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Navigating Parental Perspectives: Achieving Understanding Without Consensus

In my years of teaching, parents often express to me their struggles in handling their children's issues and the subsequent difficulty in reaching consensus with their partners. It surprises them when I say, "You don't always have to agree with your spouse."

It might seem counterintuitive, but I explain that children usually understand each parent's individual values. Trying to find consensus on these values may only spark power struggles that could otherwise be avoided. Instead, parents should simply acknowledge each other's values. The most important lesson we can teach our children is to recognize and respect each other's values, acknowledging that they were raised by both parents. 

In everyday situations, parents take turns deciding what needs to be done. Mothers can say things like, "You know how I prefer to handle this, but today, you're going to do it the father's way." This shows the child how a parent can set aside their own preferences for the greater good. The same applies to fathers. This approach helps children feel secure and supported in the care of both parents, without either side compromising their values. Children can learn from both parents without instigating conflicts between them.

This principle acts as a "training course" where both parents experience the full implementation of their parenting beliefs. It involves giving up certain parenting ideas to allow the other to implement their own. Critical decisions, such as choosing a secondary school for children or determining living arrangements after separation, should involve both parents. Well-trained parents are more likely to collaborate, to find the best solutions for their children.

In many cases, discussing differing perspectives often leads parents to discover new directions. Some parents have described the experience as liberating, freeing them from certain constraints. However, new values may emerge, and are equally important to them. 

In my classes, I engage in discussions with the children about what matters to Dad, what matters to Mom, and, of course, what matters to both of them. It's easy to observe that the students have long been aware of how their parents prioritize things. We would make a list that outlines what the father allows while the mother doesn't and vice versa.

For single mothers or children whose parents have passed away, this list holds significant meaning, addressing the question: "What would my father/mother permit if they were still alive?" 

Children of remarried mothers would create three columns: one for the mother, one for the father, and one for the stepfather. This exercise serves to remind mothers that children will always be the children of their deceased father, even if they accept a stepfather as their mother's new partner. This list often brings calmness to discussions about troubled relationships between children and stepfathers. The values of the deceased father continue to live on in the child's heart, giving the biological parent precedence. 

In many instances, children understand when to listen to their father or mother, knowing whose opinion is more advantageous in different situations. When parents visit my office, I advise them to make rules and privileges at home transparent and paying attention to whether the other has assigned tasks to the child.  This approach allows children to witness mutual respect for differing values and perspectives. 

There was a mother who, after the suicide of her husband, found it increasingly challenging to raise her three sons during their adolescence. I recommended that she create an environment where her children could engage in activities that their father would have done with them if he were still alive. She immediately thought of using the computer for work and leisure. "I'm sure he would do this,” she said, "it wouldn’t be easy for me to allow them to do that.” Her strategy worked. In crucial situations, she could easily persuade her children to follow her lead. Later, she shared that one of her sons started riding a motorcycle, something she didn't entirely approve of, but she was confident her late husband would have said it was okay. 

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