The Character Movement

Parenting Together

By Joe Cavanaugh, Founder & CEO

Jane and I have been married for 15 years and have raised a child together for ten. While there are countless values we share, equally important are the ways we have handled areas where we differ. Navigating these disagreements has been an ongoing process and a constant parenting rub.

Jane and I came from different family systems and while there are many similarities, there are also a few differences. For example, Jane rarely saw her parents argue. To her it seemed that whatever differences they had were worked out behind closed doors. With my parents, these arguments usually happened in front of me. I was able to see them navigate the conversation, even if it was not always in the healthiest way. We are working towards developing our own model of handling disagreements — admittedly, sometimes navigating these challenges better than other times.

Our daughter, Tess, has learned that Jane and I don’t agree on everything and she has witnessed us working through this. And while Tess may see us disagree, she rarely sees us being unkind to each other. We want to show Tess the importance of disagreeing without disrespecting. When we do disagree there is one rule we try to follow closely — it’s OK to be mad, but not mean.

Once you enter into a disagreement, you immediately begin challenging the values someone else holds closely. Within the conflict, it is understandable to be frustrated, but we still must practice kindness and treat those with a differing opinion with the utmost respect. Tess knows that we don’t always agree, but we want her to see the importance of agreeing on how to disagree. Respectful compromise does not mean to just hear someone else’s values and change your own. It means to respect their beliefs as much as your own and create an active conversation about the best course of action. In our moments of conflict, Jane and I must always choose to be kind, even if we aren’t seeing eye to eye.

There are times when I ask, “Is this battle worth fighting?” and while I might say no, Jane may say yes. Having these conversations about priorities and values in front of Tess may reveal disagreements between us but most importantly, it reveals a larger agreement — that home is a safe and loving place where people can disagree, and that Jane and I are parenting together.


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