Unless your partner was a parent before you joined forces, chances are you didn't have a great idea of what type of parent they (or yourself either for that matter) would be until you had children. We all bring experiences from our own childhood, and think we might be clear on how we'd like to raise and discipline our own kids. But all of that can change once they actually arrive. The most important thing to successfully navigating raising children together - is communication.
Here are some important steps to take when you are in a gridlock about how to best discipline your child:
Talk about it
Often our parenting strategies will come out when we are in a situation that must be dealt with on the spot. If you haven't had a chance to think it through, you may overreact, or judge the situation prematurely. It's great to have a plan in place with your partner for the most common issues (sibling fighting, bedtime struggles, mealtime problems or tantrums). Discuss how you feel these issues should be handled, and hear your partner out too. They may not agree with you, but there is always room for compromise! By talking through it and coming up with a plan you will be more consistent and can feel that you both have each other's back.
Always keep a united front, or maybe not?
Sometimes situations arise that you didn't have a chance to discuss beforehand and where you and your partner are at opposing ends of the discipline spectrum. While it's never a good idea to have a heated argument in front of your child, and you also don't want to have a "good cop/bad cop" situation, it can be educational for your child to see how two people with different opinions can come together in a discussion. If you can keep the disagreement from getting heated, and properly hear each other out and come to a compromise, your child will learn critical thinking, and how to have a respectful disagreement.
But if the topic is something you or your partner is way too passionate about, or if the disagreement escalates, you are best to continue it when you are alone. Have a safe-word, or a sign (a death stare perhaps) that signals to your partner that this will need further discussing and shut it down.
Make it easy
It's hard for children to know what to expect if each parent has different house rules and different discipline strategies. Come together and create a set of house rules that everyone can agree on, and include the consequences for breaking the rules. That way, not only you and your partner will know how to handle common problems, but your child will know too.
Your children change as they grow and develop, and so you do and your partner. Revisit new issues as they arise, and be ready to give your child more freedom and responsibility as they get older. As long as you are parents together, you will always have something to talk about, nothing is set in stone!
All parents screw up from time to time. Cut each other some slack, forgive and forget. When you make a mistake, apologize to your child and your partner. And be prepared for when they do the same.
Whether you are parenting together or apart, together you are preparing your children for the rest of their lives. You can always agree on one thing: You both love your child and only want the best for them. Always come back to that when the rift seems too big to patch.