Solution Talks perfectly. You just need to practise. The more you practise, the more skilled you will become at Solution Talks, and the more effective they will be.

Here’s a bonus: Once you experience for yourselves just how painless a Solution Talk is, and how effective, you may find you start using this strategy for non-parenting issues as well.

Clients have found that Solution Talks are useful for another category of issues. In addition to problems that parents disagree about, it can also be used for problems or questions that neither parent knows how to tackle or solve. The Solution Talk process helps each parent to clarify their thoughts. Parents have told me that doing Solution Talks has saved them hours of stress and arguing about where to go on holiday, whether to have elective surgery or not, how to manage nosy in-laws, how to decide on a budget, whether to change careers, etc.

Frequency for doing Solution Talks

You may be wondering how often you should do a fifteen-minute Solution Talk. My answer is: Every day.

Do Solution Talks every day until you find that you have no more unresolved issues, no more uncomfortable little pebbles in your shoe. Given human nature and the fact that ‘Opposites attract’, that day is never likely to dawn. So I encourage you to do a fifteen-minute focused Solution Talk every day, and very soon you’ll discover you’re becoming a United Front more and more.

Strategy Two for achieving and maintaining a United Front:

Descriptive Praise

As you probably already know, it’s all too easy when you’re stressed, exhausted, preoccupied to forget to focus on your relationship as a couple. This is true whether or not you both work outside of the home and are stay-at-home parents. Concerns about COVID, worries about work, dealing with the children’s behaviour, homework and school issues, house maintenance and repairs, errands, finances – these can take their toll on your patience and positivity and sense of wellbeing, and they take up valuable time. Faced with these types of pressures, all too often you’ll end up pushing your emotional and relationship needs to the sidelines.

One of the best ways for you to reconnect as a couple is to start a new habit of verbally appreciating each other every day. This feels good for both of you, the parent who does the praising as well as the parent who receives the praise.

There is a particular kind of verbal appreciation that I recommend that’s called Descriptive Praise. Descriptive Praise consists of taking the time to say exactly what it is that you appreciate about your partner. This type of praise is more honest than the typical over-the-top superlatives that we’re so familiar with, but that we generally don’t really believe.

Descriptive Praise gives your partner very useful information about what to do again to get more of your appreciation because you have been specific about what you appreciate about what they did, or did not, do. And we all welcome appreciation from the people we care about.

So instead of saying, ‘You’re so wonderful with the kids’ (which doesn’t take into account the inevitable times when that’s not true) you might say something more specific such as, ‘Ben and Daisy said that story you told them last night was really funny’.

Descriptive Praises can feel awkward and embarrassing at first, generally none of us is used to saying them or receiving them. But be willing to persevere with developing the habit of this style of praise because it has many benefits:

  • Focusing on each other’s positive qualities will remind you that you like each other.
  • Using Descriptive Praise with your partner will help you both become a stronger United Front.
  • Being specific with your praises can rekindle romance.
  • Praising your partner can make the less pleasant aspects of your daily grind more tolerable.
  • And praising each other regularly sets an excellent example for your children about how to express appreciation.

Strategy Three for achieving and maintaining a United Front:

Weekly dates and nightly half-hour dates

Sometimes a client complains to me that so much tension and anger have built up between the parents over the years that one or both no longer really wants to get united. One remedy for that is to set aside time for both parents to focus on the couple relationship.

Weekly dates

A weekly date used to be called a ‘date night’. But COVID has changed things. Restaurants, theatres, pubs, concerts, etc. may all be closed. You can still have your weekly date, but it will probably need to be at home. You may need to be more imaginative to make it feel special. The key is that, once your children are in bed, you’ll be devoting the whole evening to doing something as a couple.

The ground rules for a weekly date are:

  • no talking about the children
  • no talking about problems
  • no screens

Nightly half-hour dates

In addition to the weekly date night, I also recommend that on all the evenings that you and your partner are both at home, and as soon as the children are in bed, you take a half-hour just be together. I call this the nightly half-hour date. As with the weekly date, during this sacred half-hour you are not allowed to talk about the children or about problems, and no electronics. (Of course you can watch TV with your partner, but not during your dates.)

Activities for your dates

If you’re wondering what you and your partner could do together for half an hour every evening, here’s what some of my clients have told me:

  • cooked together and ate together
  • sat on the sofa and held hands while they listened to music
  • went out to the garden for a breath of fresh air
  • took a stroll around the neighbourhood (for those families whose children were old enough to be left alone)
  • played cards and board games
  • did yoga together
  • looked at old photographs of their younger selves
  • read to each other
  • learned about each other’s hobbies
  • started a new hobby together
  • cuddled

Spending this dedicated time together will help you to relax, have fun, recapture the feelings that brought your together in the first place, and strengthen your couple relationship that existed before the children came along and that will exist after your children leave home. This nightly half-hour date with your partner will do your relationship a world of good. It will also, over time, relieve a lot of stress, helping you both to behave towards your children more positively, firmly and consistently.

