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Nothing can prepare you for being a parent, and one “expert” opinion sometimes conflicts with another. We all want to do the right thing — raise the best kids we can — but it’s not a straightforward process, especially when Mom and Dad don’t agree over hot button topics, methods, and even the basic purpose of parenting. But all the anguish, sleepless nights, second-guessing and, even the actual decisions, won’t affect our kids as much as how we work with our partner in handling the situations.

Having been in the trenches and learned the hard way, here are a few tips I wish I’d known when my children were growing up. All that therapy money could’ve easily funded a family trip to Hawaii!

  1. Keep your mind set on the big picture — and keep resetting it!

    The more you and your partner can stay focused on big, mutual objectives for your children (such as being ethical, independent adults), the more you can prioritize what’s worth arguing about. If it doesn’t compromise established long-term goals, why is it even an issue? Yes, your kid may be wearing two different sneakers to school, but is it really worth arguing about? Keep discussing what you want for your children when you have time, and it will allow you to focus when things are spiraling out of control.

  2. Accept what you’ve been given

    Don’t take out your frustration with a spouse’s personality quirk on the child who carries that same trait. Accepting family members as they are may be a challenge, but when you embrace that mind shift, many daily tensions are eased. And children who are loved for who they are grow up to be confident with their own strengths.

  3. Don’t underestimate the power of low blood sugar levels

    Brains operate on glucose. Low glucose decreases cognitive functions and increases emotional outbursts. While Madison Avenue may have us believe a candy bar will bring us back to our former selves, try fruits, nuts, and veggies instead, and keep them readily available. Offer them to your spouse, children, and yourself before things heat up.

  4. Take lessons from covert operators to discuss things privately

    There’s no such thing as “out of earshot” when kids are around. That same child who, sitting in the next room, can’t hear you calling him to dinner 43 times will decipher the smallest whisper uttered miles away if it involves something you don’t want him to hear. Those parents driving around the block with the windows rolled up? They’re trying to have a private conversation. Whatever you can do to get truly private moment to discuss things, it’s worth the effort.

  5. We all have meltdowns

    Whether we’re 2, 32, or 72, some days life’s just too much. Parents often instinctively love the child who is unhappiest. We have to extend that grace to others. Accept that some days your spouse is just going to be difficult. Be extra nice on that day — and maybe it will be reciprocated when you’re having a bad day.

  6. Walk away

    Get rid of the “bang head here” poster in your kitchen and recognize that sometimes it’s easiest to just walk away in the heat of the moment. It’s family; they aren’t going far. And the issue doesn’t disappear just because you avoid it at the moment. Plan to work things out later, but not every flame needs to be stoked to eruption. And a little perspective is always healthy.

  7. You may not be right

    Believe it or not, sometimes the other adult does have good thoughts about raising the children. Be open and listen to his or her ideas.

  8. Let some things go

    Alternatively, you may be right… but it might not be a big enough issue to fight over or to let gather emotional steam. Elsa is right: learn to let it go.

  9. Learn to laugh

    More than anything, seeing the humor in situations deflects anger, tension, embarrassment, and more. Family life is often absurd. It may be a tough choice between laughing or screaming, but the outcomes are drastically different. Plus, when you choose laughter, you’re teaching your child to see the silver lining in daily troubles.

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