A fellow in West Virginia asks, "My wife and I need to agree concerning our children. She sees things one way, and I see things a completely -- and I mean COMPLETELY -- different way. How can we get on the same page?"
This is certainly the most serious and common of child-rearing problems. I suspect -- but know of no research that backs the suspicion -- that it is better for a child to be raised by a single parent than it is for a child to be raised by two people who are not of one parenting mind.
In the past, when people have asked me this question, I have said, "I don't know. I mean, there is no pat answer. The solution depends on the two people in question, how willing they are to make compromises, and so on."
In other words, I was thinking like a negotiator, a mediator. I was thinking that solving this problem would require that each individual give up some "territory" and accept less than what they want. But I've lately been giving this a lot of thought along with talking and listening to lots of people, and I think I now have the pat answer people are looking for. It's actually quite simple.
The breakthrough occurred when I realized that this problem is new. Just 50 years ago, it was rare to find parents who were not on the same page. Today, the opposite is true. Why? The answer is not that those females submitted to male authority in the home. That's neo-feminist poppycock. Nor is it that those parents had to deal with fewer issues than do today's parents, and more complicated parenting translates to a higher likelihood of disagreement, blah blah. Nope, that's not it either.
The biggest difference between then and now is that kids in the 1950s and before were raised not by mothers and fathers but by husbands and wives. This problem of the male and female not being on the same page is prevented when those two people act primarily from the roles of husband and wife. Conversely, it is all but inevitable if they act primarily from the roles of father and mother.
Why? Because men and women see things -- everything! -- differently. A man and a woman who witness the same event from the same vantage point will describe it differently. Likewise, a man and a woman who raise the same children in the same home are seeing things from two different gender-determined perspectives; therefore, they struggle to get on the same page.
The only way for a man and a woman to share a common perspective on their children is to act primarily as husband and wife. That simply means they are in a far stronger, more active relationship with one another than they are with their kids. Being on the same page concerning their kids flows naturally from the fact that their first obligation, their first commitment, is to one another. One flesh, one mind.
Mind you, that's how to get on the same page. Don't ask me how to get a man and woman in the same paragraph, much less the same sentence. I've been married long enough to know that same page is about as good as it gets.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his website at www.rosemond.com.