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My husband thinks I’m too controlling.

Parenting is universal yet extremely personal and it’s totally normal to have different parenting strategies than your spouse.

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Dear Is This Normal,

My husband and I have 2 special needs children. With both children, my husband argues with me over just about all of my parenting strategies and when I bring up new concerns or ways to get my children what they need. He eventually goes along with it and will partake in bringing them to the doctors or therapies. His take on it is he also wants a say and he thinks it’s about control—he thinks I have control issues. Is there any advice you may have? I feel like our relationship is continuing on a downward spiral and I want it back! He loves the children as much as I do but it’s so hard when all we do is argue about them.

Signed, 

Struggling on Strategies 

Dear Struggling,

Parenting is universal yet extremely personal and it’s totally normal to have different parenting strategies than your spouse. The fact that both of you have strong opinions about how to parent your children is a great start. During challenging times some parents tend to withdraw and let the other parent take charge. Even though this might sound appealing (especially if you’re a type A, my way or the highway person like me), it often leads to communication and emotional strains for both children and couples in the long run, and these strains can be even further compounded for families with special needs children.

Your journey poses unique challenges, as well as unique rewards. It is so totally normal that you might be experiencing some issues with control. When you have children with special needs, there are so many things that make you feel a loss of agency and you may find yourself clinging to the things that you feel you can control. It may be time to validate your husband’s feelings about these issues and have a candid and open conversation about why you feel this way and how you can work together to combat these controlling impulses.

One aspect to keep in mind as you try to understand different parenting strategies is the reality that we carry a set of beliefs from the way we were raised. These include excellent strategies that we associate with some of our strengths as adults, as well as those not-so stellar strategies that we wish we hadn’t internalized so deeply. When communicating about parenting styles, we must first strive to acknowledge that both points of view come from a place of love. Finding middle ground takes understanding, patience and compromise. It will definitely be a work in progress and the plan will change as you move through the phases of parenthood.  

In order to find common ground you can start by learning about different parenting strategies and styles. This will help you understand how one problem or behavior issue can be seen from different perspectives. In addition, you both have  a unique temperament that might work best according to the circumstances as well as the child’s personality. When you identify the strengths in each parent, it will be a lot easier to tackle specific moments that can sometimes blur our judgement with a clear mind. 

Giving each other grace and respect during unpredictable times that call for quick parenting decisions will definitely strengthen your relationship. These can be moments in which a parent is alone with the child and has to make a decision without consulting each other. Respect the decision and if needed, reevaluate with your partner in privacy. Choosing sides in the moment will only cause a greater divide and can make it even harder to find common ground.

Lastly, counselors suggest choosing some house rules and compromising on a specific therapy or activity you have discussed and agreed upon. This will not only help you and your husband’s relationship but it will also ease anxiety in your children as they perceive a solid team approach. When selecting a plan to follow, you may also want to choose a date to revisit it in the future. Time will allow you to share feelings, test a certain tactic, and reconsider what works best for your family.

The bottom line is that parenting is tough. Each stage of our children’s lives challenges us to grow in unexpected ways. Of course, we adore our children, but we also carry our own baggage and emotions. It’s inevitable that the differences in our personalities and preferences may ignite conflict at some points along the way. However, working together through the beautiful chaos is what makes you grow in your love for one another and create the most loving homes. The struggle is real, but it is so worth it!

Struggling and balancing, 

Is this Normal

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