Some partners may be more ready to learn about positive discipline techniques than others. If your spouse is hesitant about taking a parenting class, simply go yourself and then discuss what you learned with him or her when you get home. Dr. Severe also suggests photocopying helpful pages from books or magazines and leaving them where your spouse will see them. These pages can serve as "a little gentle encouragement to try new ideas," says Dr. Severe.
The most important thing is to communicate openly. Talk about your own childhood and what you'd like to do differently with your children. "Agree on the house rules and expectations," says Dr. Severe. "If you disagree on a particular rule, that's fine, but disagree behind closed doors." Always present a united front to your children. If you don't, they will see your disagreement as an area of weakness and they will take advantage of that.
One issue divides parents more than any other: spanking. Some people say they were spanked as children and they turned out all right, so it is acceptable to use spanking as a primary means of discipline. Other parents use spanking as a last resort. Still others feel that spanking children is not only ineffective, but just plain wrong. Whatever your feelings on this touchy subject, it is vital that you and your spouse agree one way or the other—there is very little room for compromise.
But what if you just can't agree? If you are firmly in the "no spanking" camp, and your spouse feels differently, what can you do? "You do the best you can," says Dr. Severe. "Try to be a good example for your spouse. Show him or her that you can raise kids who make good choices without spanking them."
You also need to explain to your children why one parent uses spanking and the other one doesn't. "You can say, 'Daddy might spank you, but I don't think I need to do that,'" says Dr. Severe. Avoid criticizing your spouse's choice in front of your kids. Children need to know that both parents deserve respect, regardless of how they discipline.
Consistent discipline is one of the most challenging aspects of parenting, and agreeing with another adult on how to handle each situation can be even more daunting. Teamwork and compromise are vital parts of every marriage, as well as every parenting team. When parents agree on discipline techniques and implement them consistently, everyone benefits. Children know what is expected of them, they make better choices, and everyone enjoys a more positive family climate.