No one ever said parenting would be easy. But sometimes the responsibility of raising a tiny human to be a decent, contributing member of society can be downright daunting. It certainly doesn't help if the person you're supposed to be sharing this duty with is making it increasingly difficult for you two to work together as a functioning team. If you feel like you're in an uphill battle, you might be wondering what are some of the signs you and your partner aren't a good parenting fit.
Sure, everyone has squabbles here and there. Situations can also seem more dire or intense when you're suffering from extreme sleep deprivation due to your newborn's lack of a consistent napping or feeding schedule. But I'm not talking about the types of issues that look less monstrous in the light of day after you've had a chance to calm down and recharge your batteries. I'm referring to the kind of foundational struggles that could undermine how you and your partner are raising your child together.
Parenting and psychological experts have weighed in on the subject and offered some clues as to whether or not you and your partner work well together as a parental unit. So check out these signs and see if any of them sound familiar.
1. You Create "Sides"
It's natural for two people to have some differences, especially when it comes to how you think your child should be raised. But when it crosses the line from differing opinions to opposing sides that begin to involve your children, that could be a problem. "Parents engage in behaviors that lead to children realizing that they have to pick sides," Dr. Samantha Rodman, a clinical psychologist, wrote in an article on Psych Central. "A common version of this is the 'good cop, bad cop.' . . . counseling can help parents recognize these dysfunctional parenting patterns."
2. You Don't Communicate
You might think that the most destructive thing a person could do in a relationship is to say something hurtful or negative. Yet, sometimes, not saying anything at all can be even more devastating in a parenting partnership. As Dr. Jay Belsky, a human development and family studies expert, wrote in Psychology Today, "an act of omission is one way to co-parent poorly. When a child fails to listen and heed one's partner, and you just sit there and say nothing, that can be regarded by the child as a license to ignore the first parent." If you can't speak up, then that's a problem.
3. You Undermine Each Other
When one parent intentionally does something to undermine the other, that's definitely a red flag. For example, telling your child they can't have any more cookies, but then your partner giving them cookies anyways. "The parents’ inability to be in agreement can mean an anxiety-provoking situation in which the child is left to sort out and interpret the confusing and often painful mixed signals he is getting from his parents," Dr. Alan Ravitz, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, told The Child/Mind Institute. You are your partner need to present a united front if you want to co-parent successfully.
4. Your Priorities Shift
In general, it's great to devote parenting energy towards the betterment of your child. But if it's coming in between you and your partner making sure your own relationship is being nurtured, that can be indicative that you aren't a good parenting fit. As parenting expert Stacy DeBroff told Today, "what happens amidst this child-focused lifestyle where both parents feel highly vested in their children's success is often a clash about parenting this precious commodity . . . thus couples can find themselves at a crossroads." Make sure to make a little time for your partner during the day — or even during the week — to show you still care.
5. You Use Your Child As A Bargaining Chip
I think everyone is a little guilty of this one. Even I've passive-aggressively talked through my child to make a point to my partner. But if this behavior is occurring on a regular basis, that could be a bad sign. "Emotionally charged issues about your [partner] should never be part of your parenting," Dr. Deborah Serani, a certified psychoanalyst, told Psychology Today. "Research shows that putting children in the middle of adult issues causes children to question their own strengths and abilities." Long story short — you need to keep your child out of your arguments.
6. Your Child Has A Favorite
If you notice that your child, no matter how young, is already starting to show signs of thinking one parent is better or worse than the other, you might want to look further into things. "When one parent feels invalidated, a child learns that Mommy is 'mean,' Daddy is the one on the child’s side," Dr. Rodman noted on Psych Central. "Children suffer from lower self-esteem when they perceive that one parent is deeply flawed, because that parent is half of them." Sometimes playing favorites is a passing phase, but when your child begins to attribute negative characteristics to only one parent, that's a sign you and your partner aren't necessarily setting a good example.
7. You Don't Test Things Out
Plenty of parenting arguments start because one side is unwilling to really consider what the other has to say. For example, you think your child's schedule is too full, but your partner insists that they should sign up for soccer anyways, and no one comes to an agreement because no one will budge. As Ravitz told The Child/Mind Institute, "the only answer that will do your kid any good is to commit to testing one theory at a time . . . they have to honestly and authentically test hypotheses." So if this doesn't even seem like a possibility for you and your partner, you may not be a good parenting fit.
8. Your Timing Is Off
A common scenario that can be endlessly frustrating for both parties is when one parent is trying to accomplish a task with the child (give a bath, put on shoes, etc.) and the other parent is either distracting the child from getting this done or is oblivious to the situation. Neither side is on the same page, thus nothing is accomplished. "Behaviors that serve to slow down the process when it needs speeding up or speed up the process when it really needs slowing down is at the heart of co-parenting poorly," Belsky told Psychology Today.
9. You Won't Budge (And Neither Will They)
Admitting you're wrong and your partner is right isn't the most fun thing in the world, but sometimes it's necessary. "If you can't agree on standard rule for everything, be willing to compromise once in awhile," DeBroff told Today. "Just like everything else in a marriage, talking and compromising is key." So if compromise isn't in your household's dictionary, that could be a sign you and your partner aren't a good parenting fit.