Not only are the two kinds of dates enjoyable, they will also help you to reduce tension between you and your partner, and will help your to want to become more united. Parents consistently report that these weekly and nightly dates re-motivate them to want to think about the needs of their partner, and they help parents to be more willing to listen to each other.

For many parents, just as the weekly dates are something they look forward to all week, this sacred half-hour is the highlight of their day.

Strategy Four for achieving and maintaining a United Front:

Helping each other to be accountable

Whether you’ve discovered the ‘Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting’ strategies from my books or audiobooks, or from the free resources (videos, podcasts and articles) that you can find on our website, as well as on our Youtube channel and Facebook page, another useful way to forge a United Front is to sit down together and make a list of all the new parenting strategies you’ve been learning. There are four skills in particular that you need to be using almost constantly:

  • Preparing for Success
  • Descriptive Praise
  • Special Time
  • Reflective Listening

With your list of strategies that you’re working with, ask yourselves how consistently you’ve been applying each of them to the family problems that are troubling you. Be honest with each other. Find out which ones you need support with, and which ones you can support your partner with. Then make a habit of using Descriptive Praise to encourage each other to be consistent using those strategies consistently. Working together in this way, to support one another to be consistent with rules and routines, and with rewards and consequences, helps you both to maintain being a United Front.

In case it feels to you like I’m making it seem very easy to become a United Front, here’s a typical question:

Q: I want to be a United Front, but my wife doesn’t want to even think about it. She’s too set in her ways. She says I don’t know how hard it is to be a stay-at-home mum with two toddlers. How can I help her to be more positive, firm and consistent?

A: Start by making sure that whenever you’re not working, you’re pulling your weight during all of the parenting flashpoints. Otherwise, it’s completely understandable that she may feel that you’re criticising her without really knowing the reality of what her life is like.

Use the ‘Calmer, Easier Happier Parenting’ strategies with your wife (not just with your children), especially Descriptive Praise, Reflective Listening, weekly and nightly dates, and Preparing for Success.

During relaxed moments together, when there are no distractions, tell your wife about your successes with the ‘Calmer, Easier Happier Parenting’ strategies. Share your excitement. But make sure not to suggest or imply that she should do the same. Also share your struggles so that it doesn’t seem as if you’re saying that changing one’s ways is a walk in the park.

Don’t suggest that she reads about the ‘Calmer, Easier Happier Parenting’ strategies or listens to one of the audiobooks. That may feel to her like criticism.

It sounds like your wife has been angry and has felt unsupported for quite a while. So don’t expect an overnight transformation. But if you are careful not to criticise your wife’s parenting (not even by tone of voice or facial expression), and if she sees you dealing with difficult situations more successfully, she is likely to become more open to learning the new strategies alongside you.

© Noël Janis-Norton 2020

Conclusion

The four strategies for becoming a United Front that Noël has explained in the above article have helped thousands of families to achieve a more harmonious home life. These are:

Strategy 1: Solution Talks
Daily for fifteen minutes - make a commitment to stay focused on creating solutions that work for both of you.

Strategy 2: Descriptive Praise
Verbally appreciate your partner - what they do well and what they are trying to do well.

Strategy 3: Weekly and nightly dates
Thirty minutes each evening and once a week - dedicate time to be with your partner (or with yourself if you don’t have a partner) that doesn’t involve your children and that focuses on you having a nurturing, fun, loving time.

Strategy 4: Stay accountable
Whichever of Noël’s parenting strategies you’re practising - get support from your partner (or a friend if you’re single) to be consistent about how you’re applying them.

As with any of Noël’s ‘Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting’ strategies that you can learn, becoming united is not always easy to do. But it’s well worth the effort. With practice, you and your partner will be consistently presenting a United Front to your children, so they will be getting the same clear message from both of you. As a result, they will learn good habits and will absorb your values much more quickly and easily.

Wishing you a ‘calmer, easier, happier’ United Front for all that you want to achieve for your family in 2021 and beyond.

You may like these ideas but be unsure how to put them into practice. Would you like some advice about how to make all this happen? To find out how the ‘Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting and Teaching’ resources and services can help you and your family, please browse our website or email us: admin@calmerparenting.co.uk

On our website, our Youtube channel and our Facebook page we provide support materials: videos, podcasts, articles, books, Audiobooks.

If you would like personalised advice that is specific to your family’s needs, we offer a parenting programme that includes private consultations (via Skype) and home visits.

For schools we offer parenting talks and teacher-training.

Please get in touch for more information. Noël and her team welcome enquiries from parents and educators.

If you know anyone who might be interested in the above suggestions we are happy for you to share this article;
however, please forward the article in its entirety, including the logo and the last paragraph, and make sure that
Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting and Teaching’ is credited. Thank you.

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